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UTEP Football: Defense smacks around offense in final spring scrimmage

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UTEP's defense straight up stymied the offense in Friday's final scrimmage of the spring.

For the second straight scrimmage, UTEP's defense created major havoc, and never let the offense get going to wrap up UTEP's spring football session in a windy Sun Bowl Friday night.

UTEP's front seven dominated the line of scrimmage in the move the ball periods, and the Miners secondary blanket wideouts, holding the passing game to 20-of-43 passing for 158 total yards in all of the Miners work during the situational scrimmage.

In UTEP's move the ball, redzone, and two minute segments, the Miner quarterbacks were 14-of-33 for 85 yards.

The offense only crossed the 50-yard line once in five move the ball drives which started at their own 20-yard line.

"That's back-to-back scrimmages they came out and light it up." Head Coach Sean Kugler said of the defense.  "Really pleased where we are at defensively."

The defense also won the team pod periods 3-2, and potential impact players on the defensive side showed out.

The tone was set on the first play of the scrimmage as junior safety Brendan Royal came off the edge untouched for a sack, foreshadowing the defensive dominance for the second straight scrimmage.

"I love it." Royal said of the play call on his sack.  "Coach Mason and his defense brings the safeties a lot so I'm loving it."

Both defensive coordinator Tom Mason and Sean Kugler called Royal a breakout surprise during the spring, as well as a number of possible depth adders to the Miners defensive depth chart who stood out not only tonight, but throughout the spring.

Coming into the scrimmage, all eyes were on the quarterbacks, and an inconsistent night can describe their performance on Friday.

"Up and down." Kugler said of the quarterbacks.  "That was their first time without the coaches out there.  There was a couple of errors, but those things are easily correctable."

In every pass of the scrimmage, Ryan Metz was 9-of-17 passing for 86 yards, and he also threw two touchdowns during UTEP's goal line work.  Kavika Johnson finished 11-of-26 for 72 yards and a interception.  Johnson also had a nice day on the ground, extending a few third down situations.

After the scrimmage Coach Kugler confirmed that Mack Leftwich will miss the 2016 season with a shoulder injury.

"I like both those kids."  Kugler said of Johnson and Metz.  "I think we can win with both of those kids."

Kugler also indicated that the competition remains even heading into the summer, and along with an incoming freshman, UTEP will also be in the quarterback market until the fall.

"Not at this point." Kugler said if a quarterback has took the job.  "Metz and Kavika, we'll bring in Mark Torrez an incoming freshman, and possibly even add to that position between now and the fall.  Its going to be an open competition."

UTEP's offense did have great success in the goal line period, with Treyvon Hughes rushing for a couple of touchdowns.  The Miner run game was also above the Mendoza Line going over 100-yards rushing for the night.

Hughes carried nine times for 42 yards, and Johnson added 43 yards rushing for the offense.

Sophomore wideout Terry Juniel also put on a nice show, catching four passing for 47 yards as the leading receiver in all of the scrimmage work.

Royal recorded a sack, as the UTEP defense piled up five sacks unofficially, Brandon Moss also added an athletic interception.  Kalon Beverly also broke up three passes.

After going through the injury adversity of last season, and a productive spring on the defensive side of the ball, Kugler's optimism heading into the summer and fall seems high, and that high optimism is based on UTEP's ever improving team health.

"Mentally it makes them stronger." Kugler said of last season.  "They can withstand something like that.  They were a field goal away from going to a bowl game last year as decimated as we were.  I think we're going to be healthy."

Now the dog days of UTEP football's off season begins.