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Beyond The Box Score: Identity Crisis

Forcing an identity that has been figured out is a huge problem for the Football Miners heading into the meat of conference play.


Discipline, physicality, no mental breakdowns that led to turnovers and easy points the other way were the identities UTEP built in the first three games of the season, and after the last two losses those flew out the window somewhere east of El Paso.

The Miners allowed three sacks for a net loss of 24 yards, also allowing 10 tackles for loss for a combined negative 58 yards which we all know can't happen in UTEP's one dimensional offense.

Those losses in the backfield attributed to UTEP's 5 out of 17 mark on third downs in where its hard to draw up plays for 3rd and more than 8 yards when UTEP again showed no life in the passing game for another set of four quarters.

LA Tech did the same thing Kansas State did by bringing up their safeties and linebackers, stayed in a base defense, and tee'd off the Miners' stretch and dive plays over and over again taking away any chance for any sort of scoring drive to get started with negative plays on the first two predictable downs.

At times it seemed it was 9 versus 5, or 10 versus 5, hard to put that on the lineman when you're schematically over matched before the snap.

UTEP stubbornly continued to feed the LA Tech defense with the same vanilla play calling, and repetitive looks numerous times, leaving many to question the true offensive identity, and game plan on offense.

While the game was "close", UTEP dominated the time of possession. though averaged just three yards a play for most of the game.   The margin of victory was the largest in a conference game loss since 2002.

Its obvious no wrinkles or adjustments were made during the week, and to me that is on the coaching staff who keep pushing for an identity that has been fully stripped in all aspects and needs some new dimensions, so where to go now on offense?

Luckily UTEP faces a soft run defense next week at home, though have the lineman upfront lost confidence from the coaches setting them up for failure with the same exact game plan in five straight games?

Seeing some negative body language from players on offense in reaction the negative run plays is never a good sign, wonder what feelings they had warranted those emotions?

I will never be one to call out, or criticize coaches but the lack of game plan or creativity with plenty offensive weapons to go round is pretty obvious to those who have watched the past two games, and some sort of change has to be made is needed if UTEP wants to stay competitive the rest of the season.

It feels like UTEP is back to square one now after a good start in which wins are starting to be an after thought and keeping the score close and respectable in the second half feels like the 1990's mentality all over again.

Minimal penalties and turnovers were proud identities the Miners had found in the first four games, and after committing five turnovers and five penalties last night, I know that is one thing that probably kept Sean Kugler up all last night thinking why, and how.

Not only were those identities stripped, but the special teams one game wonder blunders as I had labeled it carried over to Ruston as well thus giving the Miners a struggling unit.

UTEP allowed 12.4 yards per punt return, had a field goal blocked in a must need points situation,  and once again had trouble fielding kick off returns.

I know Damian Payne was a solid returner for Houston last year and is very capable, though Brian Natkin has to draw up a return scheme with just Autrey Golden and 10 blockers forming some sort of wedge.

Did anyone count how many highlight hits LA Tech's kick off coverage team laid on the Miner return unit?

UTEP's best chance to get on the scoreboard last night was from kickoff returns although that was fully nullified by a terrible return scheme from the Miners which sees two returners confusingly going after the ball, and zero wedge blocking to spring the one-cut talent of Golden.

For the second straight week the offense could not help the defense, over pursuing, and the missed tackle disease stuck the defense who gave up six yards a carry, and 256 yards on the ground also giving up long runs of 32, 22, 18, 27,  and 19 that killed any chance for momentum or a stop when the 'Dogs popped those dagger runs.

I only took two positives from this game.

Mike Ruggles is an All-Conference punter, and may play on Sunday's one day, and Dashone Smith is UTEP's best defender after 10 tackles and pass break up that could have been an interception.

Smith has had a quietly good season, his missed tackle numbers somewhere in coaches stats database is probably best on the team as well.

The identities we were all proud of in the first three games have been dismantled by being out scored 113 to 31 in the past two weeks giving fans the feeling of a mid-season meltdown.

These mental errors are correctable, though how do you approach a team who has beat down mentally, physically, and in all three phases of the game for two straight weeks?

Coach Kugler has quite the job on his hands to save this season, UTEP's senior leaders will also be tested this week as a winning season now hangs in the balance.

Gameball: LA Tech's coaching staff