The 2016 campaign for the UTEP Miners got off to a solid start, beating New Mexico State Aggies 38-22 on Saturday in the Sun Bowl. It was the eighth year in a row that the Miners have beaten the Aggies in the rivalry. According to UTEP, it’s the longest winning streak in the series.
On Monday, UTEP head coach Sean Kugler called the game on Saturday “a great first win” and loved how much energy that the Miners had come out on both sides of the ball. This includes the explosive plays UTEP had, which Kugler said “were certainly the most that we’ve had here since I’ve been the head coach.” Kugler also named wide receiver Cole Freytag (El Paso Coronado) as a standout player and was impressed with quarterback Zack Greenlee’s toughness. After taking several hits on Saturday, Kugler said that he would have to check with him about his availability for Saturday’s game at Texas.
Defensively, Kugler was pleased by the unit’s effort in Week 1. “I thought we played with good fundamentals for the first game,” Kugler said, “There were a few missed tackles, none really resulting in big plays but tacking on four or five yards. We need to clean that up.” Kugler was also pleased with how they limited the Aggies running the football.
Kugler saved his highest praise for his special teams. “As I said before the game, I thought the biggest jump we were going to make as a team this year was on special teams. I thought it was an outstanding day by everyone.” He also said he was excited by the potential of sophomore junior college transfer Terry Juniel.
This week, the Miners face a much stiffer challenge when they travel to Austin to play the Longhorns. Texas is coming off of a thrilling 50-47 double-overtime upset of Notre Dame on Sunday. The Miners and the Longhorns last faced each other in 2009 and the result was a 64-7 beat down by Texas. Kugler did not sugar coat the challenges in preparing for Texas.
“Matchup wise, we don’t match up with them across the board,” Kugler said, “There may be some individual matchups that we like in our favor. But all in all, when you look at matchups it tilts heavily in their favor.”
In other words, be prepared to see a lot of standout running back Aaron Jones. The El Paso native and former Burges High standout leads the nation in rushing after a career-high 249 yard rushing performance.
Kugler also said that to combat the new up-tempo offense from Texas, he plans on slowing the game down, emphasizing control of the clock and limiting the possessions that the Longhorns have. He also did not shy away from saying how the odds of winning aren’t in the Miners’ favor.
“I’ll be honest, we’ll probably have to play a perfect game for us to beat this team, Kugler said, “I’m not saying that it can’t be done. I know our kids are going to go out and give their all. I love the way our kids compete.”
Can the Miners find a way to slow down the two quarterback system and have a better result than what happened in 2009? We’ll soon have our answer on Saturday night in Austin.