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Monday Lunch With Kugler

Kugler opens with the players of the week, and some injury news.

“For this past game, the Captain of the Week is Quardraiz Wadley. Top Gun for special teams is Adrian Hynson. We had a couple of injuries in this game that will be probably long-term for some of these guys. Tight end Josh Weeks injured his foot, broke that and he’ll be out for a considerable amount of time. Then Keynan Foster, who’s been doing a nice job for us at the slot receiver position and as a returner, injured his knee in that game. So, he’ll be out for some time, which challenges our depth right now having 11 players out. But we’ll have to overcome that.”

Reviewing the NMSU loss.

“Offensively, in this game, the story was five turnovers. We threw five interceptions – three of those in the first half.

“We didn’t do a good job on third downs and, again, we were hindered by [dropped passes] with three of those being on third downs; one of those drops ended up being an interception. And of our turnovers, two turned into 14 points for NM State. The one that was really the turning point in the game when it was 14-7, we had an opportunity with the ball and had a pick-six right before the half and turned it into a 21-7 game and kind of turned the tide in the game for us. “

“We did the run the better, but not the quite to the efficiency we need to as a team. But we did have 135 yards rushing and that needs to continue to improve in increments in order for us to have a chance to win. And then Quardraiz Wadley came back from injury and, in his first performance, I thought he did very well. He had 19 carries, which is about the load we wanted to give him. He had 77 yards and a 4.1 average. I think he’s an outstanding running back, and he’s just going to get better and better as he gets more carries.”

“Defensively, we did not contain running back [Larry] Rose III, who, again, I always felt he was the best running back we’ll face all year. I still think that and I think he’s a talented young man. He had 144 yards and two touchdowns. He popped a long one that was kind of a backbreaker for us.

“Many of those runs came on third downs when we had opportunities to get off the field and we didn’t contain him. Their quarterback [Tyler Rogers] played extremely well and he’s gotten better. He was at 60 percent efficiency, he had two touchdowns as well. He was more effective late in the game. I thought we had him bottled up pretty good early in the game. We did gain two turnovers, an interception by Justin Rogers and then we had a fumble recovery for a touchdown by Trace Mascorro that was forced by Johnny Jones. So [Justin] Rogers made a nice play on the ball in the first quarter, which gave us a nice opportunity. But we gave the ball right back to them and that was a good play.”

“We did have zero quarterback sacks and only two quarterback hits. We have to generate more pressure on the quarterback, whether that is through blitzing, and guys winning their individual techniques one-on-one. Probably won’t come into play this next game [at Army], because this is a team which doesn’t throw the ball very often, if at all. But in the future, we need to amp that up.”

“The backbreaker for us was a 99-yard drive. [Alan] Luna did a nice job, Adrian Hynson made a great play pinning the ball down at the one-year line. And we had several opportunities within that drive to get off field and did not execute that.”

Kugler talks about moving Walter Dawn back to WR.

“We will make a positional change with Walter Dawn Jr. Being that Quardraiz is back, Walter is going to play receiver for us and try give us some spark out there and create plays out there. There’s a lot of things that he can do with motion and those type things that we’ll try to take advantage of.

Ryan Metz is UTEP’s quarterback despite the second half change against the Aggies.

“I do want to emphasize that Ryan Metz will be our quarterback moving forward. At halftime, we tried to create a spark for our team, which didn’t work, unfortunately for us.”

“But I want everyone to know that Ryan is our quarterback moving forward. We have all the confidence in world that he’s going to do the job. We do need better play from the [quarterback] position. We only completed 29 percent of our passes in that game. And on the year, we have six interceptions and only two touchdowns. That needs to change. We need to play to their strengths and what they do best and game-plan it that way and try to execute it.”

“As I mentioned, Ryan Metz is our quarterback. So, Zack Greenlee and Mark Torrez will battle throughout the week of practice for as far who will be the no. 2 [quarterback]. And that’s how we’ll move forward at that position.”

Moving on to Army.

“We move onto Army. Again, this is an outstanding football team. A team that won their bowl game last year. They started off this year, beating Fordham, 64-6; beat the University of Buffalo, 21-17; played an outstanding game at Ohio State. I know they were on the losing end of that game, but it was a very close game and ended just getting away from them at the end. And then they just lost a close game this past weekend at Tulane.”

“As always, they’re very disciplined; only 32 yards per game in penalties. They’ve only had five turnovers on the year and they’ve gained three. So, they’re in the negative category. And as always, they’re a well-conditioned team, as you would expect that and they outscore their opponent 34-14 in the fourth quarter.”

“Offensively, it’s a triple option offense. It’s fullback and quarterback based. They have a retuning quarterback who played against us last year – [Ahmad] Bradshaw, who is a senior, he leads their team in rushing at 439 yards with a 7.0-yard average and four touchdowns. They return their fullback that started against us last year, [Andy] Davidson, no. 40, 207 yards with a 5.3 average and one touchdown. And then they have a slot runner, who’s 5-foot-9, 195 pounds [RB Kell Walker] and averages 8.7 per carry, so they utilize him in a lot of the perimeter runs.”

“They have three seniors returning on a very physical offensive line. They’re averaging 27 points per game, but they average 366 yards rushing a game. They only have nine yards passing per game, but I will say this, you have to keep your eyes focused in this game, because the second you lose your responsibility and take your eyes off your man, they can hit you with a long pass at any time. So, we have to play very disciplined football.”

“Defensively, they’re very stingy, only giving up 20 points per game. It’s an aggressive, odd blitzing scheme. These guys fly to the football. They’re only giving up 190 yards per game at 6.6 per play. But again, they’ve been great on third downs at 33 percent. They’ve been great in the red zone with only 50 percent touchdowns. They’ve only been on the field for 26 minutes a game because of the way their offense steals possessions. And they have nine quarterback sacks. This is an aggressive defense that gets after the quarterback and we will have our challenge there.”

“Defensively, their outside linebacker Cole Christiansen, who played against us last year, is 6-foot-2, 225 pounds and leads their team in tackles and also tackles for losses. His backup is second on team in tackles. So, they get great production from their outside linebackers. They have safety who’s third on their team in tackles. He’s got a tackle for loss, a sack, an interception return for a touchdown and a forced fumble. That player is no. 7 Jaylon McClinton. And then the outside linebacker played against us last year, that we thought very highly of, a big outside linebacker, his name is Alex Aukerman, he’s 6-1, 260 [pounds]. He leads their team in tackles for loss and sacks.”

“We know what we are against. It’s a long road trip for us. We need to energize our team. Right now, we’re a wounded animal. But in my mind, you either make a decision. You can fight back or just lay down. Our mentality is to fight back and start this thing one game at a time.”

With a 0-4 start, Kugler explains how he keeps the team motivated.

“Well, you challenge them as well. As a man, you either fight back or you lay down. We’re going to continue to work, try to continue to put together the best game plan we can, and continue to try to develop the players that we have. We are down players, injury wise. Guys are going to have to step up in their roles and compete in those roles. And as a head coach, you got to keep the kids motivated, you have to keep them going to class, keep them doing to the right things on-and-off the field, and keep pushing them in the right direction. That’s all you can do. There’s no magic formula.”

Breaking down Brian Natkin’s first game as a play caller.

“I thought he called a good game. I think you saw a really good glimpse in the first quarter of the style of offense that we want to be. We held the ball 11 minutes, we had a long, time-consuming drive that was balanced with run-and-play action. And again, the game got out of hand with turnovers and it turned into a passing game in the second half, which again, we’re not quite built for at this point. We ran the ball more effectively, the time of possession was better, but the turnovers killed us. And some of those were decisions and some of them were based off drops. I don’t blame that on play calling, I thought for his first game he did an outstanding job.”

Army put up 66 points last year on UTEP, and will challenge the Miners D.

“Well, there’s been a lot of time put into it. I know [defensive coordinator] coach [Tom] Mason and his staff did a lot of research in the offseason seeing what we can do better to defend the triple option. We spent more time in training camp than we ever have and did a lot of periods against the option. So, there’s been more time invested. We have to go out and try to execute that on game day.”

Walter Dawn’s move to WR is a move to give UTEP more play makers around Ryan Metz in the passing game.

Walter [Dawn Jr.] has shown the ability to make plays and he can make dynamic plays. He gave us some good plays at the running back position, but with [Wadley] back, I think it frees up Walter to do so many more things for him. It makes no sense for him to be waiting on the sidelines, waiting to get carries after Quardraiz, when he can be on the field full time, making plays for us.”

Kugler talks about what new WR Erik Brown could bring.

Erik Brown is a junior college receiver from Riverside [CC]. He’s a bounce-back from Cal. He started college career at Cal. He had to pass a math class late and didn’t get it done on time during training camp and extended into the first week of school. So, we did sign him late. We’re trying to get him caught up to speed as fast as we can. He played minimally [at NM State] because he isn’t ready. He’s only been here a week. But the kid has a lot of talent and he’s got great burst. He has a great attitude. He wants to learn, he wants to make plays for us. You’ll see no. 13 on the field quite a bit. As he can handle it, we’ll try to develop him and get him into the game plan.”