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Home | Tag Archives: utep football (page 11)

Tag Archives: utep football

UTEP Honors Athletes of the Year at “Dinner With the Miners”

Football’s Aaron Jones and Track & Field’s Tobi Amusan were named the UTEP Male and Female Athlete of the Year, respectively, at the 43rd annual “Dinner With the Miners” banquet on Thursday night at the Wyndham El Paso Airport.

Soccer’s Aleah Davis received the Golden Miner Award, presented to UTEP’s top all-around senior student-athlete based on athletics, academics and community service.  Former Miner volleyball player Christine Brandl was recipient of the Silver Anniversary Award.

Houston Baptist vs UTEP
Houston Baptist vs UTEP

Jones became UTEP’s all-time leading rusher (4,114 yards) in 2016, breaking a school record that had stood for 28 years.  He ranks seventh on the all-time Conference USA rushing list.  Jones set a school single-season record with 1,773 rushing yards.  He was named a third team All-American by the Associated Press and first team All-Conference USA.

Jones became only the second player in school history to rush for 300 yards in a game, and the first in 51 years, when he rambled for 301 yards against North Texas.  He was named the Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week for his effort.  Jones compiled 17 rushing touchdowns (third in school history), 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth) and scored 120 points (third).

He led Conference USA and rated third nationally in rushing this season, collecting 147.8 yards per contest.  He went over the 100-yard rushing mark seven times, and had 200+ yards in three games.

Amusan made her mark during the 2016 outdoor season, receiving numerous accolades including first team NCAA All-American,

UTEP's Tobi Amusan in the Women's 200 meter dash at the  2017 UTEP Invitational, Kidd Field El Paso, TX
UTEP’s Tobi Amusan in the Women’s 200 meter dash at the 2017 UTEP Invitational, Kidd Field El Paso, TX

Conference USA Track Athlete of the Year and C-USA Freshman of the Meet.  She competed at the 2016 Olympics and World U20 Championships.  She broke a 33-year old school record, and posted the fourth-fastest time in the nation in the 100-meter hurdles (12.83 seconds).

She claimed titles in the 100-meter hurdles and the 200 meters at the C-USA Championships, while adding a runner-up showing in the long jump.  She was NCAA runner-up in the 100-meter hurdles.  Amusan achieved another school record in the 60-meter hurdles during the indoor season (7.98 seconds).  She claimed six first-place finishes during the indoor campaign.  She won two events (60-meter hurdles, 200 meters) at the C-USA Indoor Meet for the champion Miners.  Her time in the 200 meters (23.35 seconds) was a UTEP record.

Amusan was the C-USA High Point Scorer of the Meet.  She recorded a sixth-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles at the NCAA Indoor Championships to earn All-American honors.

Davis earned All-Conference (first team) and All-Region (second team) accolades for the fourth time in as many years, making her the first Miner to achieve the feat.  She started all 22 matches, tallying six goals and eight assists for a team-high tying 20 points.  She posted five game-winning goals.

She helped the Miners register their most wins (13) in seven years and advance to the semifinals of the Conference USA Championships.  She was voted to the NSCAA Senior Women’s College Scholar All-America Team and the C-USA Women’s Soccer All-Academic Team.  Davis also compiled over 100 community service hours during her UTEP career.

The Silver Anniversary Miner Award is presented to an individual who had a distinguished college athletic career, and has continued to contribute to UTEP and the El Paso community.

Brandl played for the Miners from 1988-91 and is the school’s all-time leader for assists (4,210) and service aces (148).  She was a second team Verizon Academic All-American as a junior and senior and was the recipient of an NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship in 1992.

Brandl finished her Premedical Education at UTEP in 1992.  She completed her Medical Education from Texas Tech in 1996 and her Obstetrics and Gynecology Residency at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas in 2000.  She became a certified OBGYN in 2002 and today operates her own private practice, Lifesteps OBGYN, in El Paso.  She has received numerous awards in the medical field and is a former Vice Chairman for Providence Hospital.

Brandl has also volunteered as a volleyball coach at St. Mark’s School and Mount Franklin Christian Academy in El Paso.

The grade point average award was presented to the tennis team, and the community service award went to volleyball.

In addition, team MVP awards were presented to Dominic Artis (men’s basketball), Sparkle Taylor (women’s basketball), Jonah Koech (men’s cross country and outdoor track & field), Winny Koech (women’s cross country), Emmanuel Korir (men’s indoor track & field), Tobi Amusan (women’s indoor and outdoor track & field), Aaron Jones (football), Frederik Dreier (men’s golf), Lily Downs (women’s golf), Bailey Powell (rifle), Alyssa Palacios (soccer), Kaitlin Ryder (softball), Raven Bennett (tennis), Lindsey Larson (volleyball), Bailey Sarver & Omar Gardea (Cheerleading), Jeanna Mullen, James Bias & Will Hernandez (strength & conditioning) and Ariana Rodarte (athletic training).

“Dinner With The Miners” is made possible by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club. The event was inspired by past Lion president John Phelan. In 1979, a $10,000 memorial endowment was established. Due to the overwhelming community support of the event, the memorial fund was raised to $100,000 in 1983.

A second endowment has already been established and continues to grow each year. These two endowments provide funds annually to offset the cost of student-athlete scholarships.

Miners Show Balance in 2017 Spring Game

Quarterbacks Ryan Metz, Zack Greenlee and Mark Torrez all engineered touchdown drives, and the defense registered four sacks in the annual UTEP Football Spring Game under the lights on Friday in the Sun Bowl.

“Kind of like our spring has been all along, both sides of the ball have shown tremendous flashes,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “They are competing against each other. We got through the entire spring really with only one injury, and that’s [running back] Quardraiz Wadley. He has a shoulder injury, which we’re going to have to evaluate and see how that works going into the fall camp. Everybody else is completely healthy heading into fall camp, so we accomplished a lot this spring.”

Metz completed 12-of-17 passes for 94 yards, and was at the controls of the offense when Walter Dawn scored the team’s third and final touchdown of the night on a two-yard run. Greenlee finished 4-of-7 for 43 yards, including a nine-yard scoring run. Torrez was 3-for-9 for 20 yards, including a four-yard TD pass to tight end Josh Weeks.

“I thought Ryan was solid moving the ball,” Kugler said. “We got it stalled down there in the red zone, [and] he threw a nice fade ball there at the end for a touchdown. Ryan has had an outstanding spring. He is a leader and he works hard. Zack Greenlee moved the ball well tonight. Probably the guy that really had a great spring, and it’s not a surprise to me, is Mark Torrez from here in town. He’s got a lot of juice, he can run, throw, he’s got that moxie that you’re looking for in a quarterback. He’s going to be one to watch coming into the fall.”

Dawn led the Miners with 29 yards rushing on 11 carries. Ronald Awatt added nine rushes for 22 yards, and Kevin Dove had six carries for 21 yards. Even if Wadley can’t go, Kugler likes his depth at running back.

“I think we’ve got a lot of talent there,” he said. “We’ve got Ronald Awatt, Kevin Dove, TK Powell who was injured all spring and he’ll be back healthy in the fall, and then we add [incoming freshman] Josh Fields as well. We may add one more to that group. It’s a young group, but a very talented group. My biggest concern there would be more protection-wise when you have young guys like that, but we’ll be creative and make sure that we get that handled.”

Terry Juniel was UTEP’s top receiver with five catches for 47 yards, and Kavika Johnson chipped in with 29 yards on four receptions. Tight ends Weeks and David Lucero combined for four catches and 37 yards.

Two guys who have switched positions from last season, Dawn and Johnson, looked comfortable in their new roles.

“Walter Dawn is going to be a full-time running back and you saw him there stick the guy on third and one. Just because he’s small doesn’t mean he’s not tough,” Kugler said. “He can catch the ball. He’ll generate a lot of yardage back there catching the ball and also running the ball. He’ll be there full-time, and we’re leaving Kavika Johnson full-time at wide receiver. You saw what he can do tonight. He is going to be a talented player for us.”

Kugler said the Miners may add a player at wide receiver between now and the start of fall camp. “And Eddie Sinegal, right now he is suspended academically but we anticipate having him back in the fall as well,” he said.

Jerrell Brown, Alex Jean Charles, Josh Ortega and Barron Wortham Jr. recorded a sack apiece. Brown in particular was all over the field with four tackles, a tackle for loss and pass break-up. The defense was minus stalwarts Devin Cockrell and Dante Lovilotte.

Kugler said he has been very pleased with his team’s effort this spring.

“They compete against each other. They come out every day,” he said. “Really, going through spring ball, you would anticipate maybe having one bad practice. I think we only had one right there about the middle, we kind of jumped their tails about it and they responded well the next day. This team comes to work. As a head coach, this has been my most rewarding spring. We have had no off-the-field issues, knock on wood. These kids are taking care of business and they’re working hard in the weight room. I think they are ready to have a good summer and camp and they’re a hungry team. They feel like they’re kind of looked down upon and nobody gives them a chance, and that’s the way we like it.”

In fact, Kugler said this squad reminds him of his second team, the 2014 squad that finished 7-6 and played in the New Mexico Bowl.

“They’ve got a chip on their shoulder, they’re hungry, they work hard and there are no issues with these guys,” he said. “They come to work every day. I really like the team. This is the group we’re going to move into the season with, and I feel good about that.”

HP Sports In Depth: UTEP Football to Host Spring Game Friday

The UTEP football team will conclude spring drills this Friday at 6 p.m. with the annual Spring Game in the Sun Bowl.

Gates will open to the public at 5 p.m. and admission is free. Parking will be available north of the P-9 lot and at the lots around the Sun Bowl.

Concession stands will be open for fans, and various food trucks will be parked in the concourse, adding to the variety of snacking options for fans. Additionally, the first 300 students to arrive at the game will receive a free tank top.

As for the game, football fans will get to see a variety of different lineup combinations, a live scrimmage and simulated game situations. Special in-game videos will pit the players against the coaches in a variety of grueling activities.

After the game, the seniors and head coach Sean Kugler will sign complimentary spring game posters. There will also be a free football clinic for youth 13 and under.

Roster Rundown

UTEP returns 44 lettermen (21 offensive, 21 defensive and two special teams) from the 2016 team. The Miners have 14 starters (five offensive, seven defensive and two special teams) coming back. The offensive line will once again be counted on to provide stability with three starters returning from last season, including All-American Will Hernandez.

On defense, the linebacker core returns three starters (Alvin Jones, Dante Lovilotte and Jayson VanHook). Jones and Lovilotte rated first and second on the team in tackles last season. They combined for 182 tackles and 12.5 tackles for loss. UTEP will also have 22 newcomers in the mix, with 17 coming out of high school, three junior-college transfers and two division I transfers.

Depth Cart Breakdown

The Miners’ two-deep roster has a distinct El Paso flavor to it, with 12 projected starters (five offense, five special teams and two defense) hailing from the Sun City. There are also five immediate back-ups (four offense, one special teams) currently featuring El Pasoans. In terms of experience upperclassmen are expected to account for 18 (nine offense, seven defense and two special teams) of the 27 positions listed on the depth chart.

Protecting the Field

The offensive line for the Miners brings experience to the depth chart this season. The unit lost two starters from last season but return Will Hernandez, Tanner Stallings and Derron Gatewood. Leading the way for the squad will be Hernandez, who in 2016 became the first UTEP offensive lineman to garner All-American honors.

The senior has started every game (37) at the left guard position during his three years with the Miners. The Miners also return three linemen that have starting experience.

Adding depth will be 2016 All-Conference USA freshman team recipient Greg Long. Long started a game at right guard before starting three at left tackle. At the opposite side of the line, junior Jerrod Brooks started the first half of the 2016 campaign at right tackle.

Also returning for the unit will be Derek Elmendorff. The senior has combined for 19 starts at right guard and will look to contribute this season.

All-American Status

Offensive lineman Will Hernandez has started every game in his three years with the Miners. Last season, Hernandez was the first offensive lineman at the school to receive AP All-American second team and FOX Sports’ All-American honors. The senior was also first offensive lineman since 2009 to earn All-Conference USA first team recognition.

Hernandez’s national recognition didn’t stop there, garnering Pro Football Focus Pass Protector of the Year. The Miners capped season off with two showings of more than 500 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing in victory over North Texas.

Amazin’ Metz

Ryan Metz played in 11 games, starting seven during the 2016 season. Metz completed 64.7 percent of his passes, the second-best completion percentage during a single season in program history. Metz tossed 14 touchdowns, the most passing scores by a Miner since 2010. Metz also led the squad with 1,375 yards on 130-of-201 passing and only four interceptions.

In fact, the El Paso native increased his touchdown passes from 2015 (six touchdowns) and decreased his interceptions from the season prior (seven interceptions). Metz’s 141.14 passing efficiency was the program’s fifth best single-season performance, while it ranked sixth in Conference USA. Metz produced big numbers during a 5OT win at UTSA.

Metz tied his career high with three touchdown strikes against the Roadrunners and threw for 211 yards on 15-of-23 passing. Metz was named one of eight Manning Award Stars of the Week following his performance in San Antonio. Metz produced two more solid outings in front of his hometown fans, throwing three more touchdowns against Houston Baptist and registering two passing scores, including a career-long 72-yard toss against North Texas. Metz also showed fancy feet, as he tallied a career-long 42-yard dash against the Mean Green.

Alvin’s Impact

Alvin Jones is returning for his senior season in 2017 at the linebacker position. In 2016, Jones played in 10 contests, making eight starts and missing two games due to injury. The El Paso native earned All-Conference USA second team honors after leading the team in tackles 93 (44 solo) and ranking tied 11th in C-USA in total tackles. Jones also led team with 72 tackles on rushing plays and ranked fourth in C-USA in tackles per game (9.3).

The Burges High School graduate added 6.0 tackles for loss (28 yards), 2.5 sacks (22 yards) and a pass breakup. Jones has 241 career tackles (seventh most at UTEP since the 2000 season), 10.5 career sacks (needs 1.5 to crack the program’s all-time top 10 list), 29.5 career tackles for loss (needs 1.0 to etch name on all-time top 10 list).

Jones opened his junior campaign with a 12-tackle performance, including, a tackle for loss, during a victory against rival NM State. Jones brought his best to the table when he established a caree best with 16 tackles (seven solo) against FIU.

The total tackles against the Panthers were the most by an individual UTEP player since the 2013 season (17 tackles). Five weeks later, Jones amassed 16 more tackles (11 solo) at Rice, while chipping in with a sack against the Owls. His junior season was capped with another 12-tackle outing, while registering a sack and 1.5 tackles for loss during a dominant victory against North Texas.

Making the Change

UTEP head coach Sean Kugler brought in four transfer players to make immediate impacts in 2017. Tight ends David Lucero and Josh Weeks, and a pair of defensive players, LB Kalaii Griffin and DB Kahani Smith, will don the Orange and Blue in 2017.

After Hayden Plinke graduated, Lucero and Weeks will look to fill the tight end gap. Lucero, who is 6’5 and 230 pounds, saw action in all 12 games at Arizona Western College, catching nine passes for 91 yards and a score in 2016.

Weeks, who also possessees great physical attributes (6’4, 255 pounds), played in two games at BYU (three rec., 23 yards) in 2015. Griffin registered 40 tackles (30 solo) in nine games played at Ventura Community College in 2016. Smith was a playmaker at Riverside Community College, seeing action in 11 games at the strong safety position.

Smith notched 36 tackles, four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and three touchdowns (a pick-six and two scoop-and-scores).

Bowl Mania

UTEP will face eight opponents in 2017 who made a bowl game in 2016. The Miners will open with Oklahoma (Sugar Bowl) on Sept. 2 in Norman,Okla.

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 Duke lead the list with 11 bowl opponents each, while South Florida will see 10. Florida and Tulsa will face nine bowl opponents, and East Carolina will take on eight in 2017.

UTEP-Arizona Football Game Moved to Friday Night For ESPN

The UTEP football team’s non-conference game against Arizona has been moved from Saturday, Sept. 16 to Friday, Sept. 15 and will be nationally televised on ESPN.  Conference USA’s first wave of national TV selections were announced on Thursday.

It marks only the second ESPN telecast of a UTEP football home game in the Sun Bowl.  The first was on Oct. 21, 2009 against Tulsa, a game the Miners won 28-24.

The Miners and the Wildcats will kick off at 8:15 p.m. MT in the Sun Bowl.

“We’re excited about showcasing our beautiful stadium and great fans before a national television audience on ESPN,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “It should be an electric night in the Sun Bowl.”

The last time the Miners appeared on ESPN was on Dec. 20, 2014 versus Utah State in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

Additional Conference USA football television exposures through other league television partners, as well as select non-conference road games that will air on other conferences television packages will be released as soon as they are finalized.

UTEP football season tickets are available now by calling (915) 747-6150 or

UTEP Renews Football Series with New Mexico and Nevada

EL PASO – UTEP Athletic Department officials announced on Wednesday that football series with old Western Athletic Conference (WAC) rivals Nevada and New Mexico have been renewed for future seasons.

“We’re excited to renew rivalries with old WAC foes New Mexico and Nevada,” said head coach Sean Kugler. “Both are teams that El Paso fans are very familiar with and will be excited to see.”

The Miners will play host to the Wolf Pack on Sept. 21, 2019, and travel to Reno, Nevada on Sept. 12, 2020.  UTEP is scheduled to meet the Lobos on Sept. 25, 2021 in the Sun Bowl while paying a visit to Albuquerque, N.M. on Sept. 17, 2022.

UTEP squared off with Nevada on three occasions (2000-02) previously.  The Wolf Pack has a 2-1 series edge, with the Miners emerging triumphant in Reno (45-22) during their WAC championship 2000 season.

The last time the Miners faced the Lobos was in the 2014 season opener at Albuquerque. UTEP defeated New Mexico 31-24 on its way to an appearance in the New Mexico Bowl.

The UTEP-New Mexico series is the second-longest in school history (78 games) next to NM State (94 contests). New Mexico leads the series, 43-32-3. The Miners and the Lobos were joint members of the WAC from 1968-98.

UTEP’s Ground Game Shines In First Scrimmage of Spring

Quadraiz Wadley rushed nine times for 72 yards and two touchdowns to steal the show in the first spring scrimmage for the UTEP football team on a windy Friday morning at the Sun Bowl.

UTEP’s rushing attack accounted for six of the seven touchdowns on the day, with Kavika Johnson (17-yard TD, 5-yard TD), Walter Dawn (10-yard TD) and Terry Juniel (13-yard TD) also finding paydirt. The Miners averaged better than 5.5 yards per carry (25-141), aided by five gains of at least 10 yards.

Strong wind gusts made it tough to accomplish much through the air. Ryan Metz (4-10, 36 yards, INT), Zach Greenlee (2-9, 33 yards) and Mark Torrez (1-2, 20 yards, TD) combined to go 7-21 for 89 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The seven completions went to seven different receivers, with Richie Rodriguez hauling in a 20-yard toss from Torrez for the lone score through the air.

There were also some bright spots for the Miner defense, which produced two sacks (Dylan Parsee and Dedrick Simpson) and an interception (Lawrence Montegut). Montegut and Johnny Jones were also credited with a pass break-up.

Nik Needham finished with a team-high four tackles while Dante Lovilette (three), Justin Rogers (two), Stephen Forester (two) also had multiple stops.

But the day belonged to Wadley. After being halted for three yards on his first rush, the rising sophomore was practically unstoppable the rest of the way. Wadley scampered for at least five yards on each of his final eight rushes, including bursts of 12 and 15 yards.  He also had both of his touchdowns (eight yards, five yards) in the stretch.

Tables Being Sold for 43rd “Dinner With the Miners”

Tables are now on sale for the 43rd edition of “Dinner With the Miners,” the annual awards banquet for UTEP Athletics. This year’s event, sponsored by the El Paso Downtown Lions Club, will be held on Thursday, April 27 at the Wyndham El Paso Airport.

Coaches and student-athletes will be in attendance for each of UTEP’s 16 Division I sports, with Most Valuable Athlete awards being presented.

UTEP’s Male and Female Athlete of the Year will also be announced as well as the recipient of the Golden Miner Award, presented to UTEP’s top all-around student-athlete based on athletics, academics and community service.

The social hour begins at 5 p.m., with dinner and the program to follow at 6:15 p.m.

Prices are $275 for three seats at a shared table with two student-athletes/coaches, and $500 for six seats at a shared table with four student-athletes/coaches. Funds raised are allocated to the UTEP student-athlete scholarship fund.

For more information or to purchase tickets, please call Jim Peak at (915) 581-0490.

UTEP Football Adds Former Montwood Coach Veliz as Wide Receivers Coach

Head Coach Sean Kugler announced Chuck Veliz as the Miners wide receivers coach on Friday.

Prior to coming to UTEP, Veliz was the head coach and athletic coordinator for Montwood High School for 13 years and compiled 11 winning seasons with the Rams.

While with the Rams, Veliz mentored current Miner Warren Redix who earned back-to-back All-District 1-5A Overall MVP honors. During his senior campaign, Redix compiled 751 rushing yards on 63 carries and added 39 tackles. Redix had four showings with 100 or more receiving yards as a senior. As a junior he notched 857 yards (13.82 average) on 62 receptions and five touchdowns.

The Rams finished the 2012 season 8-3 overall and 6-1 in league play. Montwood opened the season beating the highly competitive Odessa Permian.

In 2007, Montwood established a 10-2 overall record including an 8-0-league record. The team registered 270.3 receiving yards per game, 141.8 rushing yards per game and totaled 53 touchdowns in the season. The Rams recorded five showings of 300 or more passing yards.

In 2006, Veliz led the Rams to an 8-3 mark and a district championship. He mentored former Miner Julio Lopez, who guided Montwood that season and was named first team All-District, All-City and honorable mention All-State honors after registering 51 catches for 978 yards and eight touchdowns.

Veliz led the Rams to a bi-district title in 2004 going 6-0 in district play and advancing to the second round of playoffs. Leading the way for Montwood was three-star recruit Edward Britton. Britton was an Associated Press Class 5A First-Team All-State selection. While with the Rams tallied 2,172 rushing yards, averaging nearly 9.0 yards per carry and 220.0 yards per game. Britton was a four-year letterwinner at Texas Tech.

Prior to coaching at Montwood, Veliz went 35-10 at Del Valle from 1998-2002. In 2000, the Conquistadores went 11-1 and Veliz was named the El Paso Times Coach of the Year.

Before being appointed the head coach of Del Valle, Veliz served as an assistant coach for the Conquistadores for five seasons and began coaching high school football at Bel Air from 1987-88.

Veliz graduated from Ysleta High School in 1982 and received his bachelor’s degree from UTEP in 1987.

Veliz and his wife, Terri, have three children – Chris, Amanda and Joshua.

UTEP Football’s Spring Practice Starts Monday

The UTEP football team will kick off its spring training on March 6 at Glory Field.

The Miners will practice Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s from March 6-April 12. The team will have a week off from March 13-19 for spring break. The team will conclude the spring season with the annual spring game on April 14 at 7 p.m.  at the Sun Bowl.

Admission is free and fans will receive a free commemorative spring-game poster during the post-game autograph session with the seniors for the 2017 season.

The Miners enter the 2017 season returning 44 letterwinners and 14 starters (five offense/seven defense/two special teams). Leading the way for the offense is All-American Will Hernandez. The offensive lineman started all 12 games in 2016 and was named to the All-Conference USA first team.

The offense capped season off with a season-high 555 yards of total offense, including a season-best 384 yards rushing, which was the most since 1983.

On defense, UTEP is led by Alvin Jones who earned All-C-USA second team after leading team in tackles with 93 total. The linebacker in his career has notched 241 tackles, 10.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss.

The Miners will open the 2017 campaign on the road against No. 5 Oklahoma on Sept. 2 and will then return home on Sept. 9 to face Rice. Season tickets go on sale tomorrow and can be purchased by calling the UTEP Season Ticket Office at (915) 747-6150. For more ticket information visit,

UTEP Football Inks 17 on National Signing Day

The UTEP football team inked 17 student-athletes during National Signing Day on Wednesday.

Out of the 17 signees, four are junior college transfers and 13 are high school athletes. A total of seven offensive and 10 defensive players make up the roster of the 2017 signing class.

Sean Kugler once again recruited local talent signing five El Paso natives. In the five seasons since taking over as head coach of the Miners, Kugler has signed a total of 22 athletes from the Sun City (2013: four, 2014: two, 2015: four, 2016: seven, 2017: five). This will put UTEP at 35 El Paso natives on the roster, making one-third of the team homegrown talent.

The haul includes 10 student-athletes from the state of Texas. Including for the second year in a row the Player of the Year in the state of Texas. Of the remaining signees, three are from California, and one each from New Mexico, Alabama, Maryland and Georgia.


The Miners will commence spring ball on March 6 at Glory Field.



Name                           Pos.       Ht.       Wt.      Hometown (Previous School)

Alex Fernandes           QB          6-3      200     Austin, Texas (Vandegrift HS)

Calvin Brownholtz      QB          6-1      200     Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit HS)

Forest McKee              FB           6-1      240     Las Cruces, N.M. (Onate HS)

David Lucero               TE          6-5      230     Holtville, Calif. (Arizona Western College)

Cutter Leftwich           OL          6-1      285     El Paso, Texas (Franklin HS)

Jalen Spady                 OL          6-3      340     Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville HS)

Trace Mascorro           DL          6-1      275     Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Javaughn Thomas       DE/LB    6-2      230     El, Paso, Texas (El Paso HS)

Kalaii Griffin                LB           6-1      220     Bethesda, Md. (Ventura CC)

Kobie Herring             LB           6-0      220     Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Jamar Smith                LB           5-11    230     Lyons, Ga. (Holmes CC)

Brent Ugochukwu       LB           6-0      210     Richmond, Texas (George Ranch HS)

Joshua Wells                LB           6-1      215     El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)

James Tupou               LB           5-10    230     Allen, Texas (Allen HS)

Kahani Smith              DB          6-1      185     Los Angeles, Calif. (Riverside CC)

Tyson Wilson               DB          5-10    165     McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)


Alex Fernandes | QB | 6-3 | 200 | Austin, Texas (Vandegrift HS)

Played three seasons of varsity football at Vandegrift High School … in 2016, threw for 11 scores and 1,559 yards on 132-of-248 passing … rushed for 299 yards and three touchdowns, while tallying an 11-yard scoring reception as a senior … 247sports.com3-star athlete … named District 25-6A second team offense following senior campaign … threw for a season-high 235 yards on 13-of-19 passing with a season-best three touchdowns during a 55-0 victory over Lehman … during junior season, set career bests in touchdown passes (37), yards (2,924), completion percentage (62.2), completions (176) and attempts (283) … named District 25-5A first team offense following junior campaign … registered career highs in passing yards (351) and touchdown throws (six) in a 63-55 victory against Vista Ridge … during career, threw for 53 touchdowns and 4,814 yards on 331-of-573 passing … rushed for 410 yards and six scores during three-year career.

Calvin Brownholtz | QB | 6-1 | 200 | Carmichael, Calif. (Jesuit HS)

Played final two seasons on the varsity squad at Jesuit High School … in 2016, threw for 2,333 yards on 134-of-257 passing … connected on 26 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions … averaged 17.4 yards per pass … finished with a quarterback rating of 100.9 … rushed for 190 yards on 57 carries and a score … named MaxPreps 2016 All-NorCal second team (athlete position) … threw a season-high four touchdown passes during a win against Franklin … tallied a season-best 289 yards on 14-of-21 passing and tossing three scores in a victory against Grant … followed the next week with three more scoring passes and 244 yards (8-for-13 passing) … threw at least four touchdowns in eight of 13 contests played.

Forest McKee | FB | 6-1 | 240 | Las Cruces, N.M. (Onate HS)

Played three seasons and started two of varsity football … saw action in 33 games as a linebacker and fullback … notched a total of 289 tackles (112s/177a), 5.0 sacks, three interceptions, 141 carries for 864 yards and nine scores … during senior campaign, registered 167 tackles (64s/103a), 11 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks (10 yards), two interceptions and one forced fumble … on offense, ran 23 times for 147 yards and two touchdowns … recorded back-to-back showings of 20 tackles versus Las Cruces and Centennial … tallied 34 yards on two carries versus Rio Rancho … posted 19 tackles in a victory over Atisco Heritage Academy … notched two interceptions, 11 stops and one sack in 56-28 win over La Cueva … as a junior, recorded 717 yards on 118 attempts and seven scores … opened season rushing for 123 yards on eight carries (15.4 avg.) and a career-long 76-yard run …  rushed for a career-best 141 yards on 18 carries and notched two touchdowns … on defense, tallied 122 tackles (48s/74a), a sack and a interception … registered a career best of 24 tackles (5s/19a) against Centennial … garnered All-State first team honors and was named Linebacker of the Year.

David Lucero | TE | 6-5 | 230 | Holtville, Calif. (Arizona Western College)
Saw action in all 12 games at Arizona Western College … caught nine passes for 91 yards and a touchdown in 2016 … tallied season bests in receptions (six), yards (71) and hauled in a score during a win against Glendale Community College … Arizona Western compiled an undefeated conference record (8-0), while going 11-1 overall in 2016 … played in 11 games, tallying 63 yards on four receptions (15.8 avg.) at Boise State in 2015 … recorded first career catch (26 yards) at BYU … pulled in a 15-yard reception against Idaho State … named San Diego Section All-Manzanita League first team on both offense and defense as a junior and senior … caught 38 passes for 819 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also registering 33 tackles, three interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in his final prep season (2013) … three-star recruit to both and … rated no. 27 nationally at his position by … rated no. 57 overall in California by… during sophomore season, was named second-team all-league on offense after catching 22 passes for 422 yards and four scores.

Cutter Leftwich | OL | 6-1 | 285 | El Paso, Texas (Franklin HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at Franklin High School … named All-District 1-6A first team offense following senior campaign … in 2016, helped create holes for the rushing attack as the Cougars tallied 2,117 yards on the ground with 21 touchdowns … Cougar quarterbacks combined for 2,119 yards passing, 24 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2016 … Franklin offense racked up a season-high 333 yards on 34 rush attempts (9.8 avg.) and 311 passing yards during a 53-28 victory against Pebble Hills … Cougars passed for a season-best 381 yards (34-for-51) and six scores versus Americas … Franklin dismantled Socorro 59-14 behind 316 rushing yards (9.0 avg.) and six rushing scores … Franklin edged Eastwood 41-40 behind 347 yards on 21-of-37 passing and three touchdowns, while adding 128 rushing yards and a pair of rushing scores … earned Texas High School Coaches Association All-State football academic honorable mention.

Jalen Spady | OL | 6-3 | 340 | Huntsville, Ala. (Huntsville HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at Huntsville High School … earned 2016 All-Huntsville Region football team honorable mention as an offensive lineman … Panthers dominated Grissom 67-14 behind 423 yards on 50 carries (8.5 avg.); the quarterback alone gained 172 yards on eight attempts (21.5 avg.) and a rushing score, while throwing four touchdowns … Huntsville defeated Columbia 40-21 on 376 yards of total offense, including 257 yards in the air … son of former Miner great James Spady, who was recently inducted to UTEP Centennial team.

Trace Mascorro | DL | 6-1 | 275 | Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad on both sides of the ball at Refugio High School … tallied 165 tackles (59 solo), 28 tackles for loss, 20 quarterback hurries, 4.0 sacks and two fumble recoveries with a return for a touchdown … no sacks allowed while playing on the offensive line … efforts helped lead the Bobcats to a 15-1 record, while winning the 2016 Class 2A Division I State Championship … registered five tackles, 2.0 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry in the championship game … one of three Refugio players to be named 2016 Victoria Advocate All-Area football team MVP following efforts in 2016 … named District 15-2A Division I All-District football first team on offense and defense (G/DT) in 2015 … named first team on both sides of the ball (DE/OT) in 2014 … named to District 16-2A Division II All-District football first team offense in 2013.

Javaughn Thomas | DE/LB | 6-2 | 230 | El Paso, Texas (El Paso HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at El Paso High School … saw time on offense and defense … on offense in 2016, tallied 153 yards on 21 carries (7.3 avg.) and four touchdowns, while producing 88 yards on five receptions … on defense in 2016, registered 58 tackles (33 solo), 2.0 sacks and a fumble recovery … earned 5-A All-District first team defense honors … named to El Paso Times All-District first team defense … scored a rushing touchdown in four consecutive games … rushed for a season-high 92 yards on three carries (30.7 avg.) and a score, while adding a season-best 12 tackles and a fumble recovery versus Irvin … recorded 56 yards on four receptions and tallied four tackles against Hanks … recorded a sack and six stops versus Cobre … during three-year career, recorded 137 tackles (69 solo), 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.

Kalaii Griffin | LB | 6-1 | 220 | Bethesda, Md. (Ventura CC)
Led team to 5-0 conference and 8-3 overall record …  saw action in nine games during 2016 season … registered 40 (30s/10a) tackles, four tackles for loss, one forced fumble and five pass breakups … notched a career high of seven stops and three breakups in victory over Orange Coast … posted a personal best of seven solo tackles in 48-25 win over Canyons … recorded first career forced fumble against Bakersfield and added five tackles … notched four stops, two tackles for loss and a pass breakup in win over Moorpark … 2016 Southern California Football Association Northern Conference Honorable Mention defense … a two-sport letterwinner at Walter Johnson HS in football and wrestling … as a senior racked up 53 tackles, 17 pass breakups, one interception and one sack …. Also proved to be threat on kick return, recording 325 return yards on the season … tallied 36 pass breakups in two seasons with the Wildcats.

Kobie Herring | LB | 6-0 | 220 | Refugio, Texas (Refugio HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at Refugio High School … amassed 200 tackles (80 solo) with 37 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery returned for a touchdown … allowed one sack while playing on the offensive line … efforts helped lead the Bobcats to a 15-1 record, while winning the 2016 Class 2A Division I State Championship … tallied five tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and was named the defensive MVP of the championship game … one of three Refugio players to be named 2016 Victoria Advocate All-Area football team MVP following efforts in 2016 … named APSE Class 2A All-State football first team defense, while also being named APSE Class 2A Defensive MVP for the state of Texas … in 2014 and 2015, repeated as the District 15-2A Division I Defensive MVP, while also earning first team honors on the offensive line.

Jamar Smith | LB | 5-11 | 230 | Lyons, Ga. (Holmes CC)

Led defense in tackles during both seasons at Holmes Community College … led team with 90 tackles (66 solo) in 10 games played during 2016 … averaged a team-best 9.0 tackles per game … added 2.0 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, four pass breakups and a blocked kick … registered double-digit tackles in five different contests … named MACJC First Team All-State and NJCAA All-Region XXIII … notched a career-high 15 tackles (12 solo), along with 3.0 tackles for loss and a pass breakup against Copiah-Lincoln … opened sophomore campaign with back-to-back, 12-tackle performances (at East Central [MS], vs. Southwest Mississippi) … notched a sack at East Central (MS) and against Iowa Western … led Falcons with 59 tackles in 2015, while adding 3.0 sacks and 6.0 tackles for loss … was 60-0 as a wrestler in high school.

Brent Ugochukwu | LB | 6-0 | 210 | Richmond, Texas (George Ranch HS)

Played all four years on the varsity squad at George Ranch High School … earned Texas High School Coaches Association All-State football academic honorable mention in 2016 … named District 24-5A All-District football first team defense following junior campaign … efforts in 2015 surged George Ranch High School to a 16-0 record and the 5A Division I Texas State Championship … named to 24-5A first team following junior season … tallied six tackles and an interception in the state championship contest … the Longhorns posted a 48-8 overall record the past four seasons (2013-16).

Josh Wells | LB | 6-1 | 215 | El Paso, Texas (Parkland HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at Parkland High School … finished ranked third in the state of Texas in sacks following senior season …  produced monster numbers in 2016, posting 25.0 sacks (204 yards), 132 tackles (82 solo), three pass breakups, a pair of fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and blocked four punts … Parkland defense recorded a season-high 13.0 sacks during victory against Bel Air … named District 2-5A All-District Football Defensive MVP following senior season … efforts helped Matadors to an 8-4 overall record and a playoff spot … in 2015, tallied 59 tackles (18 solo), 8.0 sacks (59 yards), seven hurries, three pass breakups, a fumble recovery, two forced fumbles and blocked a punt … earned honorable mention defense 2-5A All-District selection following junior campaign … earned 2-5A All-District football honorable mention offense at the tight end position in 2014.

James Tupou | LB | 5-10 | 230 | Allen, Texas (Allen HS)

Played two seasons on the varsity squad at Allen High School … named All-District 6-6A first team defense … named Texas APSE Class 6A all-state football honorable mention following senior campaign … earned 2016 Texas Associated Press Sports Editors Class 6A all-state honorable mention defense … efforts helped Allen High School to a 14-1 overall mark and a trip to the state playoffs … the Eagles compiled a 28-2 record the last two seasons (2015, 2016) … brother Sione plays linebacker for UTEP.

Kahani Smith | DB | 6-1 | 185 | Los Angeles, Calif. (Riverside)
Saw action in 11 games at the safety position leading team to a 10-2 overall record … notched 36 tackles, four interceptions, 11 pass breakups and three touchdowns during the 2016 season … in first game of the season, registered a career-high six stops and added two breakups in victory over Victor Valley … helped the Tigers claim a 77-7 win over LA Harbor with first defensive score on a 47-yard pick six … posted a career best two interceptions (16 yards) against Saddleback and added five tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a fumble return for a touchdown … recorded a career high four pass breakups versus Long Beach … guided team past El Camino with four tackles, one interception and two pass breakups … 2016 Unanimous National Division Central League first team defense selection … in 2015 played in five games and started in three at Dixie State … registered 29 total tackles … notched nine tackles and one pass breakup versus Azusa Pacific … recorded five or more tackles in four of the five games … 2014 second team All-Moore League in football.

Tyson Wilson | DB | 5-10 | 165 | McKinney, Texas (McKinney HS)

Played three seasons on the varsity squad at McKinney High School … saw action on both sides of the ball, but mostly at defense … tallied 53 tackles (42 solo), five interceptions (101 yards) with a pick six, two pass breakups and blocked a pair of field goal attempts … caught a pass for eight yards … named All-Collin County second team defense honors … notched a pair of interceptions (74 yards) including one for a score and tallied five tackles during a victory against Pearce … registered seven tackles and an interception against Keller … added another pick with three stops in a win over Plano … recorded seven tackles and an interception against Wylie … concluded high school career with an 11-tackle performance against Boyd … opened junior campaign (2015) with 11 tackles against Pearce … amassed a career-high 16 stops along with picking off a pass against Prosper … earned All-District 10-5A football first team defense following junior season.

FULL TRANSCRIPT – UTEP Football Signing Day Quotes

“During the season, you get caught up in so many things that you really don’t get a chance to stop and thank some people.  The recruiting process is not something that happens overnight.  It is not something that is thrown together over a weekend.  It is a year-long process and the coaches put so much work into it, so much travel, their families withstand that, being away from home for extended periods of time.  But there are a lot of people that I want to thank starting with our secretaries, Mona, Norma and Donna.   They put a lot of work in getting the travel set up, getting the itineraries set up.


“The guys that probably put in the most work are the graduate assistants.  These guys are putting countless hours in, watching film, helping coaches while they’re on the road, keeping the communication lines open when everybody is on the road.  Really, they do all the work on the recruiting weekends driving parents around, picking up players at the airport and their job is tireless throughout that whole process.  I want to thank them.


“And most importantly, the coaches.  The coaches put in long hours, but the whole process is done collectively as a group.  Every one of these players that I am going to announce in a few minutes, we went through a painstaking process of number one, making sure that these are young men that have a burning desire to get a degree, that these are young men that are going to fit well into our program, we call them our kind of guys, guys that we feel will flourish here in El Paso and flourish here in this program.  And then before we ever do that, we want to find out about their character.  We want to make sure these young men are going to be here at UTEP and represent our program the proper way on and off the field.  Until that point, we don’t even turn on the film.  Once we’ve identified that, we can turn on the film and we are looking for football players that are productive.  I know that everybody in this day and age gets caught up in the star system and recruiting services and recruiting rankings.  We don’t put a lot of stock in that, if any.


“I always find it very interesting, I want to read a few stats here.  This year in the Super Bowl that’s about to be played on Sundaybetween Atlanta and New England, 37 percent of the Super Bowl starters that are going to line up on that field, which is the highest level of football, weren’t even in their top 1,000 in the recruiting classes that they participated in.  I am going to throw a couple of names at you.  Malcolm Butler, MVP two Super Bowls ago, was not even rated, did not get a star.  Alex Mack who is a Pro Bowl center for Atlanta, he was a two-star.  Chris Hogan who just got MVP of the AFC Championship Game for New England, zero stars.  Shea McClellin who was a first round draft pick that starts at linebacker for New England, 0 stars.  Patrick Chung, first round draft pick, two stars.  Stephen Gostkowski, probably the best kicker in the game right now, zero stars.  Robert Alford, starting corner and Jonathan Babineaux, starting defensive end for the Atlanta Falcons, two stars.  It doesn’t really make sense putting stock into that.


“We’ve got to make sense out of what we see on film and we have to do a lot of projecting here.  We may have to take a kid who’s undersized, like a Nick Usher four year ago who was zero stars and weighed 195 pounds.  Well, Nick Usher just played the NFL PA game and had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery.  He is 245 pounds and the projection was right.  Here is a zero star guy that now is going to get an opportunity to play in the NFL.  Matt Ryan the quarterback, who is probably going to be the league MVP, when he came out he was the 34th-ranked quarterback.  The top 3 were Kyle Wright, Chris Leak and Tom Grady.  Not Tom Brady.  Have you ever heard of those names?  Probably not, because none of those guys ever completed a pass in the NFL.  That was the top three quarterbacks.  So when I say I don’t put a whole lot of stock in that, that’s what I’m talking about.


“Now I’m going to read you a couple of guys from our team.  Aaron Jones, two stars, probably the best player that ever played at UTEP.  He just got a combine invite yesterday, he’s going to get his opportunity to play in the NFL.  His brother Alvin Jones, who is probably the best linebacker in Conference USA, zero stars.  Darrin Laufasa, zero stars, he will get his opportunity to play in the NFL.  As I mentioned, Nick Usher was a two-star athlete.  Hayden Plinke who also got a combine invite and played in the NFL PA game, two stars.  Will Hernandez, who will be the best guard in the country, who I have no doubt is probably the best lineman in the country, zero stars coming out.  Devin Cockrell, probably one of the hardest hitting safeties in our conference, two stars.  And Jerrod Brooks, who will be a future NFL offensive lineman and is in the process of doing that right now, zero stars.  So when you look at that list, it’s not going to be star power.  And you’re looking at it and saying this doesn’t rank really high in the recruiting services.  I really don’t care.  These are future UTEP Miners and they’re going to be productive on the field, they’re going to be productive in the classroom and they’re going to be productive citizens here in El Paso.


“Speaking of that, I just want to thank the ladies from the MAAC, Heather, Denise and Lucero.  We just came off our best semester ever as a UTEP team.  We had our highest GPA collectively as a group.  We had 48 players over a 3.0 and we just came off a year with a 1,000 APR score.  What that means is progress towards a degree, which means every single player in our program is on point and on progress to get their degree on time.  All of these young men that I’m going to read to you, when I went in the home with the coaches, we made absolutely no promises.  We didn’t promise that you’re going to wear jersey #22.  We didn’t promise that you’re going to be a starter as a freshman or you’re going to go to the NFL.  Those are false promises.  But we did promise every single one of their parents and every single one of these players that they’re going to get their degree and as the head coach of the UTEP Miners, that’s my number one obligation.


“UTEP has changed quite a bit [over the years] and all of the thanks for that goes to Dr. Natalicio for the amazing job she has done with this university, and Bob Stull for the amazing job he has done with the facilities here.  This is special place to coach, and I don’t take it for granted.


“Many of these guys, no stars, two stars, three stars.  But what you’re looking at, and I don’t know who they’re going to be yet, but some of these guys are going to be future All-Conference players for UTEP, future leaders or captains that lead our team to a bowl game or a championship.  Some of these young men will have opportunities to go play in the NFL.  And I don’t know who they are.  It’s going to be up to them and what they put into it.


Alex Fernandez

“6-3, 200 pounds.  He is from Austin, Texas.  He is a three-star athlete. In 2016 he threw for 11 touchdowns, 1,500 yards.  He also rushed for 299 yards.  You’ll see on the tape he is very athletic as well.  This is a young man that you have to project.  Right now he is 200 pounds.  This is going to be a young man with a frame that’s going to be a 225-pound, 6-3, prototype quarterback.  He registered career highs in passing yards and touchdown throws.  He threw six touchdowns in one game against Vista Ridge.  All in all in his career he threw for 53 touchdowns and 4,814 yards, and rushed for 410 yards and six scores.  Very productive high school career.  He reminds me a lot of Ryan Metz, our own quarterback.  Except Ryan Metz when he came out of high school weighed 170 pounds.  This kid weighs 200 pounds and is also going to get bigger.  He can make all the throws.


“Before I talk about this next quarterback, I want to tell you why we signed two quarterbacks this year.  Mack Leftwich, who was our starting quarterback in 2015, his career has ended as a quarterback.  He had significant head injury, shoulder injury, sternum injury that he really couldn’t overcome.  It’s unfortunate for him but just like all the young men in our program, he’s set up for success.  He has got his degree, he has already been offered a coaching position and a math teacher position at Parkland High School.  He is going to be starting off full-time in May.  Our guys, even if football doesn’t work out for them on the field, they’re set up for life.”


Calvin Brownholtz

“He is from the Sacramento area, Carmichael Calif. Jesuit High School.  6-1, 200 pounds.  In 2016 he threw for 2,300 yards, connected on 26 touchdowns.  He averaged 17.4 yards per completion.  He was in a run-oriented defense.  So he hasn’t really gotten a chance to shine yet in a pro-style offense.  He was named MaxPreps All-Norcal team.  This young man is a competitor.  His uncle, coach Volek from Fresno City College, his son Billy Volek played 12 years in the NFL.  His first offer was my first year as an assistant coach, a long, long time ago.  He ended up going to Fresno State and had a productive career.  But his uncle was there, came on a visit and remembered that UTEP was his first offer.”


Josh Fields

“We’re very excited about this young man.  I really feel he’s the best player in El Paso.  He’s probably the most qualified player that we have recruited to take over an offense since Aaron Jones, and that is Josh Fields from Americas High School in El Paso.  Josh rushed for over 1,000 yards in each of his three seasons.  He was named District football MVP, he was named Class 6A All-State first team offense and the El Paso Times MVP.  He is a and three-star athlete.  He has run for over 400 yards in two games.  That’s a season for most guys.  He finished his career with 5,151 yards, 820 carries, 6.3 average and 50 touchdowns.  Those are Aaron Jones type numbers.  As I recall watching these guys on film, his running style is very similar but I look back, Aaron Jones was a 165-pound player coming out of high school.  Josh Fields is a 195-pound athlete and he’s only going to continue to get bigger as he’s a worker in the weight room.  He caught 40 passes for 501 yards and seven scores so he’s also a dual threat that we can utilize out of the backfield.  This is one of the best players to come out of El Paso in a very long time.  We are extremely excited for him to be a part of our program.  They didn’t have to sell me, his film did the trick but when I went in that home, I have to say this, and no offense to any other parents, this was the best home cooked meal I have ever had.  You can only go visit once a week but I almost wanted to test that policy.  His brother Jack was a great player and played at Boise State.  He was a big part of the recruiting process along with his parents.  He chose to stay here and play his ball here in town.  Another thing I didn’t mention about him, the Ford Built Tough award, where they bring the top 100 players in the country to Dallas, that’s this weekend.  He was actually invited to that and is going to be a part of that along with all the top players in the country.  It’s quite the honor for Josh Fields.”


Forest McKee

“The next young man is a tough character.  He is from the El Paso area, Onate High School in Las Cruces.  This guy is going to play fullback for us but he was also the state player of the year linebacker which kind of displays his toughness.  He is a 240-pound athlete, 6-1, his name is Forest McKee.  He reminds me a lot of Darrin Laufasa.  In fact, I think he’s miles ahead of where Darrin was coming out of high school as a blocker and as a runner.  This guy could possibly play early for us.  He is one tough character.  His father is a high school coach and he comes from a great character family.  In 33 games at linebacker and fullback, how about this for production.  He notched a total of 289 tackles in his career, five sacks, three interceptions and as a fullback, 141 carries for 864 yards and nine scores.  He was All-State first team and named the NMPreps Linebacker of the Year.  Very physical, tough young athlete.”


David Lucero

“He is currently here on campus.  He was a junior college signee.  His name is David Lucero.  David Lucero, we had a lot of history with.  We actually offered him two years ago, he went to Boise State out of high school and actually played for them as a true freshman.  This guy would fill a need for us with Hayden Plinke graduating.  Athletically, he is very similar to Hayden Plinke.  Probably not as much of an online blocker as Hayden was, but as a receiver he can be a very productive tight end for us.  He is 6-5, 230 pounds.  He comes from Arizona Western College.  As a freshman at Boise State he played in 11, games, averaged 15.8 yards per reception.  He was named All-San Diego.  He was a three-star athlete by Scout and coming out of high school.  He was the 27th-rated tight end in the nation coming out of high school.  I think this guy is really going to be a very productive player for us.  Very smooth athlete.”


Cutter Leftwich

“He’s a center, all district three times, he started all four years at Franklin High School, he was the Texas Coaches Association All-State Football Academic Team and if this guy can overcome the coaching he’s going to get from his father, he’s a finisher, he’s going to be a pretty good player. He’s a physical player, he’s a finisher, very smart young man.”


Jalen Spady

“The name will be very familiar to you, he’s an offensive lineman from Huntsville, Ala. His father is a head coach at Alabama A&M University. His father also happens to be the best offensive lineman that ever played in UTEP history, James Spady. He [James] was a center for us on Coach Stull’s 1998 team that won ten games. Maybe one of the most athletic, smart players I’ve ever been around, has translated into his son, a much bigger young man, he’s 6-foot-3, 340 pounds, and he’s not fat. He’s played three seasons on varsity, he earned All-Huntsville Regional Football Team as a senior. His father, James, was inducted recently into the UTEP Centennial Team. For a 340 pound young man, he’s got outstanding feet, just like his dad.”


Trace Mascorro

“Trace Mascorro is our kind of guy, smart and tough. Very productive player, started all four years, played on both sides of the ball, productive for a defensive lineman. In the state championship game, he had five tackles, two tackles for loss of yards and a quarterback sack, so when the lights were on, this kid performed.”


Javaughn Thomas

“We truly have a goal; we want a player from every single team in the El Paso area, and that’s my goal as a head coach to make sure we accomplish that. This young man can go in a bunch of different directions, he was a tight end, on offense he played some wide receiver, he played running back, he played defensive end, he played linebacker. He’s got great size, very athletic, played on offense and defense. This guy is a very productive, athletic player.”


Kalaii Griffin

“I think you can see from this list that linebacker was the number one priority, we made a switch last year from a 3-4 defense and essentially had to withstand a year of playing with Nick (Usher) a 4-2-5 personnel, a decision made by myself. Sometimes you’ve got to take steps backward to take steps forward. I really felt for the best of the program, for the future of the program, to be able to recruit 3-4 linebackers and run that style of defense, it was the best move for us. We’ve got an outstanding staff on defense, our players were really starting at the end of the year picking up the defense and were playing outstanding, I think that North Texas game was a signature game for them, getting after those guys and we’re only going to improve going into the spring. But we did have to sign a bunch of linebackers. We had to get depth and we had to get quality depth and we had to look for some starters. This next guy could be a starter for us at outside linebacker. This guy is a great space player, very athletic, he’s going to end up being a 235-pound linebacker for us. Very long, athletic guy. To speak on his athleticism, for a 225-pound guy, he was a kick returner, he had 325 yards returning. This guy will be a great space player and a great rusher for us.”


Brent Ugochuku

“Another very productive player that played on a state championship team. Another young man where, when the lights are on, he was productive.”


Josh Wells

“The next young man is from here in El Paso, Parkland High School. It’s the second year in a row that we signed a player from Parkland High School; Christian Johnson we signed last year. His name is Josh Wells. He’s linebacker, 6-foot-1, 215 pounds. You talk about production in high school, he finished second in the state of Texas in sacks following his senior year. He produced monster numbers in 2016, posting 25.0 sacks – himself, not the team – for minus 204 yards. He also had 132 tackles, three pass breakups, a pair of fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and blocked four punts. In the NFL that’s called Pro Bowl stats. This guy had a very productive season. He was District MVP following senior season; all total he brings 33.0 overall sacks to UTEP on his resume.”


James Tupou

“The next young man, if I can describe this guy in one word – it would be violent. This guy likes to hit. He has a brother who’s currently a freshman on our team, he’s Sione Tupou. I love having brothers on the team. When you talk about Alvin and Aaron Jones, or the Laufasa brothers. That’s type of competition and family unity that we’re searching for on our team on a daily basis. These guys go it. Even during dinner, it’s like watching my two sons. They’re pushing each other, shoving each other. They’re only going to help each other, they both played linebacker and they’ll both compete against each other. James Tupou is 5-foot-10, 230 pounds and comes from Allen, Texas. Allen, Texas is one of the most productive high school programs. The last two years they are 28-2; he’s been the starter the last two years. He was named All-District first team and named All-State honorable mention. This guy is a hitter.”


Kobie Herring

“Again, we’re looking for productive football players and this next young man, his production in high school was unbelievable. Kobie Herring, who was also a teammate of Trace Mascorro at Refugio High School. They were Texas state champs, played all four years on the varsity squad, amassed 200 tackles, 37.0 tackles for loss, four quarterback hurries, 2.0 sacks, two pass breakups and one fumble recovery as a senior. He was Texas 2A State Player of the Year. That marks the second year in a row that we’ve had the Texas Player of the Year. Last year was Quadraiz Wadley in 4A, and this year it’s Kobie Herring in 2A. Strong character family; his father coached there at the high school that won the state championship. He was also named first team defense and defensive MVP for the state of Texas. He was also MVP in the state championship game.”


Kahani Smith

“This next young man might be a sleeper of the class. He’s here on campus right now. He’s a safety from Riverside, Calif. The last time we had a safety from Riverside, Calif., he propelled us to a bowl game – Jameel Erving. He’s a graduate assistant for us. As you may recall, he’s the one who made the great play against Middle Tennessee where he batted down the pass and made the interception that allowed us to go to the New Mexico Bowl in 2014. This guy is much better than Jameel Erving (laughs from the crowd). He’s a very athletic guy and he’s a playmaker. He had 36 tackles, four interceptions, four pass breakups, three touchdowns on defense in 2016. He was a Unanimous National Division Central League first team defense selection and player of the year. Kahani Smith, 6-foot-1, 185-pound safety. He’ll be paired with Devin Cockrell and Michael Lewis who is now academically eligible. With those three guys, we’ll have the three best safeties in Conference USA.”


Jamar Smith

“The next young man is a linebacker from Lyons, Ga.; played at Holmes Community College. He’ll be here in May. His name is Jamar Smith. This guy is a very compact, physical linebacker. He’s 5-foot-11, 230 pounds – he’ll be an inside linebacker for us. He led their defense in tackles during both seasons at Holmes CC. He averaged a team-best 9.0 tackles a game. He added 2.0 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, two fumble recoveries, four pass breakups and a blocked kick. He’s very productive and he was first team All-State. As a high school wrestler, he was 60-0.”


Tyson Wilson

“Last young man we’re going to talk about today is a defensive back, who reminds me a lot of Nik Needham (UTEP’s starting cornerback). This young man has to hit the weight room, but he’s got all the necessary skills to be an outstanding corner. His name is Tyson Wilson from McKinney, Texas – an outstanding program. Played action on the both sides of the ball this year. He had 53 tackles, five interceptions with a pick-six, two pass breakups and a pair of blocked field goal attempts. He’s a very productive special teams’ player. He was named All-Collin County second team defense honors. He’s an extremely productive DB; Tyson Wilson will play corner for us.”


“That wraps up our 2017 signing class. We’re doing something a little bit different this year. We’re going to be extremely patient. We have two scholarships available. We’re going to hold on to those scholarships until May and possibly look for a late qualifying high school player. The last one worked out pretty well for us – his name is Will Hernandez. Or a late qualifying (Junior College) linebacker. The last one worked out pretty well for us – his name is Dante Lovilette, who finished second on team in tackles. When we do sign those players, we’ll announce that to Miner faithful. But we’re very excited for the class that we have here. But more importantly, when we first took over this program, we said we were going to recruit El Paso. Currently, we’ve signed 22 players in five years to scholarships from El Paso. Currently on our team right now, we have 35 players form El Paso. That’s a third of our team. This year’s signings reflect that ration as well. That will continue. This is El Paso’s team. These kids love playing in front of the home folks. And I can’t think of anything better. Again, I always refer to the Jones’s boys coming off from making a sack or coming off from scoring a touchdown and hugging their coaches and seeing their parents in the stands. I can’t think of anything better. We’ll continue to recruit the homegrown talent. We’re ultimately looking for football players who care about getting a degree and that they are on the same mission we are on – win a bowl and a conference championship. We’re not going to stop working at it until we achieve it.”

UTEP Announces 2017 Football Schedule

UTEP announced its football schedule for the 2017 season on Thursday. The Miners will play eight conference games, along with four non-league contests.

UTEP is slated to open the season at Norman, Okla. taking on Oklahoma on Sept. 2. The Sooners (11-2, 9-0 Big 12) finished the 2016 campaign rated No. 5 in the AP poll and notched a Sugar Bowl victory over Auburn.

The Miners will then have back-to-back home games taking on Rice (Sept. 9) and Arizona (Sept. 16). The last meeting between the squads was held in Tucson, Ariz. in 2003. The last time, the Wildcats traveled to the Sun City to take on UTEP was in 1977.

The team will then face 1-10 rival NM State on Sept. 23 in Las Cruces. UTEP will look to extend its eight-game winning streak against the Aggies. The Miners will travel to the state of New York for the second time in program history on Sept. 30 to take on Army. UTEP last played in New York in 2008 when it opened against Buffalo.

The Miners are then scheduled to face 2016 Conference USA Champions Western Kentucky on Oct. 7 at the Sun Bowl. They will then travel to Southern Miss on Oct. 14, followed by a bye week.

 The squad will then battle it out with UTSA at home on Oct. 28. The last time the two met, UTEP defeated the Roadrunners 52-49 in five overtimes in the Alamodome.

The Miners will hit the road for two weeks to take on Middle Tennessee (Nov. 4) and North Texas (Nov. 11). UTEP will conclude its home schedule on Nov. 18 as it faces C-USA West Champion’s LA Tech.

The Miners will seal the regular season schedule on the road versus UAB on Nov. 25. This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams.

It is important to note that all games are subject to date changes and some dates are expected to move in the coming weeks in order accommodate national television.

Conference USA’s 13th annual Championship Game, pitting the champions of the East and West Divisions, is scheduled for Saturday, December 2.

The UTEP football team will be hosting its annual Signing Day Luncheon on Wednesday at 12 p.m. in the Larry K. Durham. There is less than 20 seats available so make sure to call the Miner Athletic Club at (915) 747-8759 or via email at to reserve your seat today.

Season tickets will go on sale March 1. For more information or to purchase season tickets, please call the UTEP Season Ticket Office at (915) 747-6150.


Sept. 2 at Oklahoma

Sept. 9 RICE

Sept. 16 ARIZONA

Sept. 23 at New Mexico State

Sept. 30 at Army

Oct. 7 WKU

Oct. 14 at Southern Miss

Oct. 21 Bye

Oct. 28 UTSA

Nov. 4 at Middle Tennessee

Nov. 11 at North Texas


Nov. 25 at UAB

2017 UTEP Football Signing Day Luncheon Slated for February 1st

UTEP Athletics and the Miner Athletic Club will host the 2017 UTEP Football Signing Day Luncheon presented by Price’s Creameries on Wednesday, Feb. 1 from noon to 1 p.m.

The event will highlight UTEP Football’s 2017 recruiting class as explained by head coach Sean Kugler. Lunch is included and doors will open at 11:30 a.m. as the presentation and program will begin promptly at Noon.

The Miner Athletic Club (MAC) serves as the fund-raising arm of the UTEP Department of Athletics. The MAC’s mission is to annually raise funds to offset the departmental cost of scholarships and sport programs supporting UTEP student-athletes.

Funds are raised by the Miner Athletic Club through annual membership, major and planned gifts, the donor portions of season ticket sales and special events.

Tables of eight ($200) and single passes ($25) are now on sale for the 2017 Signing Day Luncheon. If you would like to reserve a table or seats to this event please e-mail or call our offices at 915.747.8759 by Friday, Jan. 27.

This year’s event is expected to sell out, so fans are encouraged to call 915.747.8759 to secure some of the limited number of tables or seats that are still available for purchase.

Three UTEP Football Players Named First Team All-C-USA

IRVING, Texas – UTEP junior offensive lineman Will Hernandez, record-breaking junior running back Aaron Jones and record-breaking senior tight end Hayden Plinke earned first team All-Conference USA honors on Tuesday, as selected by the league’s 13 head football coaches.

Junior linebacker Alvin Jones was named second team All-C-USA, while senior linebacker Nick Usher, junior punter Alan Luna and sophomore punt returner Terry Juniel earned honorable mention honors.

UTEP has now had 20 first team All-C-USA selections in 12 seasons as a league member. It’s also the first time since the 2008 season that four Miners were selected all-conference.

North Texas vs UTEP, Sun Bowl Stadium 11.26.2016
North Texas vs UTEP, Sun Bowl Stadium 11.26.2016

Jones set multiple school records during his prolific junior season. The El Paso native rushed for a single-season school-record 1,773 yards, while climbing his way to the top of the program’s career-rushing list with 4,114 yards, breaking John Harvey’s 28-year old record. Jones averaged 7.7 yards on 229 carries and scored 17 rushing touchdowns (third most in program history). Jones added three more receiving scores, while tallying 2,006 all-purpose yards (fourth best single-season performance in school history).

Jones capped the 2016 campaign with a career-high 301 yards and a career-best four rushing touchdowns against North Texas. Jones’s 301-yard effort is the second most yards rushed in a single contest in UTEP history.

Jones is currently ranked third in the nation with his 147.8 rushing yards per contest.

will hdz
Will Hernandez | Photo Courtesy UTEP

Paving the way and creating holes for Jones is Hernandez, who has started all 37 games in his career at the left guard position. Hernandez helped UTEP rushers gain 185.5 yards per game, currently ranking fourth in C-USA. UTEP tallied 20 rushing touchdowns.

Hernandez’s efforts on the offensive line also yielded 22 sacks (1.83 avg.), ranking fourth least allowed in C-USA. The Las Vegas, Nev., native helped the Miners gain a season-high 384 yards rushing (most since 1983) during a dominant 52-24 victory against North Texas. UTEP also tallied a season-high 555 yards of total offense against the Mean Green. UTEP gained 323 yards rushing against Houston Baptist, while opening the season with 518 yards of total offense, including 289 rushing yards in a victory over rival NM State.

Plinke produced big numbers, as the Hillsboro, Ore., native set a UTEP tight end record by hauling in eight receiving touchdowns in 2016. Plinke led the Miners with 38


receptions, while ranking second with 456 receiving yards. Plinke led all C-USA tight ends in touchdown receptions, while his scores ranked tied sixth with three other players in C-USA. Plinke earned a John Mackey Honorable Mention following his performance at UTSA.

During UTEP’s 5OT win against the Roadrunners, Plinke tallied 84 yards on four receptions, including a game-extending two-point conversion in the third overtime of the contest. Plinke also registered a career-high two touchdown receptions against Houston Baptist.

Jones is the first UTEP running back to earn first team honors since Donald Buckram (2009), Hernandez is the first UTEP offensive lineman since Mike Aguayo (2009) to earn first team honors, while Plinke is the first UTEP tight end to be named All-C-USA, while he’s also the first to be named first team since Brian Natkin earned such honors in 2000 in the Western Athletic Conference.

Alvin Jones led the Miners with 93 tackles despite missing a pair of contests due to injury. Jones produced monster numbers in a pair of contests, tallying a career-high 16 tackles against FIU, while matching that number at Rice. The El Paso native opened his junior campaign with a 12-tackle outing during a victory against rival NM State. Jones then capped the season with a 12-tackle performance in a 52-24 drubbing of North Texas.

Usher led the UTEP defense with 5.5 sacks and 8.0 tackles for loss (41 yards). The Los Angeles native ranked third on the team with 77 tackles, while adding two breakups, a team-leading five quarterback hurries and a blocked kick. Usher tallied 2.0 sacks and seven tackles at no. 11 Texas, while registering a sack and nine tackles during a 5OT win at UTSA.

Luna averaged 41.0 yards on 62 punts (2,542 yards), with a career-long 69-yard boot. The El Paso native currently ranks ninth on the program’s all-time list with 5,427 career punt yards. Luna averaged a career-best 51.0 yards against Southern Miss, while at LA Tech, placed three punts inside the 20-yard line, while two were inside the 10-yard line.

Juniel opened his UTEP career by tallying 104 yards on six punt returns with a long of 42 yards in the season-opening victory against rival NM State – it was the most return yards in a single game since the 2006 season, while it was the single-game high in C-USA. The Surprise, Ariz., native currently ranks third in C-USA in punt return average (9.2), while his 22 returns and 203 yards led the league.

Story+Gallery: UTEP’s Jones Sets Single-Season Rushing Record as Miners Dominate North Texas 52-24

Aaron Jones rushed for 301 yards, the second-top total in UTEP football history, as the Miners closed out the 2016 season with a 52-24 drubbing of North Texas on Saturday afternoon in the Sun Bowl.

Jones ran for 1,773 yards in 2016, a UTEP single-season record and the fifth-most in Conference USA history.

Jones finished with 24 carries and four touchdowns on Saturday, while joining West Virginia’s Justin Crawford, Texas D’Onta Foreman and Utah’s Joe Williams as the only players in the FBS to gain 300 yards in a game this year.

The 301 rushing yards are the most by a UTEP player since All-American Fred Wendt compiled 326 yards against New Mexico State on Nov. 25, 1948.

Jones had scoring runs of 83, 48, 58 and three yards and ended the season with 17 rushing touchdowns, a number that ranks third on the all-time UTEP list.

The Miners ended the campaign with a 4-8 record and a 2-6 mark in Conference USA play, while thwarting the Mean Green’s pursuit of bowl eligibility.  North Texas finished 5-7, 3-5 in league action.

“I thought the kids really played UTEP Miner football today and they went out and honored the season for the seniors the right way,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said.  “We know the season didn’t go the way that we wanted, but we did have one more game and you saw the end result when a bunch of kids get together and play for each other.  They really were adamant about not letting that team celebrate a chance to go to a bowl game on our 50 (yard-line).”

North Texas led just once, at 7-3 on a 14-yard rushing touchdown by Willy Ivery.  After that the Miners scored 28 straight points, and although the Mean Green would creep within 14 (31-17) at halftime, UTEP put it away with a couple more trips to the end zone in the third period.

The 52 points matched UTEP’s high under Kugler and were the most for the Miners in a regulation game since the 2009 season finale versus Marshall.

The Miners piled up 555 yards of offense, including 384 on the ground, while holding North Texas to 304 yards in their best all-around performance of the season.

“They [the offensive line] were physical,” Kugler said.  “They take a lot of pride in Aaron Jones and getting him the single-season rushing record in a big way.  He got 301 yards.  They were excited about that.  They did an outstanding job.  They were embarrassed by the performance last week [at Rice] and that’s what I love about this team.  They have bad days, they can make mistakes, but they bounce back and they bounce back in a big way because they’ve got pride about them.”

Ryan Metz turned in another efficient effort at quarterback for UTEP, completing 12-of-17 passes for 171 yards.  Hayden Plinke, one of 20 seniors playing their final game for the Miners, snagged three catches for a game-high 84 yards.

North Texas’ Alec Morris completed 23-of-42 passes for 190 yards, and Ivery rushed 13 times for 98 yards.

The UTEP defense registered three tackles for losses and seven pass break-ups led by Alvin Jones, who was credited with a game-high 12 stops.  The defense got into the scoring act in the second quarter when free safety Dashone Smith blocked Eric Keena’s punt and Brandon Moss scooped it up for a touchdown.  That made the score 31-7.

It was 31-17 early in the third quarter, and North Texas appeared to make a big play when Fred Scott picked off Metz’s pass and returned it to the Miner 18-yard line.  But a face mask penalty on the Mean Green gave UTEP a first down at its own 42-yard line and on the very next play, Jones busted free for the 58-yard TD and a commanding 21-point lead.

“Some of those have gone the other way,” Kugler said.  “We took advantage of opportunities.  What I really like tonight is the offense fed off the defense.  The defense was getting three and outs and the offense fed off of that, and the defense was feeding off the offense.  The offense was putting together long drives or popping big runs and they were coming out and stuffing North Texas.”

Now talk will turn to the 2017 season, where the Miners will face a non-conference schedule that includes Arizona at home and Army, Oklahoma and NM State on the road.

“I told you when I took the job that I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy job.  I knew there were going to be ups and downs, steps forward and back,” Kugler said.  “These kids are heading in the right direction.  We’ve got a lot of really talented kids coming back.  I feel really good about the foundation of this team heading into the future.  I think these kids saw it tonight, what they can do when they put it all together and tonight, man they put it all together.  That was a hell of a win.”

Check out photos of the game courtesy Andres Acosta

UTEP Falls at Rice 44-24; Miners Return for Final Game Next Saturday

UTEP scored the game’s first three points on a Jay Mattox 37-yard field goal. But Rice followed with 34 unanswered points in the first half on its way to a 44-24 victory at Rice Stadium on a brisk Saturday afternoon.

The Owls [3-8, 2-6 Conference USA] outgained the Miners [3-8, 1-6 C-USA], 482 yards to 232 during the dominant afternoon, as UTEP had only gained 42 yards in the first half.

It started well for UTEP, as Mattox gave the Miners 3-0 lead on the field goal at the 9:10 mark of the first quarter. The points followed after a Gene Hopkins sack-and-strip of backup 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, including an 84-yard push on four plays that resulted in a Tyner scoring reception from wide receiver Temi Alaka.

UTEP’s bright performance came from Alvin Jones, as the junior racked up 16 tackles, tying his career high from earlier this season [vs. FIU on Oct. 8]. Jones chipped in with a sack as well. His brother, Aaron, ran for 75 yards and hauled in a touchdown on a 42-yard reception.

UTEP scored its first touchdown on a nine-play, 75-yard drive during the third quarter that ended with a Warren Redix 11-yard scoring pass from Ryan Metz [5-for-6 on the drive].

Jones recorded his third receiving touchdown and 16th overall in 2016 after he out jumped the defender in the end zone and scored on a 42-yard reception to make the score 44-17.

Kalon Beverly put the Miners on the board again when a Haden Tobola field goal attempt was blocked. Beverly dashed 80 yards to the end zone, but it was a little too late with Rice up 44-24 with 1:47 remaining in the contest.

Rice’s starting quarterback Tyler Stehling left the contest with an injury during the first series, as Tyner threw for 196 yards [18-25] with a pair of scores and an interception. Jowan Davis led the Owls with 84 rushing yards with a score and Kylen Granson led the way with five receptions [45 yards], while Cameron Decell led the Owls with 53 yards on four receptions.

Metz threw for 169 yards on 19-of-34 passing and a pair of scores with an interception that was taken back by Destri White for a 23-yard pick-six. Kavika Johnson and Hayden Plinke each tallied a trio of receptions for 32 yards, while Cole Freytag caught three passes for 26 yards. Eddie Sinegal added 20 yards on three receptions. Defensively, Dante Lovilette added nine stops and Hopkins, a freshman, recorded his first career sack.

The Owls gained 27 first downs, as they were only forced to punt twice. Alan Luna averaged 39.9 yards on seven boots [279 yards], with a long of 49 yards.

UTEP will close out the 2016 season when it hosts North Texas on Nov. 26. The Miners and Mean Green will kickoff at 2 p.m. in the Sun Bowl. Last season, UTEP edged North Texas 20-17 in Denton to conclude the 2015 campaign.

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