CFN Take: UTEP Rally Just Short In Loss To TT
2013 UTEP Miners Head Coach: Sean Kugler
Sept. 6 Texas Tech 30, at UTEP 26
2014 Schedule |
Aug. 30 at New Mexico W 31-24
Sep. 4 Texas Tech L
Sep. 13 New Mexico State
Sep. 20 OPEN DATE
Sep. 27 at Kansas State
Oct. 4 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 11 Old Dominion
Oct. 18 OPEN DATE
Oct. 25 at UTSA
Nov. 1 Southern Miss
Nov. 8 at WKU
Nov. 15 North Texas
Nov. 21 at Rice
Nov. 29 Middle Tenn
And You Care Because … Texas Tech seemed to be able to get a little breathing room in the third quarter on Bradley Marquez’s second of three touchdown grabs of the game, but UTEP kept pushing with Jeremiah Laufasa running for a 24-yard score and Aaron Jones coming up with his second touchdown run of the game scoring from nine yards out with just over five minutes to play for a 26-23 Miner lead. Davis Webb led the Red Raiders 75 yards in seven plays with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Marquez with 2:32 to play to finally take the lead for good.
What Else? Texas Tech QB Davis Webb only completed 17-of-31 passes for 278 yards and three scores. Bradley Marquez caught three passes for 33 yards and three scores.
- Texas Tech RB Justin Stockton ran eight passes for 135 yards and a 75-yard touchdown.
- UTEP controlled the clock and the game holding the ball for 39 minutes to Texas Tech’s 21.
- UTEP RB Aaron Jones ran 23 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns.
Game Rating: A
Aug. 30 UTEP 31, at New Mexico 24
And You Care Because … Aaron Jones ran for a three-yard score with just over two minutes to play to give UTEP the lead, and the defense hung on with a pick to stop a New Mexico rally. A Jones 73-yard touchdown dash – he ran for three scores and 237 yards on the day - gave the Miners a 24-7 lead going into halftime, but it was all New Mexico in the second half with 17 straight points to tie it up highlighted by a 51-yard Cole Gautsche run, but fumble recovery off a muffed punt set up the winning score from Jones. Gautsche finished with 184 yards and two scores on 14 carries and completed 3-of-5 passes for 36 yards.
Game Rating: A
Eight straight losing seasons … and counting.
Sean Kugler didn’t need to be reminded just how
difficult a task he was undertaking upon returning
to his alma mater. The Miners showed him anyway,
losing ten games for the first time in a decade. New era, same frustrating results. UTEP lacked the roster to compete effectively in Conference USA, particularly after injuries started to mount. So now, Kugler and his assistants are hoping for a smoother transition in Year 2.
The high-energy Kugler has worked hard to slowly change the culture in El Paso, from the way the players prepare to the way they approach game days. It’s been a methodical and painstaking process that the staff expects to eventually yield dividends. In the meantime, the Miners have worked hard to bolster a depth chart that failed to produce a Conference USA all-star in 2013. UTEP is especially destitute on defense. The unit gave up 39 points a game and over six yards per carry last fall. And with no obvious standouts on board, more of the same is expected this fall.
For UTEP to be more competitive this year, it’ll have to be spearheaded by the offense. The backfield, more specifically. QB Jameill Showers and RB Aaron Jones finished 2013 on the injured reserve list, but they flashed signs of excellence when healthy. Showers, whose career began at Texas A&M, enters his second—and final—season as a Miner. His supporting cast at wide receiver is shaky, but his strong arm could attract pro scouts to West Texas. Jones is the precocious and shifty leader of a ground game flush with depth and diverse playmakers, like Nathan Jeffery and Autrey Golden.
The Miners’ uphill climb won’t become any less demanding in 2014. Sure, the offense will explode on weaker opponents from time to time, and it’ll help to have stability on the sidelines. But until UTEP can deepen its overall talent base, primarily on the defensive side of the ball, it’s destined to spend another autumn fruitlessly grasping for the .500 mark.
What to watch for on offense: Who’ll catch Showers’ droplets? The Miners’ best receiver of the past two years, Jordan Leslie, has decided to transfer to BYU. While there’s Eric Tomlinson at tight end, UTEP still needs a few field-stretchers on the outside to develop from now until the opener. Leslie’s departure creates tremendous opportunities for seniors Ian Hamilton and Malcolm Trail to step into starring roles. The 6-5, 225-pound Hamilton meets the size requirements, but he needs to improve at the finer points of the position.
What to watch for on defense: The safeties will be extremely active. UTEP is going to need a ton of help up front after losing four of its best linemen to graduation. Since rebuilding overnight around ends Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Usher is improbable, the Miners will instead ask their talented safeties to handle bigger roles. Devin Cockrell, Dashone Smith and Wesley Miller, who was injured last year, will freelance liberally, providing support for a run defense that won’t survive with the current front six personnel on hand.
The team will be far better if … it makes strides in run defense. UTEP was little more than a swinging gate versus opposing backs in 2013, yielding a whopping 6.2 yards per carry. Not only was the team stunningly impotent at the point of attack, but four linemen have graduated. As hard as it is to imagine, the Miners might be worse in 2014. Giving up large chunks of yards on the ground hurts more than a defense; it keeps the ball away from the offense and demoralizes an entire team.
The Schedule: The Miners have to take advantage of some early home games because there are lots and lots of road dates to follow. Owning New Mexico would be nice, playing the Lobos to start the season and the New Mexico State Aggies at home after kicking off the home campaign against Texas Tech. And then it's time to pack the bags with three road games in four and five in eight before closing out with Middle Tennessee. Missing Marshall from the East is a break,
and dealing with Old Dominion, WKU and Middle
Tennessee in interdivsional play isn't bad. If the
Miners can take care of the winnable home games -
Old Dominion, New Mexico State, Southern Miss, North
Texas, Middle Tennesse - they have a shot at a
Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Jameill Showers. Showers is more than a quarterback in El Paso. He’s a beacon of hope. In Conference USA, it only takes one or two gifted players to carry a team to a new level. Showers is capable of lighting the fuse at UTEP. He got a taste of action in 2013, peaking with eight touchdown passes in a torrid two-game stretch against Colorado State and Louisiana Tech. If he can develop a rhythm with the team’s receivers, NFL scouts will be sniffing around campus by no later than October.
Best Defensive Player: Sophomore S Devin Cockrell. Safety is an important position for a Miner team that utilizes three of them in the defensive backfield. And Cockrell emerged last season as the best of the trio. While still young and somewhat inexperienced, the sophomore made his presence felt at once as a rookie in 2013. Cockrell led UTEP in tackles a year ago, while displaying improbable flexibility by starting games at both strong safety and free safety.
Key player to a successful season: Showers. No Miner is capable of having a more profound impact on the 2014 team than Showers. And it’s not even up for debate. He has leading man material at quarterback, which means he’ll be in a position to put the team on his back. And although he can’t directly help a soft D, he can give the unit longer breathers by keeping drives alive. If Showers plays to his full potential, UTEP has a fighter’s chance to appear in the postseason.
The season will be a success if ... UTEP doubles its win total to four. Don’t expect any miracles in 2014. But it is fair to anticipate progress in Kugler’s second season. The Miners won’t hang with Texas Tech on Sept. 6 or Kansas State three weeks later, leaving 10 games that could be winnable . If they can capture four of those toss-ups, it’ll serve as a sign that the staff is making modest gains with a mediocre roster of talent.
Key game: Aug. 30 at New Mexico. UTEP doesn’t just want a fast start in 2014. It needs one, beginning with a trip to Albuquerque to face the rival Lobos. The Miners dropped last September’s meeting in a shootout, 42-35. In this summer’s showdown, UTEP will hope to outgun the host with the passing of Showers and the running of Jones. The Miners are lacking both confidence and momentum, which puts a premium on getting out of the gate quickly.
2013 Fun Stats:
- Average yards per rush: UTEP 4.1 – Opponents 6.2
- Third-down %: UTEP 40% – Opponents 47%
- Sacks: UTEP 13 - Opponents 27
- 2014 UTEP Preview -
What You Need To Know & Top Players
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