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Monday Lunch with Kugler

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For the first time this season Sean Kugler talks about a win in this edition of Monday Lunch With Kugler.

Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Sean Kugler talks about about the Miners first win of the season, his new quarterback, and what needs to happen to improve the defense.

Kugler started things off by reviewing the NMSU game.

"Extremely exciting win for our team.  I felt it was a great team win.  I think what we saw and what I saw was a display of young men that refused to get beat, who refused to ever quit during the game."

"They were down by 14 three different junctures during the game.  We went into the game minus some cards and with the best player on our team out."

"We lost our quarterback early in the third quarter and the team just kept fighting and kept responding."

"Even when they were down 14 in tough situations, with two two-minute drills and one backed up 99 yards, to fight back and win it in overtime was exciting to me as a head coach."

"To be honest, that was one of the most exciting games I have ever been a part of as a coach and maybe one of the proudest moments I have ever had with my team or players because of their resiliency in that game."

Kugler continues to embrace the Battle of I-10 rivalry

"New Mexico State and UTEP is always an exciting game, there have always been some wild finishes, but I don't know if there has ever been one as wild as that.  My hat goes off to them.  They are a much-improved team from a physicality standpoint.  They came out swinging and got us on our heels several different times."

He very pleased with the running back by team approach the Miners used on Saturday

"We talked about being a running back not by committee but by team.  I felt we accomplished that.  We had 44 rushing attempts for 269 yards, a 6.1 average and three touchdowns."

"LA Dowell popped a touchdown, Darrin Laufasa and then Metz the tying touchdown to put us into overtime on a quarterback draw."

He also very pleased with the offensive line play

"We talked about dominating the line of scrimmage.  I felt at times we did."

"I think our offensive line played very well in that game.  We had no sacks.  In the two-minute situation they were flawless.  They gave Metz plenty of time.  They pressured him a few times and they picked up all of the blitzes.  They were very physical in the run game."

Kugler also explained went wrong on the stuffed third and short situations.

"The disappointing thing is we got stopped in two third and one situations which we hang our hat on and we allowed some run-throughs on a cross dog and a blitz fire which can't happen again."

"Aside of those two plays, it was one of the better offensive line performances I've seen.  They have been playing very well."

Quarterback play, and the completion percentage was another positive touched on

"We talked about the quarterbacks making efficient reads, good game management and ball delivery.  I thought they did an excellent job with accuracy.  We were 74 percent with all our quarterbacks.  That's the highest percentage since we've been here."

Coach took personal accountability for the numerous substitution flags

"We've got to do a better job with the huddle management.  We do a lot of personnel grouping changes and we had a big-time issue with that in the third quarter."

"I'll put that on me and we will get that corrected. "

"We'll do something this week to properly ensure that never happens again. Probably from the entire game, that was the most frustrating thing on my end.  That's something that cannot happen, having a pre-snap penalty due to management.  That's on me and we will get that corrected."

Then Kugler talked about his new starting quarterback

"Ryan Metz will be our starter."

"I was very pleased with the performance of Ryan Metz.  I can't say enough about this kid.

"This kid is an unbelievable person.  He's a kid that remains focused all the time.  I always knew when he got his opportunity he was going to shine because the kid really believes in himself, his teammates believe in him.  He has an unbelievable will and it shows."

"He was unfazed."

"There's a lot of pro quarterbacks put in those situations that would've struggled.  Ninety-nine yards, no timeouts and [he] moved the offense right down the field. He has an unbelievable will and it shows."

Kugler then went into detail on how they prepare the quarterbacks for the two minute drill

"I mentioned after the game that he called his own plays during those two-minute drives.  That's by design."

"All our quarterbacks call the two-minute plays.  We coach them up on what to look for.  We coach them up on the clock management as far as timeouts."

"We coach them up on when they need to clock it, when they need to run specific plays.  But in that situation, you don't have time to be calling in plays and getting everybody lined up.  So we put it on the quarterback."

He was also surprised about the Metz to Cedrick Lang script that unfolded

"If you would've told me that we played New Mexico State and it would've went to overtime and the game-winning pass was from Ryan Metz to Cedrick Lang before the season, I probably would've said ‘Excuse me, what?'

"But it was awesome.  I can't tell you how excited, not just because it was the game winner, but how excited our team was for Cedrick Lang.  All the work he has put in to convert to a tight end.  He has really become a big part of our team.  His family was there, his kid was there, it was just exciting all around."

Then Kugler talks about the 24-hour rule, and getting back on track after an emotional win

"Again, 24-hour rule for our team.  We talked about that yesterday."

"It was an exciting win, an emotionally spent win when you put that much effort into fighting back that many times.  But our kids were energized after the game."

"I think they saw the fight in themselves.  Sometimes you need to go through it to even know you have it.  I was very proud of the team."

"It was an outstanding game probably for the fans, probably not for a head coach.  Those are the types of games that give you ulcers.  But I can't relay how proud I was of the team.  We've got to use that momentum moving forward."

Kugler says the coaching staff and the team are excited to play a home game this week, finally.

"We are extremely excited about coming back to the Sun Bowl.  Our fans up there were outstanding.  They were vocal.  They energized our players after the game.  They all stayed after the game."

"Our players were so excited to have the fan base there.  It doesn't go unnoticed.  We love our fans."

"We can't wait to have them come out this week in the Sun Bowl, pack the Sun Bowl and give us the energy we need.  We're going to need the fans.  They do such a great job disrupting the other team's offense with their crowd noise.  Our kids are really excited about coming home and playing in front of the home folks."

Then Kugler breaks down Incarnate Word

"Offensively they have scored 14.7 points per game, 131 yards rushing.  They do want to establish the run.  They have been very balanced.  They are at 39 rushes per game to 30 passes.  They are averaging 300 yards a game.  Time of possession, they are about even, they are at 29 minutes."

"They have struggled a little bit on third downs.  We've got to keep them in that situation.  They have had some fumble issues.  They have lost six fumbles and given up three interceptions.  They are -4 in turnovers this year so they're kind of in the same boat as we are at that point.  I'm sure that they're focusing in on that."

"I think they're very good on defense.  They have given up 23 points per game.  They have only given up 3.7 yards per rush, 166 yards passing.  They are only giving up 314 yards a game.

"They are a veteran defense.  They base out of an odd front which presents a whole new slew of problems because it's a different scheme from what we have been facing the first three weeks."

"They'll pressure you.  They have four sacks and five interceptions.  Opponents have only been converting 27% of third downs.  If they get you in third and long, they have been very good at getting off the field."

Looking at UIW's personnel

"Their quarterback is a mobile guy, he's got their lone rushing touchdown of the year. He's got a 3.6 average and a long of 57 as a rusher. He has thrown for 445 yards and two touchdowns, two interceptions."

"They've got two solidly built running backs, one is 215 and one is 200.  They are both around the same stature. One has 126 yards, 3.8 average and the other has got a 4.7 yard average and 116 yards.  Both are very capable running backs."

"Their tight end is a player.  This guy is 6-7, 255 pounds. He is about the size of Roy Robertson-Harris.  He leads their team in receptions.  He has 188 yards, 12.5 yards per catch, and a touchdown with a long of 20.  He is a weapon in their passing game. "

"Their offensive line averages about 6-3, 290 pounds per man.  Younger guys, two juniors and two sophomores."

"They have a smaller receiver, 5-8, 170 that's second on the team in receptions and also has a touchdown and a 10.5 average.  Kind of what we have struggled with - a smaller, more explosive receiver.  He is also their punt returner and a very good one, he has taken one to the house.  We've got to be very solid on him."

"They have a very special player #8.  He is an outside linebacker for them.  He is 6-3, 230 pounds.  He is a transfer from Arkansas.  He leads their team in tackles.  He has 25 tackles, six tackles for losses, two sacks, three pass break-ups, and two quarterback hits."

"He is also their kick returner.  He is a violent player.  This guy will be an NFL player in the future.  Their linebackers are their #1, #2 and #3 leading tacklers which in a 3-4 scheme, you would expect."

"They have a very good sized defensive end #99, 6-6, 275.  He has been very productive for an end in a 3-4 scheme with 11 tackles, tackle for loss, quarterback hit and he has blocked a kick.  Their strong safety has 13 tackles, he leads their team in interceptions with two."

"They are a junior/senior laden defensive team.  They have a lot of experience.  And they have been playing solid defense throughout the year."

Kugler gives some insight on the NCAA concussion protocol that Mack Leftwich is going through

"It varies on the degree of concussion.  He had a severe one.  There's a certain amount of time they can't even go to class.  They can't do certain exercises"

"Then there's a period of time where they can start exercising.  Then there's a return to play protocol that they have.  Depending on the severity of it, sometimes it's a week to two weeks, sometimes it's a month.  We take that very seriously, as I know all college and NFL teams do."

Garrett Simpson is still hurt according to Kugler, but could he also be in the dog house as well after a confusion on special teams?

"Garrett still, in our mind, was too hobbled to go out there and compete at the level we wanted him to compete at [last week].  He just wasn't back full strength from his high ankle sprain."

"Garrett was the holder he was supposed to be out there.  I was a little disappointed in that.  Everybody's got to be in the gmae on the sidelines and Garrett's been talked to about that, and I wasn't very happy about that."

The wide receivers are starting to gain more trust from the coaching staff

"I like this group of wide receivers.  I'm starting to develop more trust in these guys.  I think we're becoming more balanced offensively.  That's where we want to be."

"Guys like Batson, Freytag and White are earning trust.  We know what Autrey can do and Warren Redix has done a nice job for us too."

"I really feel right now we have five very capable receivers.  I think the quarterbacks are developing trust with these guys.  The coaching staff certainly is.  I'll be a happy guy if we go out there and we're 50/50 in run pass.  We have been heavy run tilted."

"We're going to have to push the ball down the field more, which I felt we did.  Again, I think those guys are very capable.  I'm more pleased with the wide receiver group than at any point since I've been here and they're going to be around for a while.  I've got a lot of trust in those guys and they're going to get better."

Kugler says he wont re-evaluate play calling, but execution has to be better

"I don't reevaluate the play calls.  I think they're all good play calls for what they had.  It's more a fact of executing."

"You're not going to execute all of the time.  But five three and outs in a game, there's some lack of execution going on for whatever reason.  We always reevaluate that each week."

"We're always trying to find what we're doing good.  We try to build upon that.  What are we not doing good?  We're not just going to try to keep putting square pegs in round holes.  If we're not doing it good, then we probably need to eliminate it."

The no-huddle offense worked in the final two minutes, but don't except UTEP to go Texas Tech the rest of the season.

"We may change the tempo a little bit but I don't envision us becoming a no huddle spread and throwing it all over the place.  That's not what we do. "

"But can it be incorporated into our offense?  Certainly."

"Do we have more confidence about our two-minute offense?  Certainly.  We practice it every week.  I wasn't surprised by the results.  We do it every week, twice a week against our defense.  We put the quarterbacks in those situations."

Kugler then explains how the defense will improve with sustained depth

"There's a lot of things.  I point to one thing.  All you've got to do is look at the depth chart in the secondary in the first three weeks.  It is ever changing parts."

"We had young guys in there and then somebody had to move positions. When you've got guys at different positions all the time, and it was out of necessity due to injuries, there are communication issues with the front end and back end.   This will be the first week that we'll have the exact same secondary in there."

"They've just got to be in position and communicate."

"Do I have confidence those guys can do that and improve?  Absolutely.  And they will.  We have got to be a little stouter up front at the point of attack."

"I was not pleased with the interior at the point of attack.  I thought Gino Bresolin held his point but we've got to be a little stouter there.  We may adjust some personnel or roll some guys in there that can do that."

"But just like anything, you've got to evaluate what you're doing well and what we're not doing well and we're in that process right now.  Do I expect them to improve?  Absolutely.  Because we have to."