Miners prepare for high-octane Red Raiders

With last year’s 30 to 26 loss to the Red Raiders lurking in the memory of some Miners, UTEP Head Coach Sean Kugler has knows motivation is  not an issue, execution is.

“I don’t think I have to remind them, they remember, but each year is a different year and each team is a different team,” Kugler said. “We’re going to approach this as a different game, we’re going on the road into a hostile environment and we’re going against a quality Big 12 team and one of the most explosive offenses in the country. We have to prepare for that.”

In preparation for the Red Raiders players shared the same sentiment, but say they look forward to having a different outcome against a Big 12 program like Texas Tech.

“You always want to have confidence going into a game, I think Tech respects us a little bit, it’s a game all of us are excited for,” receiver Autrey Golden said. “Then again a lot of games were close that we lost last year. We have a 24-hour rule, win or lose to get back after it.”

The Miners will have to defend against a Red Raiders offense that likes to score seemingly at will. The Red Raiders defeated Sam Houston State in a 59 to 45 shootout for their season opener.  Tech also ran 88 offensive plays in the process. The Miners’ defense now has the task of minimizing Tech’s point total.

“We need to fly around, do what we do best and make open field tackles, we can’t let them get in space,” linebacker Alvin Jones said. “We have to keep it a low scoring game and minimize their possessions.”

On the offensive side of the ball, the Miners will attempt to slow down the process and not get into a shootout.

“Offensively we look to hold the ball as long as we can and keep our defense off the field,” quarterback Kavika Johnson said. “Time of possession, we have to win that aspect of the game to keep the game in the trenches and play smash-mouth football.”

Johnson was used sparingly against Arkansas in UTEP’s season opener and will again be part of the game plan to provide the team with more offensive options.

“It comes down to decision making with Kavika (Johnson), I trust he can make any throw or make any run, he’s just got to make the right decisions,” Kugler said. “We saw those things on film and again, he’s a very conscious young man, I think he’s going to bounce back and make even better decisions. He’ll be a part of this game plan moving forward.”

Another facet the Miners will have to improve upon against Tech is their special teams unit. The Miners turned the ball over three times in their season opener, twice on fumbles from the special teams.

“I don’t view it as pressure, I enjoy going to work every single day, I love it here,” Kugler said. “This is second home to me, really it is my home. I’m sure he feels the same way about his school there is extra pride, you may take a loss a little bit harder than someone who’s not attached to that school…It’s just something special when you’re coaching your alma mater.

A win for UTEP would certainly infuse the team with confidence as they continue with their three-game road trip, before returning home to the Sun Bowl Sept. 26.

“It would be a big win for us, especially with the upcoming games being against NM State then at home,” Golden said. “You want to come out of these three road games on the positive end. So it’s a big game.”

This will mark the fourth meeting between Tech and UTEP in the past 10 years, games Tech won by four, 14 and three points, respectively. Tech has won six consecutive contests against the Miners dating back to 1963.

Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. (MT) Sept. 12 in Lubbock, Texas, game will air on Fox Sports Net.