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Monday Lunch With Kugler

UTEP's head coach talked about the week one loss, and what to expect this week against Texas Tech.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Here are the highlights from Sean Kugler's media luncheon on Monday.  Kugler went a little bit longer than usual, but dished out some solid details.

Kugler opened the media session with some thoughts on the Arkansas game.

"We had a difficult trip to Arkansas.  We played an outstanding team, a very talented and very deep team.  They exposed us in a few areas.  There are some things we need to clean up moving into this second game.  I'm a firm believer that a team makes its biggest jump from its first game to its second game."

"Looking at that game, going in the formula for us was we wanted to control the clock which we did throughout the game.  They did have some quick strikes in there. The telling tale of the game was three turnovers."

"On special teams we had two errant snaps, one that resulted in a touchdown and one resulted in a field goal.  We dropped a punt, which also resulted in a field goal.  So 13 points and one also eliminates an offensive drive."

"So we lost three possessions and ended up giving them three score opportunities.  You're not going to beat anybody doing that."

Sticking to the UTEP formula, the Miners only had two penalties which drew praise from Kugler.

"Usually in the first game, that's glaring. It's kind of like preseason in the NFL, you see flags and illegal formations.  We didn't have any of that and I attribute that to the quarterbacks."

"We always talk about no pre or post snap penalties.  I think we had one pre-snap penalty, the young freshman Gatewood jumped offsides and then we had one during the play penalty and really it was a penalty of aggression by Nick Usher."

"I always tell the players, I can tolerate penalties of aggression, I just can't tolerate penalties of stupidity.  We weren't highly penalized, two penalties for 15 yards."

Kugler was pleased with the run defense, but addressed the defense giving up five plays of 20-yards or more and tackling.

"Defensively, we always have to talk about stealing two possessions and creating two turnovers.  We didn't get any turnovers in that game.  There were some outstanding strip attempts on the ball fumble wise, but we didn't come up with any plays in the passing game."

"We talk about clean tackling and leverage. There were some outstanding individual efforts and examples of great tackling and gang tackling in that game, but there was also too many missed tackles in space, one on one situations where the blitzer comes free, they are the ones that got hit home in the hole and we'll really work hard on that leading up to this game because that probably stood out more than anything."

"We always talk about eliminating chunks.  I thought we did a great job of that in the run game.  They only had two +10 yard runs.  They had one at the end of the half, which is pretty much a draw.  That was a 70-yard run.  You take that run out of there, they only average three yards a carry, a team that was averaging close to six yards a carry last year."

"I was very pleased with the physicality of our defensive line.  I think they held the point well against what I feel is the best offensive line in the country."

"We gave up too many chunk plays in the passing game.  We gave up five +20 plays before those ended up resulting in touchdowns, all off of heavy run play action where a couple of our young guys lost their eyes and got beat.  Those are lessons to be learned and learned quickly as we move on from the first game to the second."

He was also pleased by the play of the three quarterbacks on Sunday.

"Mack was 14-of-19, 64 percent.  He did not take any sacks.  I thought he was poised throughout the game.  The other quarterbacks that handled the football, Kavika [Johnson] was 100 percent on two passes and [Ryan] Metz was 100 percent on three passes.  I thought those guys were poised when they were in the game."

"We talked about handling the crowd noise.  We had no snap or formation issues.  I thought all three quarterbacks handled that part of the game."

Kugler also addressed the two snaps that resulted in turnover on the punt team.

"Nick Dooley has been one of the most reliable players on our team since I've been here.   He had two bad snaps. That's going to happen in a game.  Guess what, if Aaron Jones fumbles twice in a game, I'm not going to fire Aaron Jones.  I've just got to have confidence and faith that he's going to correct those issues and move on from there."

"There was an errant snap backed up that resulted in a touchdown.  There was an errant snap on a fake that if you see it on film it's kind of sickening, because we had it set up about as perfectly as we could, it would've been a big gainer and possibly a touchdown."

"You can't do that against any opponent, much less a team as talented as Arkansas because they're going to take advantage of those opportunities.  I was disappointed in that."

Despite a rough outing in their first starts in the secondary, Kugler still has high confidence in his young DB's.

"We had some young guys playing in the secondary in the first half that had some eye issues on some of the play action passes and got beat.  But I'm encouraged by those guys because if you saw those same guys playing in the second half they're out there fighting, making tackles and learning from their mistakes."

"Guys like Michael Lewis and Kalon Beverly, I have absolutely no issue with.  They've just got to learn from their mistakes, get coached up and get better because they are two very talented young men that have a passion for football."

Then the Kugler turned his attention to Tech.

"They are as explosive and fast-paced of an offense as there is in the country.  They have nine returners back on offense.  Seventy-eight percent of their offensive production from last year returns intact.  They are explosive, they scored 59 points versus Sam Houston.  They are a fast strike team, they scored 28 points in the second quarter alone."

"All the formula you put in offense, this is an explosive fast-paced offense.  They only gave up one sack in 57 attempts.  They have a very experienced offensive line.  They have four or five returning starters.  Three of those guys were nominated for All-Big 12 heading into the season.  Two of them are captains, their center and their left tackle are their two best linemen."

Kugler Spoke highly of Texas Tech Quarterback Partick Mahomes.

"It all starts at quarterback for them. I can see why they made the switch to the other guy Mahomes."

"He is more mobile in the pocket.  He gives them the ability to run.  He had 48 yards rushing and a 9.6 average in the last game.  This guy can escape and create plays and throws well on the move."

"In the game last week he was 33-of-53, four touchdowns and one interception with a 62 percent completion percentage.  This guy is accurate, he gets the ball out quickly and they have some explosive weapons."

He then talks about what Tech does on defense after their changing of coordinators.

"Defensively they return seven starters. They do have a new defensive coordinator so we're going to be facing a new scheme.  Their coordinator came from the University of Houston, we have studied a lot of their schemes.  A lot of that has translated into what they showed against Sam Houston.

"They'll give you a mixture of four and three down looks.  They have the talent to do that.  They did have some disruptive plays. They had two sacks, five tackles for losses versus Sam Houston.  They forced two interceptions and two fumbles.  They're doing a little bit more movement, a little bit more pressure."

"They have a lot of talent on their defense. Working with a new scheme, we"re certain their focus is going to be on stopping #29 because he had an outstanding game against them last year."

Kugler said the offensive game plan will remain the same in helping to slow Tech's offense down.

"The formula is going to be the same.  We have to control the clock versus this team, we have to have efficient drives, and for us to do that we have to be efficient in our run game and we have to be efficient in our play action passes off the run game because they are such a quick strike scoring offense."

"Our formula is a little bit opposite.  You're probably going to see two complete opposite philosophies this week. And that's OK.  They do what they do and we do what we do."

"We're going to have to do a great job defending it and we're going to have to do a great job on offense executing our game plan and not having any turnovers.  That's going to be the key to this game.  We cannot have any turnovers.  We're -3 on the year and that's not the formula for us to win."

Tech Wide Receiver Jakeem Grant is a main target for the UTEP defense.

"#11 who was also their kick returner, he's 5-6, 168 pounds and he's dynamic as a receiver and kick returner."

"Last year he had 938 yards and four touchdowns. He returned a 94-yard touchdown in this past game as a kick returner.  He also had six receptions for 79 yards."

"This guy is an explosive football player.  Three returns, 136 yards and a 94-yard touchdown that looked like a Madden play with a joystick.  He was all over the place.  He made that touchdown on his own.  Unbelievable play."

Kugler said once again like last year UTEP's defense will practice against a no-huddle look this week.

"And they're a fast paced team.  We're going to have to really work hard in practice to simulate that speed.  We're actually going to run two huddles at our defense whenever we get in a live setting period to simulate the fast tempo."

"It's different when you go from a slow paced team like Arkansas that runs the clock down much like we do, and then all of a sudden you're playing Texas Tech and they're up on the ball and getting their calls from the sideline and they're going and going.  You have to simulate that in practice, which we'll do."

Kugler also talks about Kavika Johnson sharpening his decision making out of the Wild

"It comes down to decision making for Kavika.  I trust he can make any throw or any run, he just has to make the right decisions."

"He saw those things on film.  He's a very conscious young man.  I think he's going to bounce back and make even better decisions."

"He'll be a part of this game plan moving forward.  He'll be a part of every game plan moving forward.  I love having his athleticism on the field.  He's a competitive kid."

Some good injury news as Terry Juniel could possibly make his UTEP debut against New Mexico State barring another exam later this week.

"I hope we get him back next week for New Mexico State.  I don't think it's a realistic thing."

"He actually had to go through a time frame before he could have his next doctor's appointment, which will be at the end of this week"

"If they clear him, hopefully we'll have him back.  He can be another added weapon offensively.  The thing I'm most excited about is why we brought him here.  He's a dynamic punt returner."

The end up to session, Kugler acknowledges the regional rivalries he is trying to build here at UTEP.

"I love it.  It would be great to have them in the future.  Our fans can get to the games.  Last year they brought a large contingent of fans when they came to our game.  Just recruiting a lot of the same areas of players, it would be a great rivalry for us, much like playing New Mexico State and New Mexico.  Those types of rivalries are healthy."