The Sean Kugler Era officially began Saturday night in the Sun Bowl, in front of a crowd of 34,907. Unfortunately, those fans watched the Miners fall in overtime to a tough, hard nose New Mexico team.
New Mexico Running Back Kasey Carrier exploded for 291 yards on 41 carries to lead the run heavy Lobos to the overtime victory. In total, UNM rushed for 395 yards on 57 carries, good for an average of 6.9 yards per attempt.
The two teams traded points throughout the first half; the Lobos and Carrier struck first blood on a 2 yard run which capped a 9 play 80 yard drive, then the Miners responded with Nathan Jeffery breaking off 4 Lobo defenders, en route to a 13 yard touchdown off a screen pass from Jamiell Showers.
The Miners continued to have trouble defending the run, and the two teams continued to trade points throughout the second quarter. The Miners would eventually tie the game on a 14 yard scamper down the left sideline by Jamiell Showers, sending the game to the locker room tied at 28.
The third quarter brought the introduction of true freshman Aaron Jones, who took a simple draw, and ran 65 yards un-touched to the house to give the Miners their first lead of the season.
After a bad snap and an 8 yard punt by Jay Mattox, the Lobos went 39 yards in 6 plays, and Carrier once again punched it in, this time from two yards out to tie the game with 13 minutes left in the 4th.
The Miners would go 3 and out on the ensuing drive, which would lead to an 8 play 70 yard UNM drive that ended in Mitchem keeping it on the option read and going 17 yards to give the Lobos a 35-28 lead.
But, the Miners would not go away. The offense had its best drive of the night, going 70 yards on 14 plays, while eating up 6:21. Aaron Jones finished the drive off with a 10 yard run off right tackle to tie the game with 1:19 left on the clock.
Mitchem would then hit Jhurell Pressley for 41 yards, on a broken coverage down the right sideline, and get inside the Miner 40 with 54 seconds left to play. Senior Germard Reed came up with a huge sack though, and the final 20 seconds off regulation ran of the clock.
Still though, the Miners just could not stop Carrier and the UNM read option. In the OT Carrier broke a 21 yard run out of the option look and gave the Lobos a quick 42-35 lead.
The Miners would then pound and grind their way inside the UNM 5 yard line on their first drive in OT, but were forced to go for it on a 4th and 1 to keep the game alive. Nathan Jeffery, who appeared to just get the first down, was marked short of the line to gain, ending the ball game.
Coach Kugler challenged the very questionable spot, but the play was upheld and the Lobos danced off with the win.
It was an ugly defensive performance that will leave Miner fans with a bad taste in their mouth heading into NMSU week. Carrier is a great back, but poor tackling and losing him in the option shuffle was really the issue here.
The lone bright spot for the Miners on defense was the return of Traun Roberson, who led the team with 13 solo tackles.
On offense Jamiell Showers had a very solid debut going 15-20 for 119 and 1 touchdown through the air, while rushing for another 49 yards.
Aaron Jones was the Miners' leading rusher, finishing with 127 yards on 11 carries to go along with two TDs. The Miners rushed for 280 yards as team, but Nathan Jeffery was held somewhat in check only gaining 59 yards on 17 carries.
The Miners will now get ready to face NMSU next Saturday in Las Cruces, and will definitely need to find a way to rebound with a win in that one. Make sure and stay tuned to the MinerRush throughout the week for coverage of the NMSU game, and all your UTEP Athletic news