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Monday Lunch With Kugler

The Miners prepare for a playoff type game, and playoff type atmosphere this week.

Kugler opened up by talking about last Friday's win.

"It was a very energizing win for our team, for everybody. Again, I'm extremely proud of the players; extremely banged up team and they went out and fought against a team that has had UTEP's number for quite sometime."

"Rice is kind of our nemesis and team we've been trying to chase that had been to several straight bowl games. And to get an opportunity to get a win at home in front of the UTEP fans was outstanding."

UTEP met a few goals on the offensive side in the game.

"Offensively some of the things we've talked about prior to that game we needed to do to win was to protect the football. Again for the third straight week with Mack (Leftwich) at quarterback we've had no interceptions."

"We talked about stealing two possessions with ball control versus the number one team in Conference USA at possessing the ball. That was (Rice's) m-o, that's how they win games and that was our best chance at winning the game. We controlled time of possession with 33:24, which now puts us at number one in Conference USA and that's the style of football we want to play."

"We talked about getting more chunks and taking shots in this game and cashing in when the chunks were made. There were three chunk runs, all by Jeremiah Laufasa - I thought he ran outstanding in that game. Then we had three chunk passes, including a 58-yard to Jaquan White, who had two touchdowns in the game."

"We talked about being closer to 50 percent on third downs. We were 7-of-15 (47 percent); one of those was taken away by a penalty and we would've been over 50 percent. Again, since Mack's been leading the charge at quarterback since midseason, we've been over 51 percent on third downs. It's something we really wanted to focus on the second half of the season."

"We're 3-for-3 in red zone scoring chances, but again one of those was a field goal and it happened to be the game winner. If that were a normal drive it would've been played a little bit differently. We were running down the clock and wanted to kick the game-winning field goal."

"We're very pleased with the third-down production and red zone over the last three weeks.

"We talked about staying ahead of the chains, no negative plays. We had our lowest amount of negative plays for the season. This usually results in communication or guys getting beat one-on-one. Up front we only had three negative losses."

"We talked about no sacks. Again, I think our offensive line is doing a great job of protecting quarterbacks. We're number one in Conference USA at this point in sacks allowed on the season. We'll face another challenge with Old Dominion, as it has 21 sacks."

"We talked about no drops. Really all the drops came on Autrey (Golden), he had three drops in that game. With Autrey offensively, we have to do something to spark him to get him out of what I would consider a slump. That's our job to get that done as coaches".

"We talked about having a run efficiency of 4.5 per carry; we were at 4.7 and a lot of those were big runs on first and second downs that put us in manageable third downs. That's the style of football that we need to play."

Jaquan White and Jeremiah Laufasa with be captains of the week.

"As I've mentioned, Jaquan White had four receptions for 90 yards, a long of 58 yards and two touchdowns. He's co-captain of the week for this upcoming game and then Jeremiah Laufasa had 15 carries for 92 yards (6.1 average) and one touchdown and he finished the game hurt, kept battling and he is also co-captain of the week for the Miners."

Starting fast in the second half was key for the Miners

"We had one goal going into the night before the game, challenging the offense and the defense. Offensively we came out of the second half fast and begin with a score, and the defense came out of the second half fast and got a three-and-out. Both the offense and defense accomplished that. The kids really bought into what we were trying to do to win this game."

Kugler was also pleased with the defensive effort against Rice

"Defensively, we talked about stealing two possessions through the form of turnovers. We didn't get any in the game; they did lay the ball down on a fumble one time, which was a vicious hit by Jimmy Musgrave. And Michael Lewis had two interceptions, which he probably wished he had both back because one would've been a pick six for him. He was in the clear, but we didn't cash in those opportunities."

"We talked about eliminating chunk plays. We're still a little high in that area. They had three chunk runs and four chunk passes, but two of those resulted in touchdowns. We have to clean that up moving forward."

"Efficiency on third downs is a little lower than what we've expected and we except to be at 35 percent or less. Rice was 46 percent and it was 6-of-13. What I thought the defense did a great job of was stuffing the no. 2 rush offence in Conference USA. They have excellent back in no. 1 and no. 24, those guys combined for 11 carries, 30 yards at 2.7 per carry. Overall, Rice rushed for only 96 yards. So our number one goal was to stop to run and I thought the defense did a great job of doing that."

"We also talked about keeping no. 6 in pocket, rattling him and we got good hits on him early. I think he's a very good veteran quarterback and I have a lot more respect for him after the game for taking shots and continuing to play. All in all we did a good job and Roy Robertson-Harris had his most productive day. He had a sack, a tackle for loss and four overall tackles in that game. Roy was playing with good tempo."

Then Kugler moves on to Old Dominion

"Looking forward to this week. We've got a long East Coast travel to Norfolk to play Old Dominion. They're in the exact boat that we are, much like Rice was last week. We need to gain head-to-head on them. They're 4-5 (overall), 2-3 in Conference USA, and we and them are battling for the same bowl position. So it's a very important game for both teams."

"Offensively, they made a quarterback switch and went to no.10, David Washington, who probably gives them more athleticism."

"They had their biggest output this past weekend at UTSA offensively, and (Washington) kind of generated a spark for them."

"I think they have one of the best running backs in Conference USA in (Ray) Lowry; he's a sophomore and played against him last year and thought he was great against us. He's got over 1,000 yards and averaging over six yards a carry and has eight touchdowns. He's averaging over 120 yards rushing a game for them."

"They have two big receivers and Zach Pascal is an experienced receiver, 6-foot-2, 214 pounds and Jonathon Duhart, 6-foot-3, 212 pounds, are their most experienced receivers. Both guys have three touchdowns each."

"And then they have an all-conference candidate in their right guard who can block out the sun, he's 6-foot-6, 370 pounds."

"They have some tools on offense and they're a younger offense, not quite as experienced and they graduated some guys. But they're not starting to get it together here at the end of the season."

"Defensively, they're younger and only have two senior starters, but will have three senior starters after seeing the depth chart today."

"It all starts with TJ Ricks, their linebacker. He's their leading tackler with 81, and three tackles for loss, a sack, five pass breakups, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. He's their playmaker on defense, he's all over the field."

"They have a very good strong safety that played against us last year, Fellonte Misher. He's a good size guy, who's second on their team in tackles."

"And then they have two guys who are making plays as far as sacks and tackles for losses, which is something they struggled with last year. This year they're getting it. They have 21 sacks, which puts them third in Conference USA. Oshane Ximines, a SAM linebacker, who leads the team in sacks with five and tackles for losses with 7.5."

"Bunmi Rotimi, a defensive end is second on the team in sacks and tackles for losses. So they have guys who can get to the passer. They have a freshman corner that's playing well for them, (Brandon) Addison, no. 11, who leads them in pass breakups and passes defended."

Kugler goes into detail on UTEP's running back plan

"(Jeremiah) finished that game hurt and his availability is up in the air. We'll probably have to ease off him at practice. He re-injured his knee. It's called running back by desperation right now. We are down to our fourth-string tailback. I'm actually going to use Kavika Johnson some at tailback this week. He's fresh and he needs to get some opportunities."

"I hate doing this, this late in the year, but I'm un-redshirting a freshman that didn't want to un-redshirt and that's TK Powel. But that's where we're at."

It's looking like Autrey Golden won't see time at running back, but Warren Redix will.

"Autrey has really been stove upped this year. And I'm not going to put a guy back at running back that is stove upped. That won't benefit us. But Warren Redix has given us some juice in the backfield. I like what Redix brings to the table as a receiver, as a running back and as a football player. He's also got some return ability. Warren has been very good for us this year. He'll get opportunities for us."

Next to linebacker production, the defensive line has been a very productive unit the past two wins.

"We challenged those guys last week. I think we have two really excellent defensive ends (Roy Robertson-Harris and Nick Usher). They've kind of been taking turns being productive, and I think they were both productive at the same time."

"Gino Bresolin gives everything he's got every game. I think Sky Logan has given us some juice in there. He's got three sacks and he did play in the first four games and he's only a sophomore. He's got a great future ahead of him."

"What really stood out this week was the linebacker production. Those guys had over 20 tackles combined and that's the first time that has happened since we've been here as a staff. If you get linebacker production out of a nickel 4-2-5 defense, you're going to have success and that's why we're so successful stopping the run. Alvin Jones was all over the place, but that's every week."

Coach then talks about UTEP's longest road trip of the season.

"It's always tough to play on the road. I don't care who you are or who you're playing, especially when you do play different time zones. I recall coaching in the NFL when you had a West Coast team come to the East Coast, it's 10:30 in the morning for those guys and they always have a difficult chore."

"Same thing when you went west it was always difficult anytime we switch time zones. We're going to approach the week and try to freshen their legs up a bit in practice. We need it, we're banged up. But ultimately you have to go out there, compete and take the crowd out with your performance."

Derek Elmendorff is still battling a leg injury that could force him to miss his second straight game.

"I'm hoping. He got hurt last week and couldn't play this game."

"We were down to our third guard. Anthony Kyles, who had never taken a snap in a game, I thought he went in there and did a good job at right guard with no practice."

"So that's been the story of our season. We were down to our third right guard, second right tackle, basically our fourth tailback, our fifth wide receiver was in there taking snaps at tailback. To have those kids go our there and compete the way they did and get a win, hats off to them."

Kugler mentioned walk-on running back TK Powell as a guy who could see action.

"He's really showed us since camp. He broke a lot of runs at camp. He is a walk-on, but if we brought in him as a scholarship player, I'd be very pleased."

"He's been a pleasant surprise since camp and worked his tail off on scout team. When we got a little banged up the last few weeks, we've been practicing up there with the varsity taking him off the scout team to get him prepared in case of an emergency."

"Well guess what? We're at emergency time and we need his help. He's up for it, but sometimes this late in the year it's hard to talk to a kid about burning his redshirt. What you have to explain to him is that redshirt will always be in your pocket if you were to get injured down the line. He can help us win games."

This part of the season seems similar to this time last year where leadership was a main theme.

"You find out about your leadership. You find out about your competitors that are seniors. Last year I found out a lot about that group that we had outstanding senior leadership."

"The more our backs were against the wall, the harder they fought. I think I'm finding out the same thing about this team. Their backs are certainly against the well. We were 2-4 and just our butts whipped at FIU. Since coming off the bye week, these kids have done nothing but work and fight. So I'm starting to find out this team's leadership and this team's character much like we did last year."