Coming off a disappointing 41-7 loss to the Texas Longhorns on Saturday night, UTEP head coach Sean Kugler showed some optimism on his team’s performance in Austin, particularly on the defensive side of the ball.
“Defensively, I thought it was a very good effort,” Kugler said, “It was a step forward even though the final score didn’t indicate that, there were a lot of things to be pleased from it.”
The Miners were able to compete in the first half and only trailed 10-7 after a long, 51-yard touchdown run by Aaron Jones in the second quarter. It was all part of what Kugler said was an “outstanding day” for Jones, who currently is second in the nation in rushing yards for two games. But the Miners simply made too many mistakes, which included three personal foul penalties and a costly fumble by wide receiver Tyler Batsen late in the first half and Texas never looked back.
“I didn’t think we played the smartest in this game,” Kugler said. “Against a team that talented, you can’t afford to lose any chances to continue or stop drives and we did that three times in this game so that was disappointing.”
This week, however, has a unique vibe to it as the Miners host Army on Saturday. The Black Knights come into this game with a 2-0 record for the first time in 20 years. They also bring a triple option offense that leads the country in time of possession and rushing.
“It’s very difficult, it’s unconventional, you don’t see it,” Kugler said. “If you see it once a year you’re lucky. There’s not a lot of time to prepare for it.”
There are also questions about the health of two key Miners. Quarterback Zack Greenlee missed last week’s game because of injuries suffered during the New Mexico State game. Middle linebacker Alvin Jones sprained his ankle in the second quarter on Saturday and left the game. Both players are considered questionable for the matchup this week and will definitely be needed.
“We’re hoping to get back Zack Greenlee, that will remain in the balance throughout the week,” Kugler said. “Alvin Jones will be day-to-day. I do know that if he can play I won’t be able to keep that young man off the field.”
Adding to the unique vibe, UTEP has promoted this game as part of “One City, One Team” with since the summer. El Paso is home to Fort Bliss, one of the largest army bases in the country. Athletic Director Bob Stull and Senior Associate Athletic Director Chris Park were on hand to discuss the upcoming festivities surrounding the game. While Kugler says his main focus is on stopping Army, he took a moment to recognize the significance of the game.
“I think this is a special game for not only our football team and our program, but also the community. I really hope that all the Miner fans, all the soldiers from Fort Bliss, all the people that respect the military and our country come out and fill the Sun Bowl. It could be a special day.”