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Monday Lunch With Kugler

UTEP’s season is winding down, but more injuries pile up.

Kugler opens up with a review of the Old Dominion game.

"It was a disappointing loss for us on the road. It was a game we felt we had an opportunity to win; we didn't get that accomplished. We put ourselves in a tough position as a team."

"Offensively we talked about protecting the football in this game and we didn't go that. We had two interceptions, one in the last two-minute drive."

"We talked about stealing two possessions with ball control; we did not accomplish that goal as far as time of possession. We started out that way but three 3-and-outs in the third quarter negated that. We did not accomplish our goal of 50 percent on third downs - only 38 percent."

"Red zone touchdowns we were 3-for-4 - our goal is 100 percent. We talked about staying ahead of the chains, again being in manageable third downs."

"We had five negative plays. We did not have any offensive penalties. But we did allow two sacks - both of those came on play-action shots down the field, which eliminated those opportunities."

"We had four drops in the game; three of those came on third downs that would've converted third downs and kept the chains moving. We weren't efficient in the run game; in the second half in particular".

"Defensively, we talked about stealing possessions from a team that averaged two turnovers a game. We go none and had several missed opportunities with interceptions that were in our hands and didn't take advantage of that."

"We talked about eliminating chunk plays and we didn't do that. They had three chunk runs over 10 yards, while two of those were 42-yard touchdowns. They had four chunk passes, which one of those was a touchdown on a third-and-long with 12 seconds left in the half that really turned the tide of the game."

"We talked about getting multiple stops on no. 33, who I think is an excellent back. He actually got injured in that game, and no. 34 came in and they rushed for 150 yards and two touchdowns (4.8 average). So we didn't accomplish that."

"And we talked about getting off the field on third downs. I thought the defense did a nice job in that area. They were 28 percent on third downs; anything 35 percent or better is considered successful. We did get to their quarterback at times; he's a very elusive guy.Roy Robertson-Harris had a sack, Lawrence Montegut had a sack, and Jimmy Musgrave had a sack. We probably had three other opportunities to get him down and we didn't. He's a very mobile and athletic quarterback. He ended up with 291 yards (passing) and two touchdowns."

Kugler then talks about LA Tech

"I really feel this is the most complete team in Conference USA. It's very experienced."

"They have 13 senior starters and in first place in Conference USA West. They've got three losses; their losses were 39-33 to Kansas State in overtime, Mississippi State beat them 45-20, and they lost on the road again to WKU. So those are all three road games that they lost."

"Their formula has been good this year with turnovers. They're plus four in that category. Time of possession, this is a very explosive offense. And penalties, a big change from last year - they're number two in Conference USA. So they're playing good football and they're playing disciplined football."

"Their offense is explosive in every aspect. They average 40 points per game, which is second on C-USA; 172.9 rushing per game, which is third; 314 passing per game, which is third; and 487 total yards per game, which is third in C-USA. They're middle of the pack in third downs and third in red zone touchdowns. They've only given up 15 sacks in 368n attempts, which is good - excellent actually and they start fast."

"They got 16 senior starters and they have transfer quarterback from Florida (Gators). He looks like defensive end. This guy is 6-foot-4, 240 (pounds). He's had a great year for them. He's got 3,000 yards passing, 19 touchdowns and five interceptions. He's also their second-leading rusher as quarterback. He's rushed for 278 yards at 4.1 a carry and five touchdowns rushing the ball. This guy can run as well."

"Kenneth Dixon, whom I have the upmost respect for, I think is the best player in Conference USA. He is a physical guy. He can catch, he can block, he runs hard and he's been consistent. He's the school's all-time leading rusher. He's had two big games against us. 933 yards this year, 6.3 average and has scored 17 touchdowns. He scored six touchdowns against North Texas alone.  This guy is a complete football player. You'll be seeing him play on Sundays as will the quarterback."

"I feel that they have the most explosive group of receivers we'll face all year. It starts with Trent Taylor, who's over 1,000 yards with 75 receptions and seven touchdowns - averages 100 yards per game. Paul Turner has 31 receptions, 13.2 per catch and three touchdowns. Carlos Henderson, who I feel has some big-play ability, has 27 receptions, 21.6 per catch and three touchdowns. This guy is an explosive player."

"Defensively, I felt they were a good defense last year. I think they're better this year. They're only giving up 24 points per game, which is third in Conference USA."

"They're the best versus the run in C-USA, only giving up 98 yards per game. They're only giving up three yards per carry, which is first in C-USA by a long shot. They rank middle of the pack in passing defense - ranked eighth. And then 362 (yards) total per game, that puts them in third in defense."

"So these guys in the top three in offense, top three in defense. They've been good on third downs. They're struggled a little bit in red zone touchdowns."

"These guys, more than any other team, play beyond line of scrimmage. They're a heavy blitz team; they give you multiple packages with three-down and four-down looks."

"They have seven senior starters, very experienced and very talented. They have 21 sacks and they have 72 tackles for loss, which averages to 7.2 per game and is outstanding. Their linebacker leads their team in tackles - no. 6 Beau Fitte has made a lot of plays for them."

"They're getting great defensive-end play from (Vontarrius) Dora, no. 8, who is an experienced guy - a senior and 6-foot-4, 260 pounds. He's second on team in tackle for losses."

"They have a freshman that really going to be a great player for them. He's got 14 tackles for loss and six sacks. He leads them in that category and also leads them in quarterback hits. That's no. 45 Jaylon Ferguson, who's 6-foot-5, 256 pounds."

"They have a very experienced secondary. Xavier Woods - this guy last year had 230 in interception return yards. This year he's got 42 tackles, six for loss, an interception, and a forced fumble. They've also got Kentrell Brice; he's another guy that led team in tackles last year and he's third on the team in tackles this year. They have two outstanding safeties and then their cornerback, Bryson Abraham, leads their team with three interceptions, and pass breakups with 12."

"So an experienced and outstanding secondary, with two defensive ends that get after the quarterback, and an outstanding linebacker. They have a big cat inside in Vernon Butler. He's athletic and explosive with seven tackles for losses and three sacks. I would not be surprised if any one of those six guys ends up playing on Sundays in the NFL."

UTEP tried to control the ball in the clock in the third quarter of the ODU, Kugler explains what went wrong with the plan.

"Yeah, the plan was to control clock and keep (the ball) away from their offense. But the run game was inefficient in the second half for multitude of reasons."

"Again, you go into the game plan with your top two backs, and end up not playing and finishing the game. Jeremiah Laufasa didn't finish the game, and Treyvon Hughes had another high ankle sprain. And both were running well early in the first half."

"I'm not going to make up any excuses, but we're a beat up team. It's kind of like running your truck on fumes and see how far you can get. I really felt the second half, as I looked out there Hayden Plinke is down, Sterling Napier is down and I can't even name the linemen that were playing with right now. We had an offensive tackle playing tight end."

"We're down to bare bones and we ran out of gas to be honest with you."

Simple statement on where the depth chart it at describes UTEP's injury situation

"I couldn't tell you. I'm just trying to field a team for this game."

"It's very difficult right now. Mack (Leftwich) is questionable and was banged up in that game. I don't have a lot of answers for you guys right now. Schematics have nothing to do with this right now. I'm trying to field a healthy team for this game and it's going to be a challenge."

Tight end Hayden Plinke has become a huge factor in the UTEP pass game.

"He's a lot faster than Natkin, and Natkin will be the first to tell you that.

"I agree he is, and he's got the ability to play on Sunday."

"He's not healthy right now and he finished that game taped up with an MCL. His availably will be in question to. But I'm with you on that one; I think he's special. Brian is an outstanding coach and teacher. Not only has he worked with that kid on the field, he's really developed that kid off the field. He's a mentor to that kid. That kid is just going to get better and better. I hope we can have him, but health wise, I don't know."

Kugler then touches on the 20 senior who will play their last game in the Sun Bowl on Saturday

"They're playing in front of their folks. There are a lot of emotions and this will be the last time they run out into the Sun Bowl."

"I remember my last senior day with all the emotions involved around at that. You look around and not going to play with those guys anymore."

"We'll have one game after this. It's emotional; you love the fans, you love UTEP, you love your teammates, and it's the last time you're going to take the field with those guys. It is emotional."

Freshman TK Powell will get more carries this Saturday

"Yeah, he will. He had one carry in that game and did a nice job. He'll have to get more carries as will Kavika Johnson. I can't point to too many healthy guys in the (running back) area."

Warren Redix has been a bright spot on offense, Kugler talks about his talented freshman.

"Warren Redix is a good football player. He'll get more touches."

"I really like what he can do as a running back. I like what he can do as a receiver, as a returner. He's got a lot heart. He's going to be a really good football player for us. Right now he is a healthy guy, and we need to utilize him the last two games. "

"I'm a big fan of Warren Redix. He's our captain of the week and he'll carry out pickaxe, representing our team for what he's done not only on offense, but also on special teams. He's a good football player."