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Monday Lunch With Kugler

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at Texas El Paso Ivan Pierre Aguirre-USA TODAY Sports

Kugs opened up his weekly media meet with his usual break down of the previous game

“There are some things we certainly need to clean up moving forward, in particular offensively we’ve got a lot of work to do. The things that stood out in this game that did not result in our favor, number one was penalties. There were five penalties. As you go through each one, one was a false start that ended a drive for us. One was a holding call on a 15-yard run by Aaron Jones where he was knocked clearly out of bounds. It probably would’ve been 15 going the other way had that had been called right. That ended the drive."

"There was an illegal formation penalty that ended a drive on a 26-yard catch from [Hayden] Plinke, an explosive pass play that was called back, and then the ensuing drive we had a 26-yard pass play to Terry Juniel that was called back on a holding call. We need to be cleaner on that so they can’t call that. The holding calls, when guys are trying to escape you’ve got to move your feet, stay in front, you can’t be in an extended look. Both of those calls were holding calls and they ended drives. So you’re talking about five drives that ended offensively due to penalties."

"Putting that game to bed, if you had to summarize it all, the two things that stood out were penalties and turnovers. Penalties and turnovers will kill you, especially against a good team like Southern Miss.”

Turnovers, including that heart breaking pick six stood out to Kugler the most

“I know it’s a common theme and you’re probably as tired of hearing it as I am saying it, but turnovers. We had three turnovers in this game but the results tilted heavily in favor of Southern Miss. The obvious one was a pick six where second and two at the two-yard line for a chance to get back in the game and make it 24-14, we make a poor decision and kind of throw it up for grabs. Their guy grabs it and goes 100 yards for the touchdown. And all of a sudden you’re looking at 31-7 instead of 24-14 and the game changes dramatically. And then the other interception resulted in a touchdown and then the fumble put the defense on a short field but they did a great job of responding and holding them to a field goal."

"So you’re talking 17 points off of turnovers and five drives that ended due to penalties. Until we can clean that up and rectify that, we’re not going to move the ball effectively. That’s got to be on us."

UTEP's defense did a pretty good job of keeping So Miss in check, but getting off the field on third down remains a work in progress

“Defensively I saw a lot of good things. I thought the defense played physical for the most part throughout the night. I thought they held the running back, who is an excellent running back, in check most of the night.

"We held their explosive plays to six for a team that has had several explosive plays. We need to get more heat on the quarterback. We did get one sack from Mad Dog [Brian Madunezim] and [Nick] Usher. We did have some negative plays in this game, which was good to see. Devin Cockrell, Silas Firstley, Dante Lovilette, Nik Needham and Mad Dog all had behind the line of scrimmage plays."

"But again, we’ve got to clean up third downs, they were 44 percent which is a high percentage. Our goal is keeping them at 35 percent. We did force one turnover defensively, a great hustle and effort play by Justin Rogers. He was thrown in there. Kalon Beverly pulled up injured in the first half and the true freshman was thrown out there and competed the entire game against some pretty athletic receivers."

“All in all, we held Nick Mullens to 59 percent and eliminated some explosive plays but he did have the touchdowns against us. I thought we held Ito Smith in check for the most part throughout the game. There were only 66 total plays against a team that had been averaging over 80. The defense was dealt some tough cards throughout the game – short fields, change of field position and they held their own for the most part."

"I was encouraged by some of the things that I saw defensively and was not encouraged by some of the things than transpired offensively, other than the play of Aaron Jones and we need to get that fixed and fixed immediately."

Alan Luna had a nice bounce back game after a rough start to the season

“Special teams, Alan Luna had a 51-yard average and a 44 net. He had a long of 69 and two inside the 20. He is our captain of the week. He also won the top gun special teams player of the week. He really had an outstanding game. "

Moving on to LA Tech…..

“They are an outstanding team although their record doesn’t reflect that. Here is a team that is very explosive on offense. Their passing offense has taken off this year. Their quarterback Ryan Higgins, he is a guy that started against us in 2013 and you could see he had a lot of talent. They brought in transfer quarterbacks back-to-back years who led their team to bowl games. This guy has kind of stuck it out and waited his turn. Now he has gotten his turn and he’s playing outstanding for them."

LA Tech wide receiver Trent Taylor is a major target in UTEP's defensive game plan

"They replaced their great running back Dixon with another great one [Jarred Craft]. But the most impressive guy in their offense is a little receiver, Trent Taylor."

"It seems like he has been there forever because he has started four years for them. He reminds me a lot of [Cole] Beasley from the Cowboys. He is explosive in and out of his breaks, he’s good versus man coverage, he’s good versus zone coverage. This guy is a game changer and a guy that we’ve got to keep eyes on. We’ll probably have to roll some coverage to him. But we’ve got to try to do our best to take him out of the game plan. And also Carlos Henderson who is their kick returner, a bigger receiver. He has had some big plays against us in the past. This guy is also a very electric receiver."

On LA Tech's defense

“Defensively they’re a little bit younger. Not necessarily younger, but new starters."

"They graduated some guys but they have two excellent safeties, Woods and Cooper. Two big safeties, both over 200 pounds. They have two transfer linebackers. They got a guy from Texas and a guy from Iowa State. And they have a very, very athletic defensive end. This guy is probably going to be an NFLer down the line. His name is Jaylon Ferguson. This guy can get after the pass rusher. Defensively they have probably been middle of the pack in Conference USA. They have struggled in the turnover department, much like we have. In fact we’re in the same boat, we’re at -4 on the year."

Kugler breaks down UTEP's quarterback situation

“We’re going to have Ryan Metz and Zack Greenlee split reps in practice this week. They will compete and whoever is performing the best and bringing the most energy will be the starting quarterback this weekend. We’ll name one of those two the starter and won’t rotate.”

After meeting on Sunday, Kugler explains on how they will slim down the offense

“Just from my own past history, if you’re struggling at something, sometimes you have too much. So you have to scale it down and get back to fundamentals, maybe pare it down where you can work on those specific things and try to eliminate that. What I mean by scaling down is trying to make it simpler for the guys so they can go out and execute rather than maybe having too much on their plate.”

UTEP has fared well in terms of limiting spread offenses, but LA Tech's wideouts are game changers

“They’re explosive but I think our DB’s have been playing very well this year. There hasn’t been a lot of explosive shots down the field. I know they’re going to try to take some and we’re going to be challenged in that department and we’re going to have to hold up."

"I think our secondary has been playing pretty well this year. Where we probably need to step it up is getting some pressure on the quarterback and forcing errant throws. They can’t get in a rhythm."

Alvin Jones appears to be close to a return

"I’m really hoping that we get Alvin Jones back this week. He has been cleared to do a few things tomorrow. He is the leader of the defense and without him the last two weeks, you can see where it has showed up for us. He brings energy and that’s what we need right now. We’re a team that is in a desperate search for energy."

Meanwhile, Aaron looks be fine heading into this week

“Aaron is going to be fine. He got dinged up when he got hit clearly out of bounds. I wasn’t very happy about that. That happens in football. They miss some calls and usually they make the right call. He came back, he tried to go unsuccessfully. He got it taped, those type things."

Quadraiz Wadley is still learning ball security, but Kugler feels he can still help the offense this season

"We got Quadraiz Wadley in there. He can do a lot of good things for us. He does a lot of good things with the ball in his hands. He’s very talented, he’s just got to learn to secure the football. That’s the second time he has laid the ball on the carpet this year. I want to give this kid 10, 12 carries a game. But he’s got to be able to prove to us that he can hang onto the ball. If he can do that, he can help this offense grow and he can help Aaron Jones stand up at the end of the year where he’s not absorbing too many hits or too many carries. We’re going to tackle the ball security thing heavily.”

Greg Long got the nod for this first career start at right guard, and fared very well

“He is the first true freshman to start. For a guy to start as a true freshman is very uncommon. I’ve been saying this since training camp, this guy has some special qualities. He’s athletic, he’s got a nasty demeanor and really, for his first start I think his mistakes were minimal. He made a couple but he got after people. I think you’re looking at a future All-Star in Greg Long. This kid is going to be one heck of a lineman. He just needs to play. The more he plays, and the more he sees schemes and the more he can learn from his mistakes, I think he’ll get better and better and better and I was pleased with his first start.”

Getting the tight ends involved in the passing game helped a UTEP drive against So Miss, Kugler wants to see that more often

“We hit the one bootleg and Plinke rumbles down the field. He’s a talented guy with the ball in his hands. We’ve got to get the ball in his hands, whether it be option routes or nakeds. We’ve got to generate that. He is too talented of a guy not to have it. It just can’t be a one-man show. You become one-dimensional and you’re done. We can’t do that and that’s a great start, getting our tight ends the ball because I think we’ve got a couple of talented tight ends that can catch the ball.”

LA Tech quarterback Ryan Higgins threw for 500-yards last week, Kugler talks about what makes him lethal.

“I think he’s playing real well within their system and getting the ball to their playmakers. He gets pressure taken off because they’re getting a lot out of the running back. The play action stuff is working well for them. They have always had explosive athletes. He is finding them and he’s doing a great job. I root for guys like him because he’s a guy that stuck it out. He could’ve easily, when they brought in a transfer quarterback and then another transfer quarterback, said ‘Enough of this, I’m going to go somewhere else.’ He didn’t and he stuck it out and now he’s getting his payback. I’m happy for the kid. You watch him on film and you can tell he is quite the competitor.”