• January 27, 2022
 H-P Sports In Depth: Coach Kugler Talks NMSU, Looks Ahead to Army

H-P Sports In Depth: Coach Kugler Talks NMSU, Looks Ahead to Army

UTEP will take on Army West Point for a second consecutive season on September 30. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. MT/3:30 ET at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y. Saturday’s matchup will be the second meeting between the Miners and the Black Knights.

Both programs are coming off setbacks on Sept. 23 as UTEP fell to NM State for the first time in nine years and Army was edged by Tulane, 21-17. Army and UTEP met for the first time last season in the Sun Bowl. The Miners are looking for their first win in the Eastern Time Zone (0-21-1).

“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.”

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

“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. 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.

“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.

“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.

“On third downs, they were efficient and we weren’t. Again, probably a tale of the game, they we’re 53 percent on third downs.

“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.

“On special teams, I really feel, minus the one punt return against Arizona [on Sept. 15], has been solid. And all units throughout the season. Luna was at a 44.1 average with a long of 53 [yards], three inside the 20-yard line and the one that was pinned down at the five-yard line. [NM State] only had one return for five yards with a very dangerous returner.

“On punt returns, Terry Juniel had three returns for 10 yards with a long of seven yards. We need to get better hold ups there. He had one where he tried to outrun the coverage and we just need to put our foot in the ground and run north and south on that one; he’ll learn from that.

“On kickoff cover, I think [Brady] Viles was doing a nice job. He had two touchbacks and the one that was returned was an onside kick for zero yards.

“On kickoff return, we’ll miss Keynan Foster in that category. But Terry Juniel will step into that role for [Foster], along with Warren Redix and he’s very capable. But we did have a long [return] of 30 yards from Juniel when he was in there after Keynan Foster got injured. And again, Viles was 2-for-2 on PAT’s and we had no field goal opportunities.

“Sounds like a broken record, but it was a very disappointing loss. My hat goes off to [NM State] head coach [Doug] Martin. I have a lot of respect for him and I think he’s doing an outstanding job there at NM State. [NM State] out played us in every phase; probably with the exception of special teams. They earned that win. We’ve competed with them for five years and we’re 4-1. But it’s the last one that counts and it was very disappointing one.”

“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.

“They’ve been great with time of possession at 34 minutes. That’s something that we aspire to do. And then they been great on third downs at 43 percent in red zone touchdowns. They’ve been sacked zero times. But again, they don’t put the ball into the air that much.

“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.

“Their top interior d-lineman that is a defensive end named John Voit. He leads their team in tackles for losses and second on the team in sacks. They’re an outstanding defense with a lot of returning starters. And it will be a challenge for us.

“Special teams, as you would expect, they have great coverage units. These guys fly around. On punt, teams only average 2.0 yards a return against team. And then kickoff coverage team, they only average getting back to the 17-yard line. So, these guys fly down the field and they’re very physical. Their punt return is no. 6, he’s got three returns on the year. And then their kickoff returner is no. 5, he’s got a 22-yard average. And their kicker is 2-for-4 on field goals and 13-of-14 on PAT’s.

“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 bac and start this thing one game at a time.”

“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.”

“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.”

“I mentioned the two. One of the 99-yard drive against us on defense. And then offensively, the pick-six right before halftime. Those were the two plays that turned the tide.”

“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.”

“Ryan [Metz] will be the same. He’s not going to make an excuse; I’m not going to make an excuse for him. But ultimately, he did throw the interceptions. We did try to make spark change at halftime that didn’t go. I even pulled [Metz] over to the side after the game to tell him he’s our guy and always our guy. He fought through pain in the game; he’s a tough kid and he’ll do whatever it takes to help his team win.”

“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 Quardraiz [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.”

“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.”

***UTEP vs Army in Depth

Army loomed victorious in the only previous matchup between the teams, 66-14 on Sept. 17, 2016 in the Sun Bowl.

Two players, one from each roster, played at Vandegrift High School (Austin, Texas) – UTEP freshman QB Alex Fernandes and Army West Point junior DB Max Regan.

100 yard American Flag displayed at the Sun Bowl

The Black Knights dropped to 2-2 after their 21-17 loss at Tulane on Sept. 23 in New Orleans, La. Sophomore RB Connor Slomka gave Army a 17-14 edge after he found the end zone on a five-yard run off a 15-play, 71-yard drive that ended with 5:32 left in the contest. The Green Wave used a 19-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by a Jonathan Banks four-yard run with 23 seconds left in the contest. Sophomore QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. threw an interception to end the game.

The Black Knights rushed for 371 yards, their third 320-plus yard game of the season. Junior RB Andy Davidson led the way with 130 yards on 26 carries (5.0 avg.), while senior QB Ahmad Bradshaw gained 65 yards on 10 attempts with a score. The Army QBs combined for zero completions on five attempts with two picks. Junior LB James Nachtigal led the defense with six tackles. Army opened the season with a convincing 64-6 win over Fordham behind 513 rushing yards and eight scores. Army followed with a 21-17 triumph over Buffalo on Sept. 9 and was then dropped at no. 8 Ohio State, 38-7. The Black Knights are averaging 27.3 points per game, while giving up 20.5 per contest.

Army is averaging 366.3 rushing yards per game, ranking third in the FBS. Bradshaw is leading the way with 439 yards on 63 attempts (7.0 avg.) with four scores. Junior RB Darnell Woolfolk (5-foot-9, 235 pounds) has also scored four times with 260 yards rushing. Davidson has rushed for 207 yards and a score. Sophomore LB Cole Christiansen leads the team with 22 tackles (13 solo). Senior LB Alex Aukerman leads the way with 3.0 sacks for a defense that has totaled 9.0 on the season. Aukerman has also tallied a team-best 5.0 tackles for losses. Sophomore DB Jaylon McClinton has the team’s only interception.

Andy Davidson and Chris Carter combined for 200 of Army’s 424 yards rushing, as the Black Knights cruised to a 66-14 victory over UTEP on Sept. 17, 2016 in the Sun Bowl. Army scored the game’s first 38 points and kept the Miners off the scoreboard until early in the third quarter. The Black Knights did not punt and racked up 598 yards.

Zack Greenlee completed 7-of-15 passes for 106 yards, and Aaron Jones rushed 11 times for 67 yards for the Miners, who were held to 269 yards. Davidson gained 17 yards on 106 carries, and Carter added 94 yards on nine attempts. The Black Knights were playing with heavy hearts after cornerback Brandon Jackson lost his life in a car accident the previous week. They rode the emotional wave to a 38-0 lead as four players scored rushing touchdowns and Max Regan added a 13-yard fumble recovery for a score before UTEP collected its first points. Rated no. 4 nationally in time of possession coming into the game, the Black Knights dominated the stat line 41:40 to 18:20.

Larry Rose III rushed for 144 yards and scored three touchdowns, leading NM State to a 41-14 victory over UTEP on Sept. 23 at Aggie Memorial Stadium. The Aggies snapped the Miners’ school-record eight-game winning streak in the FirstLight Federal Credit Union Battle of I-10. UTEP is 4-1 versus the Aggies under head coach Sean Kugler. Rose compiled 189 all-purpose yards with two rushing touchdowns and one receiving. Tyler Rogers completed 26-of-43 passes for 283 yards with a pair of scores for the Aggies.

The Miners tried two different quarterbacks (Ryan Metz in the first half, Mark Torrez in the second half), but their offensive woes continued. They finished with 227 yards of offense, including 81 on their only scoring drive in the first quarter. Their other touchdown came on a 26-yard fumble recovery by Trace Mascorro late in the game. Metz, returning to the lineup after missing a game with a shoulder injury, threw three interceptions in the first half and finished 6-of-18 passing for 54 yards.

Torrez was 4-of-16 passing for 38 yards with two picks and also rushed seven times for 31 yards. After the teams traded interceptions on their second offensive series, the Aggies drew first blood when Rose broke free for a 40-yard touchdown run. The Miners tied it up with an impressive 12-play, 81-yard drive as Quardraiz Wadley, making his 2017 season debut, rushed four times for 30 yards in the sequence. Metz targeted his tight ends on the drive as Josh Weeks and David Lucero reeled in passes of six and 11 yards respectively.

UTEP ate 6:52 off the clock on the series as Metz finished it off with a five-yard touchdown run. In the first quarter, UTEP controlled the clock for 11:07 to NM State’s 3:53. The Aggies gave the Miners a taste of their own medicine in the second quarter as they took the ball at their own three-yard line and moved 97 yards on 15 plays over five minutes and 23 seconds. Rose scored on a 28-yard scamper, going over 100 yards for the game in the process and putting the Aggies ahead 14-7.

The Aggies increased their lead to 21-7 late in the second quarter when, on third and four deep in Miner territory, Metz’s pass intended for Keynan Foster was picked off by the Aggies’ Shamad Lomax and returned 19 yards for a touchdown. The Miners got within field goal range right before halftime, but Lomax picked off Metz to end the scoring threat. The Aggies put together a seven-play, 60-yard drive in the third quarter as Rose found the end zone for the third time. His two-yard TD reception from Tyler Rogers made it 27-7 in favor of NM State.

Rogers accounted for three touchdowns on the night. He connected with Conner Cramer for a 10-yard score late in the third quarter and ran for a four-yard TD early in the fourth. Wadley had a promising start to his sophomore season, gaining 77 yards on 19 carries. NM State put up 462 yards of offense and applied pressure defensively, collecting seven tackles for losses, three sacks and four quarterback hurries. The Aggies’ offensive efficiency was buoyed by a 9-for-17 effort on third down, compared to UTEP’s 2-for-15.

UTEP is 1-14 all-time against Air Force, while posting a 2-0 mark against the 8th Calvary (1922, 1923), 2-0 record versus the 20th Infantry (1914, 1915), a victory against the 260th Coastal Artillery in 1941 and a victory against the 4th Artillery in 1915, while falling to the 2nd Artillery the same season. The Miners were also 12-7-1 versus NM Military. UTEP fell to Army West Point in 2016 in the first meeting between the two programs. UTEP has never faced Navy in its 100 years of football.

The 2017 campaign marks the 100th for UTEP football. In honor of their centennial campaign, the Miners are wearing a commemorative decal on their helmets. There will also be centennial tributes in the game program, on the video board and social media over the course of the season. Though the centennial for The University of Texas at El Paso was in 2014, the football program suspended play for four seasons due to the World Wars. No games were played in 1918 (WWI) and 1943-45 (WWII). The 1914 season marked the first for the Miners. The Miners played their first ever game on Oct. 24, 1914 – a 7-6 victory against the YMCA.

UTEP’s 12-play, 81-yard scoring drive in the first quarter at NM State on Sept. 23 was the most plays and longest of the season to this point. The drive ended on a QB Ryan Metz five-yard touchdown rush. UTEP also gained season highs in rushing yards (135) and first downs (15) versus the Aggies.

UTEP is 5-for-5 in red zone touchdowns in 2017, which is tied for no. 1 nationally. The Miners are one of 17 programs at 100 percent.

UTEP is ranked no. 1 in Conference USA and no. 3 in the FBS in kickoff return defense (11.5 avg.).

UTEP was penalized four times for 35 yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. In week two, the Miners were only penalized two times against Rice. It marked the eighth time during the Sean Kugler era in which the Miners were penalized two times or less. In 2016, UTEP was penalized twice against Old Dominion and once against Houston Baptist. In 2015, the Miners had two penalties each at no. 18 Arkansas, against UTSA and at North Texas. In 2014, UTEP opened the season with a pair of penalties at New Mexico and in 2013, the Miners were penalized once against Tulsa.

UTEP ranks fourth in Conference USA and tied for 36th nationally with 20 yellow flags in 2017. UTEP’s 5.0 penalties per game rank tied for 25th in FBS, while it ranks 34th in penalty yards (167) and 22nd in penalty yards per game (41.8). The Miners also rank fourth in penalty yards (167) and penalty yards per game (3.7) in C-USA.

Sophomore RB Quardraiz Wadley made his season debut at NM State on Sept. 23 and rushed for a career-high 77 yards on the night. Wadley’s previous high was a 36-yard effort to open the 2016 season against NM State in the Sun Bowl. Wadley rushed for 168 yards during his freshman season.

Sophomore RB Kevin Dove, a 245-pound tailback, grinded out his seventh first down of the season on a rushing play at NM State on Sept. 23. Dove gained three yards on a third-and-1 during the first quarter against the Aggies. Against Arizona on Sept. 15, Dove tallied his sixth first down of the season, and gained five yards on a second-and-4 in the second quarter. Dove gained two first downs against Rice on Sept. 9. The first came on a third-and-2 in which Dove gained three yards, while the second came on a long run of 14 yards on a second-and-13. Dove gained three first downs in week one at no. 7 Oklahoma. Dove has rushed for 62 yards this season.

True freshman RB and El Paso native Joshua Fields registered a season-high two receptions for five yards against Arizona on Sept. 15. Fields tallied a season-long 18-yard reception against Rice on Sept. 9. Fields has 22 yards on four receptions early in his collegiate career.

Junior QB Ryan Metz rushed for a five-yard score in the first quarter at NM State on Sept. 23, his second of the season and third of his career. Metz’s first career rushing score came at NM State in 2015 during UTEP’s 50-47 OT win. Metz found the end zone against Rice in the Sun Bowl on Sept. 9 on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Junior QB Ryan Metz threw his first touchdown pass of 2017, a 44-yard toss against Rice on Sept. 9. It was also Metz’s 21st career touchdown pass. He is now three passing scores from cracking the program’s top-10 list. John Furman and Nick Lamaison each threw 24 scores during their respective careers to rank tied for ninth on the list. Trevor Vittatoe leads all with 97 passing touchdowns.

Freshman QB Mark Torrez was inserted under center in the second half at NM State on Sept. 23. Torrez rushed for 31 yards, including a long of 18 yards, and completed four passes. Against Arizona on Sept. 15, Torrez made his way to the field in the second quarter and engineered a six-play, 34-yard drive (3:10) that resulted in K Brady Viles’ 53-yard field goal before the half. Torrez hit WR Terry Juniel on a pair of passes, the first for 13 yards on a first-and-10 and a 21-yard strike on a first-and-10 that set up the made field goal attempt. Torrez also made a few plays with his feet, escaping Wildcat defenders to avoid sacks.

Mark Torrez hit paydirt on a six-yard quarterback keeper to the right side in the beginning of the third quarter against Arizona on Sept. 15. Torrez paced the Miners on a four-play, 76-yard drive that took 2:11. Torrez connected on a 14-yard pass to TE David Lucero on a second-and-7. A roughing the passer call on Arizona moved the ball 15 more yards for the Miners during the scoring drive.

Besides both being from El Paso, Ryan Metz and Mark Torrez share a common bond as both played against top-25 opponents on the road in their collegiate debuts. Metz saw his first college action at no. 18 Arkansas on Sept. 5, 2015, while Torrez played on Sept. 2 at no. 7 Oklahoma. Both quarterbacks were perfect in their debuts as Metz went 3-for-3 (19 yards) and Torrez was 1-for-1 (seven yards).

Junior TE David Lucero hauled in a career-long 18-yard reception during the second quarter at NM State on Sept. 23. Lucero is tied for the team lead with eight catches for 87 yards (10.9 avg.) this season. Lucero registered season highs in receptions (three) and yards (31) against Rice on Sept. 9. Lucero hauled in a 14-yard reception against Arizona on Sept. 15. Lucero ranks t-first on the team with eight catches (87 yards).

Junior WR Terry Juniel registered career-highs in receptions (four) and yards (82), including a season-long 40-yard grab against Arizona on Sept. 15. Juniel’s previous high was a 44-yard effort on a pair of receptions at LA Tech on Oct 1, 2016. Juniel’s seven receptions in 2017 are tied for second on the team with WR Kavika Johnson. Juniel’s 108 receiving yards (13.5 avg.) and yards per game (27.0) lead the offense.

Junior WR Kavika Johnson produced career-highs in receptions (six), receiving yards (67) and long reception (40 yards) against Rice on Sept. 9. His previous highs were three receptions for 32 yards and a long of 27 yards at Rice on Nov. 11, 2016. Johnson ranks t-first on the team with eight receptions (84 yards).

OL Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first Miner offensive lineman to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also the first UTEP offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition. Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, as he garnered Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped the season with two showings of over 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in a victory over North Texas.

Will Hernandez was selected to the 2017 AP All-America second team on Aug. 22 as the senior has racked up multiple preseason honors. Hernandez was announced to the 2017 Outland Trophy Watch List and earned a spot on the 2017 Preseason Conference USA team. Multiple football publications, including Dave Campbell’s Texas Football, Phil Steele’s College Football Preview and Athlon Sports have Hernandez on their preseason teams.

For the second season in a row, sophomore DB Justin Rogers intercepted the first pass of the season for the UTEP defense. Rogers picked off a pass at NM State in the first quarter on Sept. 23. It was Rogers’ second career pick. Rogers’ first interception came against FIU in the Sun Bowl last season, which was also the first for the Miners’ defense in 2016. Rogers tied his career best with five tackles (four solo) and half a tackle for loss against the Aggies.

Freshman DL Trace Mascorro scored a touchdown at NM State on Sept. 23. It was Mascorro’s first career scoop-and-score, and first touchdown for the UTEP defense in 2017. Mascorro gained 26 yards on a fumble recovery and chipped in with a tackle against the Aggies. The last defensive score came from Kalon Beverly, a pick-six against Incarnate Word on Sept. 26, 2015.

Senior LB Alvin Jones amassed 15 tackles, a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against Arizona on Sept. 15, the second-most stops in his career. Jones’ career high is 16 tackles twice. The first came against FIU on Oct. 8, 2016 in the Sun Bowl, and Jones followed with another 16-tackle performance at Rice on Nov. 19, 2016.

Alvin Jones has led the Miners in each of the last two seasons, recording 93 stops during each campaign. Jones is leading the UTEP defense in tackles (31) and tackles per game (7.8) once again in 2017. Jones ranks tied for 12th with two other players in tackles per game (7.8) and ranks tied for eighth in total tackles (31) in Conference USA.

Senior Alvin Jones has 272 career tackles (fifth-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after tallying six stops at NM State on Sept. 23. Jones racked up 15 tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jones also registered a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss against the Wildcats. Jones now has 11.5 career sacks (needs half a sack to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 31.5 career tackles for loss, which now ranks sixth on the program’s top 10 list. Brian Young ranks fifth with 32.0 tackles for loss. Barron Wortham leads the all-time list with 45.0 tackles for loss. Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 rank tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 were the most by a UTEP player since the 2000 season. Jones has led the Miners in tackles the past two seasons, tallying 93 stops in each campaign, while in 2014 Jones ranked second with 55 takedowns.

Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles 10 times during his career after his 15-tackle output on Sept. 15 against Arizona. Jones’s first double-digit performance came against UTSA on Oct. 3, 2015 with a 10-tackle outing. Jones racked up 11 tackles in four different contests in 2015 (at NM State; vs. Rice; at Old Dominion; vs. LA Tech). In 2016, Jones registered double-digit tackles, including his career high of 16 stops, in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).

Graduate student LB Julian Jackson tallied seven more tackles against Arizona on Sept. 15. Jackson, a transfer from Wake Forest, recorded seven tackles in each of his first three games in a UTEP uniform. Jackson’s seven stops also tied for his college career high. Jackson’s 22 total tackles rank tied for fourth on the UTEP defense. Jackson also recorded his first pass breakup against the Wildcats and recorded half a tackle for loss at no. 7 OU.

In only his second game at the LB position, sophomore Treyvon Hughes tied for the team lead with 11 tackles against Rice on Sept. 9. Hughes registered three stops in his defensive debut at no. 7 Oklahoma in week one. Hughes came to UTEP as a running back and missed last season due to injury. He was switched to linebacker prior to the Annual Spring Game this past year. Hughes has registered 18 tackles this season.

Recovering Fumbles
UTEP has recovered a pair of fumbles, one by junior DB Nik Needham (vs. Rice) and the other by freshman DB Joseph Pickney (vs. Arizona), the first of their respective careers.

Junior DB Nik Needham recorded the first full sack of his UTEP career on Sept. 9. Needham took down Rice QB Sam Glaesmann on a third-and-13 play. Needham’s first sack was an assist at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015. Needham also recovered his first fumble during his career and tallied six tackles versus the Owls. Needham has recorded 15 tackles on the season.

Defensive Notables At NM State
Senior LB Dante Lovilotte and junior DB Kalon Beverly each tallied eight tackles to lead the Miners. It was a season high in tackles for Beverly, while he also registered his first career half tackle for loss. Senior DB Devin Cockrell registered six tackles against the Aggies. Senior DL Sky Logan registered a season-high four stops, while Kahani Smith notched four stops, the second-most for the junior transfer. Lovilotte ranks second on the team with 29 tackles, while Cockrell ranks third with 24 stops. Beverly is tied for fourth with 22 tackles.

Sophomore WR/KR Keynan Foster returned a season-high 28-yard kickoff against Arizona on Sept. 15. The speedster returned four kickoffs for 94 yards, both season highs. Foster also hauled in a career-long 13-yard pass against the Wildcats and tallied 107 all-purpose yards. On the season, Foster ranks fifth in kickoff return average (22.8), fourth in return yards (205) and is tied for third in total kickoff returns (nine). Foster’s 51.3 average per game is ranked fourth in C-USA.

Junior WR Terry Juniel returned a pair of kickoffs at NM State on Sept. 23 for 50 yards. Juniel returned one 30 yards for a career long. His previous high was a 26-yard return against NM State last season.

Sophomore K Brady Viles connected on his first collegiate field goal, a 53-yard boot as the first half expired against Arizona on Sept. 15. Vile was good on one of two PAT attempts against the Wildcats. Viles has nine points (6-7 PAT, 1-1 FG). Viles’ field goal was the longest for the Miners since Dakota Warren connected on a 57-yard kick against NM State on Sept. 18, 2010. Viles played his first year of college football at Arizona Western College, where he connected on 3-of-3 PATs and was used primarily as a kickoff specialist last season.

Brady Viles’ first field goal was a 53-yarder. It’s the longest first made field goal by a Miner since at least 1960. Viles is one of three Miners to hit a 50-plus yard field goal on their first try since 1960. Bronko Belichesky’s first career field attempt was a made 52-yarder against Pacific on Sept. 15, 1973. Jose Martinez connected on a 51-yarder on Sept. 1, 2007 against New Mexico.

El Paso native Alan Luna punted eight times for 353 yards, third-most in his career, with one inside the five-yard line at NM State on Sept. 23. Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line against the Sooners to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016. Luna’s 44.7-yard average ranks 33rd in the FBS and fourth in Conference USA. Luna leads the league in total punts (30) and punt yards (1,322). Luna ranks sixth in punt yards and is tied for fourth in total punts in the FBS.

Senior Alan Luna ranks sixth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (6,749) and moved to sixth in career punts (157) after Saturday’s performance at NM State. Ian Campbell ranks no. 5 in career punts (165), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Campbell ranks no. 5 in career yards (7,328), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193). Luna’s career high for yards is 376 at Texas (Sept. 10, 2016). His longest is a 69-yard boot, while his career-best average is 51.0 yards on six punts (306) against Southern Miss (Sept. 24, 2016). In week two against Rice, Luna registered a 63-yard boot, the second-longest of his career, while his third-longest went 61 yards at Old Dominion in 2015.

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler appointed Brian Natkin as offensive coordinator on Sept. 18. Natkin, who was an All-American in 2000 at the tight end postion for UTEP, previously coached the tight ends and served as the team’s special teams coordinator. Natkin was co-offensive coordinator at Midwestern State during the 2011 campaign. The Mustangs went 10-1 in 2011, while leading the nation in total offense (531.9 ypg) and scoring (48.6 ppg). Natkin’s coaching career began as a graduate assistant at UTEP in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, Natkin coached the offensive line at Northern Colorado before spending five seasons (2007-11) at Midwestern State. Other moves by Kugler included Chuck Veliz taking over as quarterbacks coach, and safeties coach Don Yanowsky assuming duties as special teams coordinator.

The 2017 roster features 30 players from the El Pas0/Las Cruces area — DB Deaumonjae Banks (Chapin), LB Chris Barnwell (Eastlake), WR Brannon Bullitt (Chapin), OL Bobby DeHaro (Montwood), OL Derek Elmendorff (Franklin), RB Joshua Fields (Americas), K/P Jason Filley (Coronado), LB Sergio Gonzalez (El Dorado), FB David Jackson (Parkland), DL Christian Johnson (Parkland), WR Kavika Johnson (Mayfield [Las Cruces]), LB Alvin Jones (Burges), OL Greg Long (Eastwood), LB Erick Lopez (Canutillo), OL Markos Lujan (Americas), P/K Alan Luna (Franklin), OL Rey Mendez (Socorro), QB Ryan Metz (Andress), FB Forest McKee (Onate [Las Cruces]), RB Jonathon Millan (Coronado), WR Brandon Moss (Chapin), DL Josh Ortega (Montwood), DB Elijah Perales (Chapin), OL Jaime Perales (Cathedral), WR Warren Redix (Montwood), TE Jorge Rodriguez (Montwood), WR Richie Rodriguez (Eastwood), WR Eddie Sinegal (Andress), QB Keith Tarango-Lopez (Eastlake) and QB Mark Torrez (Eastwood).

Ten players from El Paso grace the two-deep heading into the Army game. RG Derek Elmendorff, TB Joshua Fields, K/P Jason Filley, MIKE Alvin Jones, LG Markos Lujan, K/P Alan Luna, QB Ryan Metz, WR (Z) Warren Redix, WR (X) Eddie Sinegal and QB Mark Torrez are listed on the two-deep chart. Of the 10, five of the players (Elmendorff, Jones, Luna, Metz and Redix) are listed no. 1 at their respective positions.

The UTEP football program has eight student-athletes with degrees for the 2017 season. QB Zack Greenlee, LB Julian Jackson, DL Sky Logan, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Brandon Moss, TE Sterling Napier, WR Nesley Ovincy and OL Logan Tuley-Tillman are pursuing their Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies. Northwestern has 18 student-athletes with degrees, while Cincinnati, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina each have 14. Toledo has 13; TCU, Alabama, Oregon and Virginia each have 12; Georgia State, Kansas State, Maryland, UCF and USF each have 11; Kent State, Nevada, New Mexico, South Alabama, Texas Tech and West Virginia each have 10; Houston, Iowa State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers and Temple each have nine; and joining UTEP with eight student-athletes are Auburn, Clemson, Iowa, Kentucky, NC State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, Penn State, SMU Syracuse, UAB and WKU.

After day one at Camp Ruidoso, head coach Sean Kugler announced on Aug. 8 that walk-ons RB TK Powell, WR Keynan Foster, LB Johnny Jones, FB David Jackson and FB Robert Pufhal each earned scholarships for their performances on the field and in the classroom.

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of eight FBS coaches who have a son playing for another FBS program. Patrick Kugler plays center at Michigan. Others include UAB’s head coach Bill Clark with son Jacob playing for the Blazers. Colorado’s head coach Mike MacIntyre has his son Jay playing for the Buffaloes. Tulsa head coach Phillip Montgomery son plays for the Golden Hurricanes. Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo has two sons, Va’a at BYU and Ali’i at Utah. Gary Patterson’s son Blake plays for his pops at TCU. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez, has his son Rhett playing for the Wildcats. And Bobby Wilder of Old Dominion has his son Derek playing for the Monarchs. Other coaches that have their son’s playing for them is Rick Stockstill at Middle Tennessee (Brent) and Dabo Swinney of Clemson (Will).

UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler is one of 21 FBS coaches in 2017 who are at the helm of their alma mater’s program. John Bonamego (Central Michigan), Troy Calhoun (Air Force), Paul Chryst (Wisconsin), Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern), Mike Gundy (Oklahoma State), Jim Harbaugh (Michigan), Bryan Harsin (Boise State), Paul Haynes (Kent State), Kliff Kingsbury (Texas Tech), Tim Lester (Western Michigan), Mike Neu (Ball State), Barry Odom (Missouri), Mark Richt (Miami), Nick Rolovich (Hawai’i), Scott Satterfield (Appalachian State), David Shaw (Stanford), Kalani Sitake (BYU), Kirby Smart (Georgia), Jeff Tedford (Fresno State) and Matt Wells (Utah State) are the other 20.

UTEP will face eight opponents in 2017 who advanced to a bowl game in 2016. The Miners opened with Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl) on Sept. 2 in Norman. After UTEP’s contest at NM State on Sept. 23, the next seven opponents are Army (Heart of Dallas Bowl), WKU (Boca Raton Bowl), Southern Miss (New Orleans Bowl), UTSA (New Mexico Bowl), Middle Tennessee (Hawai’i Bowl), North Texas (Heart of Dallas Bowl) and LA Tech (Armed Forces Bowl). Syracuse and Notre Dame lead the list with 11 bowl opponents each, while Duke, Ole Miss and South Carolina will see 10. Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, UCF, Clemson, Colorado State, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Kentucky, LSU, UMass, Miami, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Tulsa, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest will face nine bowl opponents in 2017.

UTEP will host WKU for the first time ever in the 86th Homecoming game on Oct. 7. The Miners will start a string of seven consecutive Conference USA games versus WKU. Kickoff against the Hilltoppers is set for 6 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. The meeting will be just the second-ever between UTEP and WKU. The two teams first met on Nov. 8, 2014 in Bowling Green, Ky. with WKU coming out on top 35-27. The Miners rushed for 236 yards, while the Hilltoppers threw for 324 yards in the back-and-forth contest.

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