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H-P Sports In Depth: Coach Kugler Talks UTEP-OU, Rice Game Preps

UTEP Football Head Coach Sean Kugler spoke to the media Monday, talking about Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma and this coming week’s contest vs Rice.

(On Last Week’s Loss at Oklahoma)

“We faced an outstanding Oklahoma team and did not do the things necessary to give ourselves the chance to compete.  We talked about not turning it over.  We did have one turnover.  Kevin Dove had a fumble on a third and short situation.  We didn’t run the ball as efficiently as we wanted to.  We did at times.  I thought Walter Dawn had some outstanding runs in that game.  But there were other times I felt we really left yards on the field, where the back could’ve put his foot on the ground and gone north and south.  We’ve got to get better at that moving on.  Our goal is always 4.5 [yards] per rush.  We were only at 3.5 against a very stout front.

“We talked about catching the catchables.  We had three drops in that game that all ended series, two of them on third downs.  We can’t allow that to happen.  The thing I was most disappointed with from an offensive standpoint, we had some pre-snap penalties and assignment errors.  We had two formation penalties where the linemen weren’t set when we were putting things in motion.  We’ve got to be cleaner with that.  We did have a holding call on short yardage where the ball bounced.  I probably put that more on the back than the young man who was holding.  We did have one clock issue.  In the first game, you would expect to have a couple of those things.  But against a team like that, you can’t afford to be in a first and 15.

“Some positives offensively, again, the play of Walter Dawn.  I really thought Ryan Metz was efficient.  I didn’t think he had a lot of help around him as far as drops and those type things, but I thought the protection was clean.  We really only gave up one sack and that was more the left tackle getting chipped by the back, it wasn’t necessarily him getting beat.  So I thought there were some positives up front moving forward.  Defensively, they dominated us.  They were 7-for-7 in the red zone.  We really had difficulty containing and covering their tight end.  That guy is a future first round draft pick.  He is one of the best I’ve seen at the collegiate level.

“Their quarterback is outstanding and it showed in that game as a guy who buys time with his legs, he is very patient and very poised and he had some outstanding deep ball throws as well.  We didn’t do a great job stopping the run.  They were 4.7 [yards] per clip.  I mentioned the quarterback’s efficiency and really, the only time he has been inefficient was if we got a lot of pressure on him.  We only had one sack and two quarterback hits, not enough on that guy.

“A big negative that came out of this game that will carry into the next game, Alvin Jones was ejected in the second half for a targeting foul.  Anytime you go up near the head area, you’re putting your fate in the referee’s hands.  Unfortunately for us, we not only lost him for the remainder of the game, we also lose him for the first half of the Rice game, which will be an opportunity for somebody like Jamar Smith or Treyvon Hughes to step up and pick up that flag for the first half.  We did not force any turnovers and as I mentioned we lost one, so we’re -1 for the year.  Probably the most disappointing thing was we had a lot of missed tackles on defense.  Guys that are usually surefire tacklers, again, a lot of that had to do with Oklahoma and their talent but a lot of that had to do with not pulling the trigger on certain plays, which we’ve got to get better at moving forward.

“I thought special teams was a positive.  I think Luna was outstanding, he had a 44-yard average.  The coverage was outstanding, he had a 38.2 net.  He got three inside the 20 and it really should’ve been four, Michael Lewis stumbled on that and it would’ve been easily downed at the one.  So Luna had a great day, he was the special teams player of the week and received the Top Gun Award.  Punt return, we only had the one return that Terry Juniel fair caught, so nothing there.  Kickoff cover, I thought the coverage was good.  We had one touchback.  You saw Viles’ strength of his leg on that.  We did have one return that they took from inside the end zone and they only returned it 23 yards, so the coverage was good there.  Kickoff return, I thought there was great communication as far as when to return and hold it back.  We had two returns for 45 yards and a long of 23 with Keynan Foster.  I think that tandem with him and Warren Redix will be good for the future.  And we had no field goal opportunities in that game.

“Again, you look back on it, time of possession was not in our favor and the turnover battle was not in our favor.  They did an outstanding job on third downs, 57 percent, where we were at 33 percent.  If I had to look at one positive, most of the players in our program did get the opportunity to compete, and it gave us a chance to really evaluate a lot of the younger guys who have not been in that arena moving forward.”

(On Rice)

“They’re sitting in the same boat as us.  They had a game the week before and actually had this week as a bye week.  They lost to a very powerful Stanford team in Australia.  This is a team that got after us towards the end of last year.  The same type of situations, they didn’t do a good job against Stanford with time of possession or third downs, but this team has a lot of returning talent.  Their quarterback is new, he’s a redshirt freshman.  I feel they’ve upgraded there from an athletic standpoint.  You’re seeing these guys run a little bit more option with him.  He’s got a pretty nice deep ball and they’ve got some targets he can throw it to.  This kid was an All-State quarterback in high school, he was a 3,000-yard passer.  Against Stanford he was 7-of-18 for 69 yards.  He was sacked two times versus Stanford.

“Both running backs are back and they are both compact guys, built about the same.  #45 Sam Stewart, he had 500 yards and six touchdowns last year.  Against Stanford he had 82 yards and a 4.7 average.  He can also catch the ball out of the backfield, he had three catches for 41 yards.  This Walter kid, he’s about the same size 5-8, 210, he had 345 yards last year and five touchdowns.  He had three carries for 45 yards [against Stanford].  So they are kind of working those two in the rotation.  They are very similar backs, hard charging backs, difficult to tackle.

“Much like the last team we played, Rice has all of the starters coming back in their offensive line.  We felt they were a solid offensive line last year.   They got after us in the trenches and probably the best one is an All-Conference player, Trey Martin, their center.  He sets the front and makes all the calls, he’s very athletic and capable.  Rice always seems to have a taller receiver, each year they have a guy who’s 6-4 or 6-5 who they throw some fade balls to.  Collectively as a group they’ve got four receivers over 6-3, big outside receivers in particular #18, he’s a guy that had five receptions against us last year.

“Defensively, it’s kind of unique, they don’t list a lot of starters coming back but they have a lot of guys who were injured and out last year.  They gained quite a few guys who played in 2015 back from injuries.  They have 15 players who have starting experience on the defensive side of the ball.  Their best player on defense, and probably the best player on the team who was their team MVP last year is Ellerbee, a linebacker.

It seems like this guy has been there for five years now.  He is an All-Conference player, he led Conference USA in tackles last year.  This kid has got a motor and it showed against Stanford.  He had 10 tackles, a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit against Stanford to start off his season well.

“Another guy we have a lot of respect for is #44.  Again, this is a team that transitions from a four-down look to a three-down look.  They are showing more odd pressures this year.  #44 is a guy that they can line up as a defensive end, he’s also the guy that they can line up as an outside linebacker, much like Oklahoma did last week with #31.  He’s got good size, 6-2, 250, he’s got a high motor, he had three tackles, a tackle for loss and a sack versus Stanford last week.  He had some good get offs on their tackles.  He’s a guy we’re going to have to handle.

Another guy we have a lot of respect for is their defensive lineman #90, 6-5, 250.  He had 41 tackles and five sacks last year.  He is a very high motor guy, he plays hard on every snap, and they gained back a hard-hitting safety, #17 Ibe.  He is a physical hitter, he had five tackles in the opener against Stanford.  So new scheme, new coordinator, probably from a schematic standpoint very similar to what we saw at Oklahoma, a lot of odd pressures, some four down looks as well and we’re going to have to be dialed in on that.

“Special teams, their punter is also their kicker.  His name is Fox.  He averaged 40.7 and against Stanford he had a long of 62 so he’s got a capable leg.  He had one touchback and a bounced kick on kickoffs.  He had 25 touchbacks in 2016, so he’s another strong-legged kicker that we’ll see.  The punt returner, Ellerbe #25, he had one return for 12 yards on punt return.  And then he had a 29 return against Stanford.  So they have a capable returner.

These guys always play hard on special teams.  Rice is always a well-coached team.  I think David Bailiff gets the most out of his players year in and year out.  It’s going to be a battle.  We’re going to need the fans here for our home opener.  Our players are going to be excited about playing in the Sun Bowl in front of the home fans, and I hope everybody turns out to support our team.”

(On paring down the defensive rotation)

“You’ll see some guys out there more, getting more reps and you’ll some guys’ reps diminish because of performance.  Usually, the jump from your first game to your second game is the most drastic when you change personnel.  Again, we’ll hopefully gain back [Jayson] VanHook as well.  That gives us a little more depth at the linebacker spot.  I did feel good about what Treyvon Hughes and Jamar Smith did when they went in there, so it gives me a little more confidence that when we go through a first half without Alvin Jones, we can have somebody step up in there.  Defensive line, some of the young guys that really took a step forward, Trace Mascorro played against an All-Conference center and really did an outstanding job.  And Dedrick Simpson was really active and in on a lot of plays.  Those guys really stood out.  I thought our corners held up well against them.  The deep ball issues that we had were more from the safety position.  But our cornerbacks looked like they belonged out there.”

(On evaluating the pass rush at Oklahoma)

“We didn’t generate a lot of pressure, we only got two quarterback hits and the one sack.  We probably missed another sack too.  We’ve got to generate more pressure than that.  Then again, you’ve got potentially five guys off that offensive line that will be playing on Sundays.  So that’s the best offensive line that we will see in 2017.”

(On preparing for Rice’s defense)

“When you look at last year’s film, you just kind of evaluate personnel.  Really you only have one game to go by this year, and it was a mixture of four down and three down.  So we’ll prepare for that.  Again, we saw a lot of that against Oklahoma.  We see a lot of that from our own defense in training camp.  We have had a lot of preparation versus the odd front, and we have had preparation versus the over and under fronts as well.  And their personnel is good.  So that’s going to be the main challenge, us matching up versus their personnel.  But I really feel this game is going to be won up front on both sides of the ball, offensive and defensive lines.  We’re going to challenge both of our groups in this game and they’re going to have to get the job done for us to have a chance to win.”

(On opening conference play early)

“Urgency is a good word and intensity is a good word, because anytime you get into conference play it’s for real.  To have a conference game your second game, yeah it is the earliest I’ve had a conference game as a player or a coach.  It gets your focus early, knowing that you could be 1-0 in conference or 0-1 in conference right after week two.  It does get your attention.  Rice is a team that got after us last year.  We have to get after them this year to have a chance to win this game.  The fact we’re playing in front of our home folks, we’re going to need their support as well.  Our players love playing in front of the Miner fans.  It’s going to be an exciting game.”

(On evaluating Ryan Metz’s performance at Oklahoma)

“He did a good job getting us in the right audibles when the box was outnumbered and threw some hitches and those type things.  Two of those completions were taken back from penalties.  Three of his completions were taken back from drops, and he still had an efficient game.  I was pleased with Ryan’s play, in fact I was pleased with all three quarterbacks.  What I said at the beginning of camp, I’m very comfortable with all three quarterbacks.  I think we can win with all three quarterbacks.  And Ryan didn’t show anything that made me think differently in that game.”

(On the offensive line’s play at Oklahoma)

“They did do an outstanding job early and even at the end of the game, there were some holes there and that’s probably where I was a little bit frustrated.  There were some balls that bounced that could’ve probably stuck in there, just like they did early in the game.  And that’s what happens when you’ve got young backs.  They need to see this on film and see ‘I just need to stick my foot in the ground and get the yardage that I can.’  You saw Walter Dawn bounce a short yardage play, which is a no-no, and he ended up losing yards and we ended up getting a holding call on that.  You just have to stick it in there in those circumstances.  The one positive in short yardage, I think Kevin Dove is an outstanding short yardage back.  He can get hit at the line of scrimmage and still create a pile because of his strength and moving forward, that’s probably the guy that you’ll see.”

(On the first scoring drive at Oklahoma)

“We didn’t capitalize on that.  But it was an outstanding drive, it was efficient.  Ryan was efficient, he completed two third downs on that.  Warren Redix made a good play to keep that drive going.  Walter made two outstanding runs.  And Walter has the ability to do that.  He’s a fiery player, he’s a tough player.  When he hits the seams, and just keep in mind he has been at running back for one game and had some outstanding runs.  He’ll get better and better as he sees these things on film and can correct his errors.”

(On the injury situation)

“Just a couple of banged up guys with shoulder injuries, I don’t think anything that will keep them out of this game.  So I think we came out of it relatively healthy.  If you’d told me before the game that we’d have these injuries, I would’ve taken it.  We didn’t have any devastating injuries.  The main thing is losing Alvin for the first half.  The good thing is we don’t lose him for the whole game.  He’ll be frothing at the mouth at halftime to come out and try to make up for lost time.  Somebody is going to have to step up and pick up the slack.  Jamar Smith and Treyvon Hughes are going to have to do the job inside.

(On Jayson Van Hook’s status for Saturday)

“We’re going to ease him into the process this week and do some contact drills with him and see where he holds up.  That would be an added bonus for us, because this kid can really fly.  And they run a lot of option, so it would be a big benefit having an edge guy who can run like he does.”

(On the team’s mental state following the Oklahoma loss)

“I think they’re excited and ready to go.  I think they were embarrassed by their play.  If you go into the locker room and they’re happy after a game like that, then you’ve got major issues.  They were down and they were upset with how they played, the players and coaches and everybody.  I think this is a team that’s very unified.  I think this is a team that you’ll see bounce back.  There are going to be ups and downs throughout the year.  We started out with a tough game, we didn’t match up against that team and we didn’t help ourselves with some of the production and play that we had in that game.  Where we’re at right now, we’re 0-1 and playing a conference team coming to our place and our stadium.  Our kids will be energized and ready to go.”

(On what Rice has gone through the last couple of weeks)

“I don’t know if it’s going to be a problem for them, they can also rally around that and use that as fuel.  I would imagine that’s what they’re doing is try to rally around that.  We’ve got players on our own team that have issues in Houston.  We’ve got one kid, Kevin Dove, who had horses back there and lost every single horse in their horse farm.  Our thoughts go out to David Bailiff and his team.  I can’t imagine some of the things that they’re going through.  But they are coming here to play a football game and we are here to play a football game.  After the game, certainly he and I will get together and talk, because we’re good friends.”

(On his relationship with David Bailiff)

“You just talk.  You go off each other’s experience.  David went through the same year that we did, he had a ton of injuries.  He went through the same thing.  You just talk about, is there a different way that we can practice?  Is there a different way that we can handle this situation?  You rely on each other.  Ultimately it is competitive, but there are friendships and there are guys you have respect for, and certainly David Bailiff is one of those.”

***

MINERS TO OPEN HOME SLATE AGAINST C-USA FOE RICE

UTEP will begin its home schedule with its Conference USA lid lifter as West Division foe Rice makes its way to the Sun City on Sept. 9 for a 6 p.m. kickoff in the Sun Bowl. The Miners and Owls are both coming off losses to top-25 opponents.

Rice fell to no. 14 Stanford, 62-7, in Australia on Aug. 27, while UTEP was defeated at no. 7 Oklahoma 56-7 on Sept. 2. Walter Dawn Jr. rushed for a career-high 56 yards on seven attempts with a touchdown against the Sooners. Dawn Jr. picked up 49 of those yards on four carries during UTEP’s lone scoring drive.

The Miners will play in the friendly confines of the Southwest for the next three weeks as they host Pac-12 opponent Arizona on Friday, Sept. 15 and will face I-10 rival NM State in Las Cruces on Sept. 23.

HURRICANE HARVEY RELIEF EFFORTS

UTEP Athletics is making an effort to help those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. UTEP Marketing will manage bins that will be set up at the Sun Bowl to collect emergency kit items (water, blankets, towels, Band Aids, antibiotic ointments, baby diapers, baby food/formula, shampoo/conditioner, soap, deodorant, toothpaste/toothbrush and sanitizer) at Saturday’s game. Bins will also be set up at Memorial Gym and University Field respectively on Friday (Sept. 8) when UTEP volleyball hosts Samford and UTEP soccer hosts Incarnate Word.

SERIES HISTORY

Rice has won nine of the last 11 games between the Texas rivals and leads the series 13-7. The Miners took a 5-4 edge in the El Paso ledger with a 24-21 victory over the Owls on Nov. 6, 2015.

UTEP IN C-USA OPENERS

The Miners are 5-7 in Conference USA openers (4-3 home, 1-4 away). UTEP won its first five C-USA openers from 2005-09, and has dropped its last seven. The Miners are 7-5 in C-USA home openers (won six straight from 2005-10, lost five of last six).

UTEP IN C-USA HOME GAMES

UTEP is 25-23 in C-USA home games since joining the league for the 2005 season (3-1 in 2005, 2-2 in 2006, 1-3 in 2007, 3-1 in 2008, 3-1 in 2009, 3-1 in 2010, 1-3 in 2011, 1-3 in 2012, 1-3 in 2013, 4-0 in 2014, 2-2 in 2015, 1-3 in 2016). The Miners are 8-8 in C-USA home games under coach Sean Kugler.

OPENING WITH RICE

Rice has never served as UTEP’s first Conference USA opponent. The Miners have faced Rice in the month of November nine times in 12 years in C-USA, and in 15 of the last 20 seasons dating back to their Western Athletic Conference days. This is the first meeting between the teams in the month of September.

TAKING ON TEXAS

Since joining Conference USA, UTEP is 14-22 versus its Lone Star State counterparts (Houston 2-6, North Texas 3-1, Rice 3-9, SMU 4-4, UTSA 2-2). The Miners are 9-8 against C-USA Texas schools in the Sun Bowl.

RESULTS AFTER PLAYING A TOP 25 OPPONENT

UTEP has dropped seven of nine games following a loss to top-25 opponents since 2009. The Miners defeated NM State 38-12 on Sept. 19, 2009 after falling to no. 24 Kansas the week prior. That same season, UTEP came up with a big victory against no. 12 Houston in the Sun Bowl on Oct. 3 following its loss at no. 2 Texas.

THE LAST MEETING

UTEP scored the game’s first three points on a Jay Mattox 37-yard field goal. But Rice followed with 34 unanswered in the first half on its way to a 44-24 victory at Rice Stadium on Nov. 19, 2016. The Owls outgained the Miners, 482 yards to 232, as UTEP amassed only 42 yards in the first half. Mattox’s field goal followed a Gene Hopkins sack-and-strip of quarterback Jackson Tyner on Rice’s first offensive series.

The fumble was recovered by Sky Logan and returned 26 yards to the Rice 25-yard line. But the Owls answered with five scoring drives in the first half. Alvin Jones racked up 16 tackles with a sack for the Miners. Aaron Jones ran for 75 yards and hauled in a touchdown on a 42-yard reception. Rice starting quarterback Tyler Stehling left the contest with an injury during the first series, but Tyner completed 18-of-25 passes for 196 yards with a pair of scores.

Jowan Davis led the Owls with 84 rushing yards and a score, while Cameron Decell added 53 yards receiving on four catches. UTEP’s Ryan Metz completed 19-of-34 passes for 169 yards and a pair of scores, with an interception that was taken back by Destri White for a 23-yard pick-six. Kalon Beverly scored his second career touchdown on an 80-yard return after a blocked field goal attempt. Beverly also intercepted a pass and tallied seven tackles.

SCOUTING RICE

The Owls opened the 2017 campaign with a 62-7 loss to no. 14 Stanford in Sydney, Australia, at Allianz Stadium on Aug. 27. The Cardinal scored the game’s first 55 points before Rice running back Austin Walter found the end zone on a 23-yard run late in the contest. The Owls tallied 14 first downs (eight rush, five pass, one penalty) and 241 yards of offense.

The Rice defense surrendered 656 yards of offense, with 369 coming via the passing game. Running back Samuel Stewart led the Owls with 112 all-purpose yards (71 yards on 15 carries and career-high 41 yards on three catches), while tight end Robby Wells III paced the squad with four receptions for 19 yards. Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann completed 7-of-18 passes for 69 yards in his collegiate debut.

Defensively, 2016 All-Conference USA first team linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee led the team with 10 tackles, while posting a breakup and a quarterback hurry. In his first year as a starter, Ellerbee led the league in tackles with 118, while adding 8.0 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and an interception.

CONNECTIONS

UTEP sophomore RB Kevin Dove and Rice redshirt senior OL Trey Martin both played at El Campo High School (El Campo, Texas). UTEP freshman DB Joseph Pickney and Rice redshirt juniors WR Aston and RB Austin Walter played at Crosby High School (Crosby, Texas). UTEP senior WR Tyler Batson (Westfield HS), and Rice freshman WR Austin Conrad (Klein HS), redshirt sophomore WR Cameron Johnson (Klein Collins HS) and freshman WR Austin Trammell (Klein HS) all hail from Spring, Texas.

UTEP freshman DL Dedrick Simpson and 13 players from Rice are from Houston, Texas. UTEP sophomore RB Walter Dawn Jr. (Poteet HS), and Rice redshirt junior CB Jorian Clark (Horn HS), graduate student LB DJ Green (Horn HS) and senior SAF Destri Whitaker (Horn HS) are from Mesquite, Texas. UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler and Rice tight ends coach David Sloan have crossed paths on multiple occasions.

Kugler coached with the Miners during the 1993 and 1994 seasons, while Sloan played at New Mexico during those two years. Kugler was the tight ends coach with the Detroit Lions during the 2001 season where Sloan played tight end and led the Lions with seven touchdown receptions, while being named as a Pro Bowl alternate. UTEP’s Assistant AD for Football Operations, Nate Poss, is a graduate of Rice University and played for the Owls from 1973-76.

A pair of WRs in UTEP junior Alan Busey (Robert Service HS [Anchorage]) and Rice redshirt junior Lance Wright (Fairbanks [North Pole HS]) played high school football in Alaska.

LAST WEEK

Three Oklahoma quarterbacks combined to complete 32-of-36 passes for 496 yards, as the no. 7 Sooners opened the season with a 56-7 victory over UTEP on Sept. 2. Heisman candidate Baker Mayfield completed his first 16 passes, and finished 19-for-20 for 329 yards in the first half as Oklahoma surged to a 35-7 lead. He was relieved by Kyler Murray to start the second half, and Tanner Schafer came on late in the fourth quarter.

The Sooners scored touchdowns on five of their six first-half possessions. Mark Andrews was the other offensive star for OU in the first 30 minutes, reeling in seven catches for 134 yards. After Oklahoma (1-0) opened the scoring by moving 76 yards on six plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Rodney Anderson, the Miners (0-1) mounted an impressive season-opening drive. Walter Dawn Jr. rushed four times for 49 yards on the eight-play, 78-yard sequence, and finished it off with a 17-yard dash into the end zone as UTEP knotted the contest at 7.

After that, the Sooners continued to roll offensively while the Miners were forced to punt eight times. Dimitri Flowers scored on a three-yard run for OU, then the Sooners went back to the passing game as Mayfield found Grant Calcaterra (16 yards), Andrews (five yards) and CeeDee Lamb (four yards) for TDs. Oklahoma had 419 yards of offense in the first half to UTEP’s 95. The Sooners tacked on a few more touchdowns in the second half behind Murray, who threw a 43-yard pass to Lee Morris and handed off to Jaxon Uhles and Marcelias Sutton for short scoring runs.

Murray was equally as razor-sharp as Mayfield, finishing 10-of-11 passing for 149 yards. Schafer was 3-of-5 for 18 yards while coming on for the Sooners’ final offensive series. The Miner defense had to play a large chunk of the second half without senior linebacker Alvin Jones, who was ejected for targeting and will miss the first half of the Rice game.

Jones picked up five tackles with several family members in attendance including his brother Aaron, the Miners’ all-time leading rusher who made the Green Bay Packers’ final roster the same day. Ryan Metz completed 10-of-18 passes for 56 yards in his first season-opening start before giving way to Zack Greenlee late in the third period. Dawn Jr. rushed for a career-high 56 yards on seven attempts and was the Miners’ top offensive performer.

Oklahoma finished with 676 yards of offense, including 180 on the ground as three backs ran for 50+ yards – Abdul Adams (53), Sutton (52) and Trey Sermon (51). Jeff Badet added 91 yards on four receptions for the Sooners. UTEP tallied 167 yards of offense – 94 passing and 73 rushing. Alan Luna punted eight times for 352 yards, a 44.0-yard average.

BIG CROWDS

UTEP played in front of 86,076 in attendance at Oklahoma Memorial Field on Sept. 2. It’s the fourth-largest crowd for a game involving the Miners since the 2000 season. UTEP played in front of a six-digit crowd (101,144) at Texas on Sept. 9, 2009; 92,863 at Texas Sept. 10, 2016; and 87,126 at Texas A&M on Nov. 9, 2013.

MAKING THEIR DEBUTS

Twenty-six Miners made their UTEP debuts at no. 7 Oklahoma. The players include: RB Ronald Awatt, LB Chris Barnwell, DL Christian Buckingham, WR Alan Busey, RB Joshua Fields, WR Keynan Foster, LB Kalaii Griffin, OL Bijan Hosseini, LB Julian Jackson, DL Christian Johnson, TE David Lucero, DL Trace Mascorro, FB Forest McKee, DB Jesse Montgomery, WR Nesly Ovincy, DB Khalil Rashaad-Brown, LS Jake Sammut, DL Dedrick Simpson, LB Jamar Smith, DB Kahani Smith, DL Keith Sullivan, QB Mark Torrez, OL Logan Tuley-Tillman, K Brady Viles, TE Josh Weeks and LB Barron Wortham Jr..

MAKING THE START

UTEP featured nine new starters at no. 7 Oklahoma – four on offense and five on defense. They included LT Logan Tuley-Tillman, WR Terry Juniel, TB Walter Dawn Jr. and TE Augie Touris on offense; and DE Denzel Chukwukelu, NT Trace Mascorro, DE Luke Elsner, LB Julian Jackson and LB Dylan Parsee on defense.

SEASON NO. 100 FOR UTEP 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.

RISING DAWN

Starting tailback Walter Dawn Jr. impressed in his first college start at no. 7 Oklahoma. The sophomore hit his career best with 56 yards on seven carries (8.0 avg.) with a touchdown. Dawn Jr. actually set his career high with 49 yards on four carries on UTEP’s eight-play, 78-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Dawn Jr.’s 17-yard dash to paydirt.

On that drive, Dawn Jr. set his career long with a 29-yard run. Dawn Jr. also caught a pass for two yards. Dawn Jr.’s previous rushing high was 38 yards at UTSA on Oct. 22, 2016. Dawn Jr. now has three career rushing touchdowns after scoring two at UTSA last season, and four total touchdowns in his career as he caught a 74-yard score against the Roadrunners that day. The 5-foot-6, versatile speedster was listed as a wide receiver last year, but after a solid showing at Camp Ruidoso, he was moved to the starting running back position.

BIG BLOCK FROM A LITTLE GUY

Walter Dawn Jr. not only impressed with his 8.0-yard average per carry, but his 5-foot-6, 175-pound frame put a big block on an OU defender on a third-and-six play. The block let Ryan Metz roll to his left as he hooked up with Warren Redix on a 15-yard pass play. The Miners and Dawn Jr. would eventually find paydirt on the scoring drive.

DOVE RUNNING HARD

Kevin Dove only had 17 yards on five carries at no. 7 Oklahoma, but gained three first downs in short yardage situations, and the way he ran for those first downs was impressive. The sophomore’s first carry came during the first quarter on a third-and-two where he grinded his way for five yards.

The stout OU defense simply could not bring down the 6-foot, 245-pound tailback; even after the whistle blew, Dove kept pounding away. In the third quarter on a third-and-one, Dove came up with another five yards in which he fought his way for the first down. Dove’s third first down came on another third-and-one play in the fourth quarter in which he gained another five yards. Dove also registered a seven-yard reception during the third quarter.

JOSHUA TAKING THE FIELD

True freshman running back from Americas High School in El Paso Joshua Fields saw his first collegiate action at no. 7 Oklahoma. Fields carried four times and tallied a reception during his college debut. Fields checked in with 1:46 left in the second quarter.

AWATT’S DEBUT
Another true freshman running back saw his first college action at no. 7 Oklahoma. Ronald Awatt, a 5-foot-11, 205-pound tailback, recorded a pair of carries for eight yards. Awatt’s long rush was a six-yard dash at the end of the contest.

BLOCK, FOREST, BLOCK

FB Forest McKee from Onate High School in Las Cruces, N.M. made his college debut at no. 7 Oklahoma. McKee made key blocks and even caught a pass for two yards in the fourth quarter.

UTEP SIGNAL CALLERS

A trio of UTEP quarterbacks played under center at no. 7 Oklahoma; while their numbers weren’t big, the three didn’t turn the ball over and were only sacked once. The three quarterbacks (Ryan Metz, Zack Greenlee & Mark Torrez) combined for 94 yards on 16-of-27 passing.

Starting QB Metz went 10-of-18 for 56 yards with a long pass of 15 yards to Warren Redix. Greenlee entered the contest in the third quarter, going 5-for-8 with 31 yards and a long pass of 13 yards to David Lucero. Torrez, a redshirt freshman from Eastwood High School, checked in during the fourth quarter and completed his only pass attempt, a seven-yard toss to Keynan Foster.

METZ & TORREZ HAVE SOMETHING IN COMMON

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-fo-1 (seven yards).

NO INT’S TOSSED

UTEP didn’t throw an interception at no 7 Oklahoma. UTEP was one of 48 programs to not throw an interception in week one. The Miners attempted a combined 27 passes.

PASS CATCHING DEBUT

Five Miners made their debuts at no. 7 Oklahoma as TE’s David Lucero and Josh Weeks, and WR’s Alan Busey, Keynan Foster and Nesly Ovincy saw playing time. Lucero led the newcomers with 13 yards on two catches, while Busey also registered a pair of receptions (nine yards). Weeks also hauled in a six-yard catch and Foster tallied a seven-yard grab.

RETURNING KO’S

Keynan Foster returned a pair of kickoffs for 45 yards (22.3 avg.) with a long of 23 yards in his UTEP debut at Oklahoma. Foster’s career long kickoff was a 25-yard return back in 2015 while at Florida A&M. He finished with seven kickoff returns for 97 yards that season.
RED ZONE OFFENSE
UTEP scored a touchdown, a 17-yard run by Walter Dawn Jr., at no. 7 Oklahoma. It was the only red zone attempt, as UTEP was one of 63 programs to be perfect in red zone offense during week one.

OFFENSIVE LINE HOLDING ITS OWN

The UTEP offensive line received its first test of 2017 as it faced a stout no. 7 Oklahoma defense. The Miners kept their protection intact as they allowed only one sack. UTEP was one of 35 programs that allowed one sack in its opening contest this past weekend. The Miners were also one of five Conference USA schools to only surrender one sack in week one.

PROTECTING THE FIELD GENERAL

The offensive line for the Miners brings experience to the depth chart this season. The unit lost two starters from a year ago but returns senior Will Hernandez, senior Tanner Stallings and junior Derron Gatewood to the lineup. Leading the way for the squad will be Hernandez, who became the first UTEP offensive lineman to garner All-American honors.

The senior has started every game (38) at the left guard position during his three years with the Miners. Senior Derek Elmendorff, after playing in all 12 games last year, has plenty of game experience with 20 career starts at the right guard position. Sophomore Greg Long will provide depth to the line after the El Paso native was named to the All-Conference USA freshman team. Long started a game at right guard before starting three at left tackle.

Junior Jerrod Brooks will add experience at the right tackle position after starting the first half of the 2016 season, along with transfer senior Logan Tuley-Tillman, who has seen multiple reps with the first team offense. Last season the offensive line surrendered 22.0 sacks, which tied for third in C-USA (1.83 p/g). During the last five seasons, including Saturday at OU (2013-17) the Miners have allowed 75 sacks in 50 contests (1.5 p/g). In the previous four seasons (2009-12), UTEP quarterbacks went down 109 times in 49 games (2.2 p/g).

BREAKING DOWN THE O-LINE

The starting five offensive linemen, according to the most recent depth chart, are LT Logan Tuley-Tillman (6’7”, 320 pounds), LG Will Hernandez (6’3”, 330 pounds), C Derron Gatewood (6’2”, 305 pounds), RG Derek Elmendorff (6’3”, 310 pounds) and RT Greg Long (6’4”, 270 pounds). The average weight of the starting five is 307 pounds, while the average height is just under 6-foot-4.

ALL-AMERICAN STATUS

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’S PRESEASON ACCOLADES

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.

DEVIN’S SOLO ACT

Senior Devin Cockrell tied for the team lead with nine tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. Of the nine, six were solo stops, putting Cockrell tied for no. 4 in Conference USA and tied for no. 57 nationally after week one. Cockrell is five tackles away from 200 in his career after Saturday’s effort.

LEWIS’ COMEBACK GAME

Sophomore DB Michael Lewis returned to the gridiron after missing all of 2016. Lewis registered a career-high nine tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. His previous high was six stops at Southern Miss on Halloween 2015. Lewis made the start against the Sooners after starting in eight of 12 games played during his freshman season in 2015. Lewis produced solid numbers his first season, tallying 38 tackles and a pair of breakups.

KEEPING UP WITH ALVIN’S CAREER

Senior Alvin Jones has 246 career tackles (seventh-most at UTEP since the 2000 season) after recording five tackles at no. 7 Oklahoma. Jones also has 10.5 career sacks (needs 1.5 to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list) and 29.5 career tackles for loss (needs 1.0 to etch name on all-time top 10 list).

Jones’s 14.5 tackles for loss in 2015 ranks tied for ninth on the single-season list, while his 5.0 tackles for loss at NM State on Sept. 19, 2015 was 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.

DOUBLE-DIGIT STOPS

Alvin Jones has reached double digits in tackles nine times during his career. 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 in four contests (12 vs. NM State; 16 vs. FIU; 16 at Rice; 12 vs. North Texas).

ACTION JACKSON

Transfer LB Julian Jackson produced solid numbers in his UTEP debut. The senior led all UTEP linebackers with seven tackles, while it was also his collegiate high. Jackson’s previous high came at Wake Forest when he recorded five stops against Tulane on Sept. 1, 2016. Jackson also registered half a tackle for loss.

LOVE FOR LOVILOTTE

Senior LB Dante Lovilotte registered his first full sack in a UTEP uniform. Lovilotte sacked Heisman Trophy Candidate Baker Mayfield for a loss of 10 yards during the first quarter on a fourth-and-three play. Lovilotte tallied half a sack against Old Dominion on Oct. 29, 2016. Lovilotte finished Saturday’s contest with three tackles.

TREYVON’S DEFENSIVE DEBUT

LB Treyvon Hughes, who was a running back during his freshman season in 2015 and missed all of 2016 due to injury, made the switch to linebacker with his 6-foot-1, 255-pound frame. Hughes saw his first action on the other side of the ball at no. 7 Oklahoma in which he registered three tackles and a quarterback hurry.

FIRST START FOR PARSEE

LB Dylan Parsee received his first collegiate start at no. 7 Oklahoma. Parsee came up with a career-high four tackles (three solo), surpassing his previous high of two against Army on Sept. 17, 2016.

JAMAR’S DEBUT

LB Jamar Smith, a transfer from Holmes CC, registered five tackles – all solo – at no. 7 Oklahoma. Smith was active last season as he led his squad with 90 tackles in 10 games.

OTHER DEFENSIVE NOTABLES

There were eight other UTEP defensive players who made their debuts and contributed defensively, as LB Kalaii Griffin (three tackles, 0.5 TFL), DL Dedrick Simpson (three tackles, 0.5 TFL), DB Jesse Montgomery (two tackles), DB Khalil Rashaad-Brown (tackle, QB hurry), LB Chris Barnwell (two tackles), NT Trace Mascorro (two tackles), DB Kahani Smith (tackle) and DE Christian Buckingham (tackle) took to the gridiron on Saturday.

4TH-DOWN DEFENSE

The UTEP defense made a stop on a fourth-down play at no. 7 Oklahoma. Dante Lovilotte sacked quarterback Baker Mayfield on a fourth-and-three for a loss of 10 yards. UTEP is one of 57 programs to rank no. 1 in that department after week one.

DAS BOOT

El Paso native Alan Luna opened 2017 with eight punts for 352 yards (third-most in his career) for an average of 44.0 yards at Oklahoma. The senior punter placed three inside the 20-yard line to tie his career high. Luna also placed three inside the 20 at LA Tech on Oct. 1, 2016.

LUNA CAREER NOTES

Senior Alan Luna moved to seventh from ninth on the program’s all-time list in career punt yards (5,779) and ranks ninth in career punts (135) after Saturday’s performance. Tom Galloway ranks no. 8 in career punts (137), while the overall leader is Jerry Walker (298). Rick Padia ranks no. 6 in career yards (6,380), while the overall leader is Walker (12,193).

Luna’s career high for yards are 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).

LOCAL FLAVOR

The 2017 roster features 28 players from El Pas0 — 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), 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), 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).

SUN CITY SENSATIONS

Thirteen players from El Paso grace the two-deep heading into the Rice game. LB Chris Barnwell, RG Derek Elmendorff, TB Joshua Fields, K/P Jason Filley, FB David Jackson, MIKE Alvin Jones, RT Greg Long, LG Markos Lujan, K/P Alan Luna, QB Ryan Metz, WR (X) Warren Redix, WR (Z) Eddie Sinegal and QB Mark Torrez are listed on the two-deep chart. Of the 12, five of the players (Elmendorff, Filley, Long, Luna, Metz and Jones) are listed as no. 1 at their respective positions.

GRADUATE STUDENT-ATHLETES

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.

HARD WORK PAYS OFF

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.

COACHING YOUR ALMA MATER

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.

CLOSING IN ON WIN NO. 400

The Miners are six wins away from 400 in their program history. Texas Western College chalked up win no. 100 during the 1941 season after it prevailed at Arizona State 28-0 on Nov. 8. The Miners recorded win no. 200 on Sept. 21, 1963, defeating North Texas State 34-7 during the inaugural game in the Sun Bowl.

Toraino Singleton rushed for 199 yards and a score, and Jason Blair hauled in six passes for 95 yards and a touchdown in leading UTEP to a 17-12 triumph over New Mexico for win no. 300 in the Sun Bowl on Nov. 18, 1995.

BOWL MANIA

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.

UP NEXT

UTEP will continue its homestand as Pac-12 opponent Arizona will make its way back to the Sun City after a 40-year absence on Sept. 15 for a Friday night contest. Kickoff is slated for 8 p.m. on ESPN. The Wildcats and Miners last met in 2003, while the last time the two programs met in El Paso was on Nov. 19, 1977 when both were members of the Western Athletic Conference.

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