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Monday Lunch With Kugler

Kugs started with a review of last week

“It was a good team win at a much needed time for our team. Some of the things we challenged the players in this game, offensively was to start fast. We accomplished that; we were up 28-0 right at the beginning of the second quarter."

"We talked about handling their movement up front. They did a lot of blitzing and the offensive line did a nice job of handling that."

"We talked about catching the catchables; not putting any balls on the ground in the form of drops. There were no drops in the game, really for the first time this year and there were no turnovers for first time this year."

"We talked about running the ball with a purpose. Our goal is 4.5 average per carry, we set a goal before the game of 250 yards rushing and we accomplished both of those goals; we had 323 yards rushing, 7.3 average per carry and three touchdowns. So it was a good job running the ball to setup a lot of things."

“We talked about chunk plays; having 10 minimal chunk plays on offense. We had 14 [chunk plays] in the game. And we talked about being consistent for four quarters of play. The offense scored 14 points in the first and second quarter, and then seven points each in the second half."

"So I felt the play was consistent, was very clean and there was only one penalty the entire game – that was a false start. I think we’ve made a lot of headway in that area since the midpoint of the season. In fact, right now, we’re second in [Conference USA] in penalties, where at one point we were very high [in penalties]."

“Defensively. We challenged the team of starting fast. Again, we’re up 28-0, they held them on four consecutive drives. That was a good way to start the game."

"We talked about keeping containment on number 11, their quarterback – he really concerned me going into the game. This guy is very elusive, a good running quarterback. The defense held him to 52 yards rushing, which is outstanding and 33 yards passing. Really, two of his rushing big plays came on option plays. Keeping him at bay really put them in a one-dimensional game."

“We got six quarterback hits. They were getting the ball out quick on purpose. But we still had some effective hits and then we had a sack by Nick Usher in that game, assisted by Sky Logan on that sack.

“We held them at bay in the passing department, as they were 8-of-27 for only 30 percent and 90 yards passing. Our goal was to keep them below eight chunk plays for the game – that’s plus-10 [yard] runs and plus-20 [yards] passing. We held them to five chunk plays, we accomplished that goal."

“We talked about upping the physicality with violent hits and more of a gang mentality. We had more hats around the ball and there were several examples of that on film. I thought the defense was flying around and we were consistent for four quarters of play. Really, there was one explosive pass play the entire game and that’s the play where the backup quarterback threw a touchdown. But by that point of the game, the starters were out."

Aaron Jones went off, but Kugler was also pleased to see some young guys get playing time

“So I thought offensively, it was our best outing, in particular Aaron Jones had an unbelievable day. [Jones] had 14 carries, 228 yards, 16.3 average [per carry], two touchdowns and a long of 62. He could’ve had plenty more yards, but it was our choice – probably at the mid-point of third quarter – to get some other guys some work and it benefitted us and those guys. Miner fans got a glimpse of what Kevin Dove can do and what Quadraiz Wadley could do and those are going to be future players that we will rely on this year and definitely in the future as well. So that was good to see.

Ryan Metz continues to improve

“I thought Ryan Metz had another outstanding game. He was 76 percent completion percentage – 16-of-21 with 191 yards, three touchdowns, but most importantly no interceptions. Ryan has been doing a great job of not turning the ball over, making good decisions and he gets better and better each game he plays. And I really think I need to keep in mind, and people need to keep in mind, Ryan hasn’t played a whole lot. So giving him experience is probably why we played him late into the third quarter before we went with Zack [Greenlee] in that game. [Metz] needs as much playing experience as he can get because he keeps continuing to get better. "

Kugler was able to empty the bench

“We had a chance to play a lot of people in this game. We played over 25 people on defense, played over 30 people on offense an that bodes well for guys getting experience in a game-type setting.

Moving onto FAU…

“Moving on to Florida Atlantic. I think this is a very talented team and I don’t think their record reflects that. They won last week against Rice and they had an outstanding game in the process. They had 336 yard rushing against Rice and that’s a team that’s always done a good job at stopping the run. [FAU] had 657 total yards against Rice. So they really got it going it against Rice last week, they’ve always had outstanding talent on defense as far as physicality and that doesn’t change."

“Offensively, their quarterback [Jason] Driskel – if you remember his brother played at LA Tech. This is his younger brother. He’s a 57.9 percent passer. He’s got six touchdowns and he’s also their third leading rusher. He can run when needed."

“I think they have two outstanding running backs. They have this kid named [Gregory] Howell, he’s a big back at 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. He’s averaging 5.1 [yards] a carry with 717 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns – he’s having an outstanding season for them. And they do it by committee. There’s another running back, he’s a freshman [Devin] Singletary who’s a well-built kid. He’s at 6.4 yards per carry with 547 yards and five touchdowns. So they’re a run-first team. Those two back combine for 140 yards rushing a game and they use them both frequently."

“Another big athletic group of receivers. These guys grow on trees down there. [Their sizes are] 6-foot-3, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4 and 6-2. That’s some big, tall receivers and they’re athletic. And their tight end [Tyler Cameron], you throw him into that group. He’s a grad transfer from Wake [Forest]. He’s averages 18.7 per catch and he’s a 6-foot-4 receiver as well. So, again, we have to be on our screws. I think our corners have been doing an outstanding job all year versus bigger receivers. But this will be our biggest group by far, probably including Texas."

“Offensively, they’re 174 rushing per game and 197 passing, 372 yards [of total offense per game]. They’ve been good in the turnover department. they’re plus-one in that category. They’ve been sacked 20 times. Probably where they’ve struggled the most is third downs. They’re last in Conference USA, they’ve been sitting at 29 percent and something defensively we need to continue that trend."

“Their defense, they have a defensive end that’s an NFL type player, [Trey Hendrickson]. He’s second in Conference USA in sacks, he’s second in Conference USA in tackles for losses and he’s got three blocked kicks as well. This guy can do it all, he’s got 11.5 tackles of loss, eight sacks and seven quarterback hits. He’s a disruptive force who we have to handle in protection and give our tackle some help. They move him around – you’ll see him interior and you’ll see him on both sides and they try to exploit weaknesses. This guy is a football player."

They have a linebacker who is extremely athletic, he was an all-conference guy last year, he’s sixth in Conference USA in tackles for losses – his name is Azeez Al-Shaair, he’s 6-2, 220-pound linebacker who can really run. He’s got 9.5 tackles for loss."

"Their best secondary guy is safety, number 18 Jalen Young. He leads the team in tackles with 87, which is outstanding for a safety and he’s also got two interceptions, a fumble recovery and a forced fumble. He’s also their punt returner, so he’s extremely athletic. He’s got a 12.8 average per return. Then they have a big interior lineman who does a nice job of eating up the run, [Shalom Ogbonda] is 6-4, 290 and they have another defensive end that’s 6-7, 260 pounds, number 94 [Hunter Snyder] who’s disruptive in the passing scheme. They have a very big and athletic defensive line, a really good and fast linebacker and a fast safety."

“Defensively, where they struggled a little bit is, again, on third downs – giving up 47 percent. So I think it’s going to be one of the big keys in the game is stopping them on third on defense and doing a good job on third downs like we did last week on offense."

“They’ve played outstanding competition. It seems like, probably like our game, they put it all together last week offensively and defensively. They played extremely well against Rice on the road. And they’ll have a lot of confidence coming into this game at home."

UTEP will leave for Florida on Thursday, a day earlier from their usual travel plans

"We’re going to leave on Thursday to get acclimated. We’ll probably get there on Thursday night, give the kids a snack and put them to bed. We’ll practice Friday at Florida Atlantic and get our feet up under us and we’re probably going to change practice routine a little bit this week, so we’ll make sure we’re fresh for back-to-back road trips against FAU and Rice. And we’re really looking forward to this next step in our challenge and taking it one game at a time.”

Kugler talked about the offensive line shuffle

“At the end of the game, we wanted to play everybody, but what you did see there was a rotation of Tanner Stallings at center and Derron Gatewood at guard, and then Gatewood at center and Greg Long at guard. I kind of view Greg Long almost like a skill player, he’s is too talented to be standing on the sideline. We’re really trying to get him working and it worked out well for us. Those were two good combinations for us and again the reason we did that; we’ve never had that group healthy and we’ve never had all those guys together at the same time. All three of those guys played extremely well for us.”

Aaron Jones should break the school's all-time rushing record, Kugler blocked for the current record holder during his playing days here at UTEP

“I think Aaron is the best running back in UTEP history and I’ve got the upmost respect for John Harvey [UTEP’s all-time leading rusher], who was an unbelievable player. But Aaron is the total package. This guy can catch, he can block, he does things without the ball in his hand. He can play special teams. He’s a selfless player. He was so excited that Kevin Dove got that touchdown. [Jones] was the first one to greet him out there and he was hugging him. And a selfish player would’ve been like, ‘hey man, that’s my carry and that’s my touchdown’, and that’s not Aaron Jones, that’s not how he’s built. Would I have likened him to get the [rushing] record at home? Sure. But no doubt he’ll break that record there upcoming soon. He’s a great player and there’s not telling how far he can take that. If he continues on that pace for this year to next year, it’s probably a record that will never be broken.”

Beating HBU came at a perfect time for confidence purposes

“There’s no doubt. It was at the perfect time. And sometimes you play all your nonconference games early in the year. I think you’re beginning to see a trend; you see the SEC teams playing a nonconference game later in the year. For us, it couldn’t have come at a better time coming off a tough loss against a very good Old Dominion team. And our team really played well. My hat goes off to the kids, regardless of [HBU] being an FCS school. We struggled last year against an FCS school [Incarnate Word]. These guys came in, played hard – Houston Baptist did – and our guys just did what they had to do and they did their jobs and they did it very cleanly; really for the first time this year in all three phases and I was very pleased.”

UTEP is 0-20-1 all-time in the Eastern Time Zone, Kugler will try to break the trend

“I don’t pay a lot of attention to those type things because some of those could’ve been 20 or 30 years ago. I don’t know; all I worry about is this team. We’re going to try to do all the proper things. But there are things when you play in Florida that you have to attend to. You got to hydrate, staring today. You can’t wait until Thursday and drink a bottle of Gatorade and think you’re going to be okay down there in that humidity. We’re going to try to get ample rest, but we’re also going to try to get our work done there and get acclimated. But again, it’s just getting out to play a football game regardless of the venue, regardless of where you’re playing, and I know our kids are going to go out thereto give an outstanding effort.”

FAU has a strong running game, where is their strength?

“Both backs. They utilize both of them and they’re both change-of-pace backs. They’re athletic upfront. I think really, skill wise and talent wise, they’re very similar to FIU, how they have two explosive backs. And their quarterback, when he’s playing well, they kind of can put it all together much like our team. Really since Ryan Metz has been playing each week, we’ve continued to progress on offense and we’ll continue to progress on offense. [FAU] is starting to get that from their offense and I think they’re pretty excited about the game they’ve put together against Rice."