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Monday Lunch With Kugler

The Miners look for answers after back-to-back ugly losses.

Alex Nicolas

Sean Kugler showed some accountability, and acknowledged some changes that need to be made on the offensive side with Aaron Jones out during his weekly press conference on Monday.

Kugler opened things up by reviewing the Texas Tech game, and said he was not happy with UTEP's penalties.

"We did not play well at Texas Tech. That was obvious ... really in any phase."

"The thing I was most disappointed about as a head coach was too many dumb penalties in the game. We pride ourselves on not being penalized."

"We had three personal fouls by young guys. Those need to be learning experiences for those guys to never let that happen again."

"We had two false starts that put us in a first and 15 that killed two drives. We had two defensive off-sides which put them in good position. The special teams penalties both happened on kickoff return, something we need to clean up. I'm not happy with that."

The current turnover margin on the season and lack of turnovers created by the defense is also something Kugler is not happy with.

"If you really want to point to where we are right now as a team, all you have to do is look at turnovers. We're -5 on the year. We need to be in the plus category."

"We had two turnovers in this game, both in the form of fumbles.  Redix fumbled after a sweep play and Kavika fumbled on a play where he misread the end and lost control of the ball, which turned into points for Texas Tech."

"And on the flip side, we didn't gain any turnovers. So not the formula for winning the game against a team like that."

Kugler also talked about the Aaron Jones injury deflating him and the entire UTEP sideline

"Obviously right before halftime Aaron Jones was injured. I'll be dead honest with you, that should not affect your team the way that it did. But it deflated our team in many ways. To be honest with you it deflated me at that point, and I've got to be better than that as a head coach and rally the troops at that point."

"I felt there was a deflation a little bit with the team when you lose your best player. That can't happen. We've got to make sure that doesn't ever happen again."

He would finish up with the negative and positives from the Texas Tech game

"We had too many tackles for losses due to either assignment errors or errors up front. We've got to be better there."

"There were some positives in the run game, 227 total rush yards, 4.9 per carry, and did control the ball in the first half. But again, we had too many three and outs in the third quarter, much like the Arkansas game, and didn't get our rhythm going until later in the game."

"We had three drops in that game. Autrey had a drop for a touchdown. Darrin Laufasa had a drop for a first down. And Cole Rogers had a drop at the end of the game. You can't leave opportunities on the field."

"We talked about our quarterbacks making 100 percent decision making in the run game and at pass progressions. I really thought for the second straight week Mack played a good game."

"He was 64 percent completion percentage. He threw a touchdown. He makes good decisions, doesn't take sacks, handles everything up front, communication very good. He's playing well for us."

"Defensively, we talked about getting multiple hats to #21. We did not do that. He had an 11.5 average, an explosive run for a touchdown, had 138 yards and a touchdown."

"We talked about creating at least two turnovers, our formula week-to-week. We didn't get any. We have none on the year, that has to change quickly for us to have success and we know that."

We wanted to keep #5 in the pocket and hit home with our pressures. We ended up letting him off the hook on that sometimes and many of his big throws came off of scrambles, which I was nervous about.

"We only had two quarterback hits. We need to start getting hits and sacks. I think we have the personnel to do that and we need to improve upon that."

"The story of that game was they had several more chunk plays than we did. We did not respond well after halftime."

Kugler was pleased with some improvement out of UTEP's two main freshman in the secondary who struggled in week one

"In reality, some guys that had issues in the first game, Kalon Beverly was much improved in this game. He played much better in man coverage."

And Michael Lewis, I was disappointed with him in the personal foul. He understood that. He was playing aggressive, and probably more out of frustration he hit the guy out of bounds. But again, as a young guy he's going to improve. I thought both of those guys improved."

Kugler minced no words on the loss, and expects his team to respond this week in practice

"I'm going to sum it up real quick. We got our tails kicked."

"What I told the team after the game, I've had my tail kicked as a player, in life, everything, and what you've got to do is respond."

"How they respond is how I'm going to judge them on this, and judge myself and the coaching staff. If I think I know this team the way that I know them, they're going to bounce back and they're going to fight back."

"We're going to man up and come together as a team."

"So that's where we are right now. We're 0-2 after playing two outstanding football teams and we've got a rivalry game coming up against New Mexico State this week."

Then Kugler would go on to break down NMSU running back Larry Rose

"They had a heartbreaking loss [last week]. They missed a game-winning field goal and lost to Georgia State at home."

"They moved the ball very effectively. I think the running back Rose is very talented. I think he's a lot like Aaron Jones." He's got that little ‘it' quality. He can find a crease, he gets vertical right now."

"They really do a good job of trying to isolate him in the passing game to give him the ball in space. I would too, because this guy is a special talent."

"He rushed for over 1,000 yards last year as a freshman. He's on pace to do the same thing again this year. He's very nifty. He did not play against us last year and we're expecting to see him at his best this year. I think he's a talented."

On NMSU's QB Tyler Rogers

"The quarterback has really grown. His accuracy has improved. Last year he had some issues turning the ball over. He is not doing that this year. I think he's very mobile. I think he throws the ball well. He has thrown for 581 yards and four touchdowns. He only has the one pick. I think he's very competitive. I think they've got a very good quarterback."

Kugler expressed concern and broke down a pair of NMSU wide receivers

"I think they have two explosive receivers. Taylor, the smaller of the two, he is very fast and explosive. He's got 12 receptions for 225 yards and two touchdowns, including a 31-yarder in the first half against Florida, against outstanding competition. He had a 75-yarder last week. This guy is explosive. We've got to keep eyes on him at all times."

"Morgan is a bigger receiver, he's close to 200 pounds. He had a good game against us last year. He's got nine receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. He has also got a 31-yarder as well. He is also their punt returner. He is a valuable weapon for them."

Then Kugler looks at the NMSU defense

"Defensively, probably their best player is their WILL linebacker #53. This guy is all over the place. He's second on their team in tackles, he's got a sack. This guy can really run."

"The thing that impresses me on film is all their linebackers can run and run extremely well. They played a very young group last year on defense and these guys are all one year older, they're one year bigger, they're doing it the right way as far as developing these guys. I really think they have a fast defense."

"Their strong safety #21 leads their team in tackles. He has also made some splash plays, an interception, forced fumble and fumble recovery that he returned for 10 yards."

"They also have a SAM linebacker that's a high school freshman who's third on the team in tackles. He also has made a lot of plays ... sack, tackle for loss, forced fumble, fumble recovery. This guy is athletic and he can run. I can see why he's in there for them. He's playing very good."

"They're a younger group, but they're an experienced group because all those guys played against us last year. We anticipate them being much improved."

Kugler goes on to talk about the move to running back for safety LaQuintus Dowell

"L.A. is a very talented running back. L.A. played strong safety for us. A lot of the teams that we play are what you call 10 personnel, which is four wide receivers, or 11 personnel, which is three wide receivers."

"L.A. is a strong safety. In the Arkansas game, he figured into the plans quite a bit on defense. There will be some other teams that he would've as well. But when we play these 10/11 teams, he is not seeing many snaps."

"He is too talented to not be seeing snaps. He is one of the toughest, if not the toughest, players on our team."

" I have seen him in action before at running back. He wants to do that. He is a team player. He approached us about that. He's going to do it and I think he'll do an outstanding job."

Kugler mentioned Larry Rose as a talent runner, but Kugler explains what the defense needs to do to not get burned on running back screens.

"I certainly think they'll try to run screens. We're an aggressive defense and we'll pressure, and one way to kind of slow down the pressure or take advantage of pressure is to run screens and run it very well.

"They time it up well. He's got that knack of getting out in space and getting through crevices and finding the screens. I would anticipate them running a lot of screens. We've got to work on it quite a bit this week. Again, I really like that running back. I think he's pretty darn good."

One of the biggest highlights of the day is Kugler acknowledge the game plan without Aaron Jones has to change for the UTEP offense

"It does have to change. If you've got a racehorse, you're going to ride that racehorse, you know what I mean? Aaron Jones is a special back, much like their back."

"They've built a lot of things around their back. We had a special player and we built quite a bit of our offense around that player. Now we don't have that player. It's going to have to be more of a team mentality when it comes to running the ball."

"We may have to throw the ball more than we normally do, which we are confident about with some of the weapons."

"We're probably going to have to change the makeup of what we are to overcome the loss of that player. From a coaching standpoint, I'll do whatever it takes as a team to get us in the best position to win games. You'll see that on Saturday as far as what those adjustments will be."

Part of the new game plan will be for the wide receivers to become more involved

"We haven't had the production out of that group. I'm not lacking confidence in that group."

"Just by schematics, the first two games trying to maintain possession of the clock, [we used] more of a short passing game. That will have to change. I feel very confident that those guys are capable. We will have to get the ball."

Kugler also touched on the running game adjustments UTEP will have to make

"It's going to have to be running back by committee. We don't have that one guy. But that's okay."

"I have been on teams that have done that, and been on teams that have done it successfully."

"We've got to come up with ways to generate moving the ball successfully by throwing the ball and our offense will probably have to look a little bit different because of that. But that's okay. We'll do what it takes to help us win games." in our receivers' hands more for us to be successful on offense."

Kugler also talked about the high possibility of getting wide receiver/punt return Terry Juniel back

"I want to see how he's responding. He's had a broken foot. I want to see him move around and cut, do those types of things. But from what I've seen in the spring,"

"I'm very excited to have him back because he's got juice."

"He's one of those guys that could catch a ball and go to the house. He's one of those guys, and we've seen it on film, he was the number one punt returner in the nation in junior college."

"We hope to get him back this week. We're going to ease him in. We're not just going to throw him in there right away if he's not ready. But if he's ready, he'll play."

Kugler is also very pleased with the way Hayden Plinke has started off the season

"You start finding out about your players and your team and what you need to correct. Hayden Plinke is a competitor. He has got the speed, he has got the athletic ability to be one of those weapons in the passing game."

"He has also done a nice job of blocking. He really could be a very productive tight end in this offense. Coach Natkin has worked hard with him. I've got to keep in mind, he has been out for a full year. He gets better and better each week. He will be a focal point of our passing game and run game here moving forward."

He also talks about the I-10 Rivalry

"You don't need much to get juiced up for New Mexico State and they don't need much to get juiced up for us. Regardless of record, regardless of whether we're playing here or playing there, it's a battle every year. You're going to see a lot of intensity. You're going to see both teams give it their best."

"I just love the rivalry."

"I'm a realist. I know right now we're 0-2. Right now we're desperate for a win and they're desperate for a win. We're rivals, so it's going to be a battle."

"We know what this game is about. It's a big game for them. It's a big game for us. The team that goes out there and competes the hardest and the team that goes out there and does not turn the ball over usually is the team that wins this game."

"I respect the series having been a part of it as a player, as an assistant coach and now as a head coach.  I respect New Mexico State. I like how they're doing things from a recruiting standpoint, from a developing standpoint. I think we're very much mirror programs in terms of the mentality of how we're trying to do things."

"We always know it's going to be a bloodbath"

Kugler also would like to see an heavy orange turnout in Cruces

"We are going up there. I would ask the Miner fans to get excited about this game and travel up the road. We have been on the road for two straight games, this being our third."

"We're going to need the Miner support up there. I know UTEP fans always do a great job of coming up and supporting the Miners whenever we play at New Mexico State. We're going to need you in this game."