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UTEP football: Final scrimmage in Ruidoso shows plenty of work is still left to be done

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There was some good and bad on Sunday as UTEP wrapped up Camp Ruidoso.

UTEP went through its final workout of Camp Ruidoso on Sunday with the defense's speed and aggressiveness in playing calling standing out.  Though today also showed there is plenty of work left to do in UTEP's passing game, and getting flags to stay put in the ref's back pockets as UTEP completed a full day of scrimmage work.

The quarterbacks went a combined 16-of-42 for 206 yards passing, and three touchdowns throughout the scrimmage, but were a victim of eleven dropped passes by receivers and tight ends.

"Too many drops on the offensive side of the ball," Sean Kugler said, "I thought the quarterbacks had a lot of well placed balls, couple of them for touchdowns that were dropped, and dropped cleanly, so we got to get better at that."

Mack Leftwitch went 3-for-16 for 83 yards with a touchdown and interception working with the first team offense.

Garrett Simpson had the best day overall, going 8-for-19 for 83 yards, and led the offense on a two minute drill scoring drive with 1:03 put on the clock, capped off by a one yard QB sneak after he hit Cole Freytag on a long gain during the previous play.

Ryan Metz went 3-of-5 for 29 yards and two touchdowns, Kavika Johnson saw action at the Wild Miner quarterback, and at running back but left the scrimmage with a high ankle sprain that Kugler classified as not serious.

Hayden Plinke had 2 catches for 76 yards, Autrey Golden had two catches for 26 yards, Tyler Batson added two catches for 22 yards with a touchdown reception from Metz.

Cole Freytag also had 46 yards on two catches to round out the receiving numbers.

"All three would have been helped by drops," Kugler said of the quarterback play on Sunday "I know Mack had two touchdowns dropped, that's more on the receivers and tight ends. I thought they all stood well in the pocket, and took shots, we went live on them all day,"

While the passing game still needs plenty of work, the UTEP rushing attack continued its strong showing in camp.

Aaron Jones opened the workout with an electric 80-yard run on the first play of the scrimmage in where he blazed down the left sideline untouched.

This was Jones' most extensive work of the fall, and the junior racked up 84 yards on six carries adding another touchdown in redzone work.   UTEP's offensive line only yielded one sack on the day, as the offense rushed for 174 yards on 35 total carries in total.

"This was their best day by far," running back Aaron Jones said of his offensive line's play, "Coach prides them on not giving up sacks, and if the offensive line doesn't get going, we can't get going."

"I thought protection was pretty good," Sean Kugler said, "When we did run the ball, I thought we ran it efficiently"

Plenty of give and take in all from both sides of the ball in the various situations worked on today, although the defense played with ton of energy, and displayed the depth and statistical production in the secondary that could help this team win games.

Laquintus Dowell added two tackles, a pass break up, and a TFL, Kelvin Fisher Jr. also added three tackles, and a QB hurry.  Safety Leon Hayes also had a good day on the defensive side with three tackles including a TFL,

Defensive lineman Nick Usher and Brian Madunezim also had TFL's to their stat lines.

Ishmael Harrison led the defense with three tackles, and three pass breaks and he also picked off Mack Lefwtich on a nice diving catch in a drill where the offense was backed up at their own goal line.

"Defense had their tackles for losses and big hits like they have all camp," Kugler said, "I was pleased with the progress but not pleased with the errors penalty wise and drops."

Kugler indicated he may name a starter after some film review.

UTEP struggled with penalties early in the move the ball the period where they drove the length of the field, killing any offensive flow early on in the scrimmage.

"Way too many penalties, some holding penalties  on offense, some pass interference penalties on defense," Kugler said.  "It will be good to show those on film to show to the guys where they need to have their hands placed on those plays."

The offense won the redzone, goal line, and short yardage segments, while the defense won the two minute drill portions and the backed up on the goal line segment.

The first team offense scored on two touchdown drives against the first team defense in the move the ball segment where they drove from their own 20 yard line.   Leftwich worked with the first team at quarterback, while Simpson was with the second team, and Metz manned the third team.

There was plenty of effort, energy, and physicality to go around on both sides of the ball, but overall UTEP still has some time to clean up the errors, and mistakes that turned in all round competitive scrimmage into a flag fest.

"That was the first time we had referees out there," head Coach Sean Kugler said, "And things that normally don't get called in practice got called today."