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UTEP Football: Passing game woes under Sean Kugler continue

News and notes from Saturday’s 34-7 loss.

Underdeveloped, horrible balance in play calling, and just not there could be an easy way to describe UTEP’s passing game over the past two seasons.

Sean Kugler had a simple description, “inept” before giving a break down on what is going on.

“We were inept on offense, minus one series,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “Too many three and outs, two turnovers in that game, and outside the one series really didn’t run the ball efficiently or effectively. Offensively, we’ve got a lot of things to fix. We’ve got to fix it quickly, whether that means we need to trim it down so we can execute and get the right people in the right spots. That will be my job to get that rectified. You can’t win that way.”

A lot of things to fix is right, and it could be spur a change at quarterback.

Look at Zack Greenlee’s passing chart from Saturday.

Yes-you’re reading that right-Greenlee started 3-of-7 for eight yards with an interception.

“We’ll re-evaluate every position, particularly on offense,” Kugler said. “We’re not moving the ball effectively. Whether that ends up being Ryan Metz or Zack Greenlee, we’ll make that determination. I feel both of them can move the ball but it’s got to be the one that does move the ball. Zack didn’t move the team effectively tonight, [and] we went with Ryan. He showed some glimpses as well. But we’ll evaluate that and move on as we go throughout the week. We’ve got a lot of things to fix besides the quarterback position.”

Ryan Metz was also 7-of-14, but it was too late for him to make an impact on the outcome getting all of his playing time so far this year in mop up duty.

Here’s what UTEP’s drive chart looked like

Six of UTEP’s first seven drive opening plays were hand off’s to Aaron Jones from under center, the other was a pass for minus-four yards.

Could it be that UTEP is trying to confuse defense’s with their numerous personnel packages instead of trying to find just simple balance in play calling?

Short of admitting that notion, Sean Kugler vowed to trim down what UTEP’s doing on offense in terms of personnel and play calling.

“I’ve been through it many times, and when you’re struggling sometimes you need to go back to basics and play the bare minimum and give the kids a chance to execute.” Kugler said. “Maybe we’re putting too much on their plate right now when you’re having penalties and those type of things that don’t even allow you to run plays that’s when you need to evaluate and say maybe we have too much and that will be my job to figure out and fix.”

With their back against the wall, and the fact of a 1-4 start staring them right in the face, Kugler is in a tough spot once again thanks to major struggles in the passing game.

“I’m not going to lie, our back is to the wall.” Kugler sternly said. “We lost three games in a row, two decidedly so, we got some problems we got to fix and as a head coach I refuse to let it go south. We’re going to get back to work and try to correct problems and step in if necessary to get those problems corrected.”

Greg Long shines in his first career start

El Paso’s Greg Long got his first career start at right guard for UTEP on Saturday, and shined as expected.

Long sealed a block in the second level on a Southern Miss linebacker which sprung Aaron Jones’ 68-yard touchdown run. He was also solid in double teams, and single schemes, particularly chipping linebackers in the second level in his first meaningful career action.

Long drew heavy praise from Sean Kugler in camp, and its easy to see why Long started over three previous starters who have major experience in UTEP’s offense.

Mike Sota, UTEP defensive line shows up

One of the lone bright spots in Saturday’s loss was the emergence of sophomore defensive end Mike Sota who put up a career high nine tackles.

Sota’s first three tackles of the game were all inside the first level, and he greatly improved his technique in fighting off blocks, and showed his natural strength on a number of his tackles.

“I saw some positive signs there.” Sean Kugler said of the defensive line and Sota. “They had an outstanding offense and really the defense held them in check.”

It’s certainly a step in the right direction after a rough start for UTEP’s front three.

Injury bug returns

UTEP had a number of injuries on Saturday.

Aaron Jones hurt his ankle after being clearly driven to the Southern Miss bench well out of bounds.

Kalon Beverly looked like a he pulled something in his leg early in the first quarter and did not return.

Sean Kugler also said Darrin Laufasa, and Derron Gatewood were injured, while Gene Hopkins and Alvin Jones were held out.

The status of those injuries were not immediately available after the game, and an update will probably be given on Monday.

Kugler let it be known that he was not happy with the out of bounds no-call on Jones which caused his ankle injury.

“I don’t really want to talk about that to be honest with you.” Kugler said. “I see my player get driven into the sideline all the way to the bench and a flag is not thrown? I’m not real happy about it.”

The Aaron Jones corner

Aaron Jones gained 127 yards on 16 carries (7.9 avg.) and a score, giving the junior stud his 13th career 100-yard game.

Jones now ranks number three on the all-time list for 100 yard rushing games, one behind Howard Jackson’s 14 100-yard games.

He also scored his 21st career-rushing touchdown, tying with Owen Price and Donald Buckram for number six on the all-time list.

The 68 yard touchdown, made it his eighth long run of 50-plus yards in his career.

He’s now third all-time on UTEP’s all-time rushing list, and remains second in the nation in rushing yards.