UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull announced on Monday that Mike Price will step in as the Miners’ interim head football coach for the remainder of the 2017 season.
Price will take over for Sean Kugler, who stepped down on Sunday.
“I’ve asked Mike if he could help us in this situation,” Stull said. “He has thankfully agreed. We’ve lost two coaches, and while we have two fine coordinators who are capable of doing the job, I just felt like it was important to bring in somebody with head coaching experience that is familiar with El Paso and our program.”
“I was surprised and flattered by Bob’s call and appreciate the opportunity to help this program one more time,” Price said. “I am not interviewing for the future job, and I’m not going to be the future head coach. I’m going to manage the program and provide leadership for the rest of the year.”
Price will be meeting with the team tomorrow afternoon and will have his first practice with the Miners on Wednesday morning.
This is Price’s second tour of duty with the Miners. He served as UTEP’s head coach from 2004-12 and took the Miners to three bowl games (2004 Houston, 2005 GMAC, 2010 New Mexico), one of only two coaches in school history to achieve the feat.
The 1997 National Coach of the Year, Price has compiled 177 head coaching wins with stints at Weber State (1981-88), Washington State (1989-2002) and UTEP.
Price led Weber State to a 10-win campaign in 1987, and Washington State to 10 victories on three occasions (1997, 2001, 2002). He directed the Miners to back-to-back eight-win campaigns in 2004 and 2005.
Price was finalist for National Coach of the Year in his first year at UTEP in 2004.
Samuel Stewart rushed for 89 yards, and Rice piled up 306 on the ground to top UTEP, 31-14, in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Saturday night in the Sun Bowl.
The Owls (1-1, 1-0 C-USA) scored the game’s first 17 points and, after the Miners (0-2, 0-1 C-USA) drew within 10 late in the third quarter, put it away with a 10-play, 87-yard drive, capped by Jordan Myers’ three-yard scoring run.
Myers was one of three Owl backs to find the end zone, along with Sam Glaesmann and Nahshon Ellerbe who had scoring runs of five and three yards respectively.
Rice quarterback Glaesmann accounted for two touchdowns in all. His 52-yard pass to Aaron Cephus early in the third quarter gave the Owls the 17-0 lead.
“I don’t have a lot to say,” UTEP coach Sean Kugler said. “We got beat soundly in all phases. Hats off to Rice, they were the better team today, they were the more physical team today. They ran the ball extremely well and we didn’t. We dropped balls, we fumbled the ball, we didn’t tackle, we missed a lot of tackles in the backfield. It was a poor effort on our part, and it starts with me. Hats off to David Bailiff and his squad.”
The Owls led by 17 three times at 17-0, 24-7 and 31-14. UTEP pulled within 10 for the second time (24-14) on a one-yard run by Ryan Metz with 4:56 remaining but couldn’t recover the onside kick.
The Miners were flustered offensively for the most part with 229 yards on 57 plays (4.0 average).
“I don’t think it was so much scheme from them defensively, I don’t think we executed really well,” Kugler said. “There were a couple of nice runs, and then we fumbled the ball. I thought Ryan had some nice throws, and I don’t know how many drops he had tonight. If I tally it up, I bet it would be close to 10.”
Rice gained 437 yards on 67 plays (6.5 average).
Rice had 192 yards at the half but UTEP was able to stay within striking distance at 10-0. The Owls opted to go for it on fourth and one at the UTEP six-yard line late in the second quarter, but Glaesmann fumbled at the five and the Miners’ Nik Needham recovered to help keep it close.
Glaesmann finished 10-of-18 passing for 131 yards.
Metz completed 18-of-33 passes for 203 yards for the Miners. He threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Warren Redix with 3:47 left in the third quarter.
Walter Dawn Jr. led UTEP with 24 yards rushing on nine carries, and Kavika Johnson was the top receiver with six catches for 67 yards.
Metz was sacked four times, and the Owls tallied eight tackles for losses with six quarterback hurries. Treyvon Hughes and Dante Lovilotte led the Miner defense with 11 tackles apiece. Alvin Jones had two quarterback hurries despite playing only the second half.
The Miners were a battered group at the end of the night.
“I can’t tally it up right now, but some very significant injuries and some season-ending injuries,” Kugler said.
The Miners will host the Pac-12’s Arizona Wildcats for the first time in 40 years on Friday (Sept. 15) at 8 p.m. MT. “Military Night” festivities will feature a pre-game flyover and parachute team drop-in. Tickets are available by calling (915) 747-5234.
“You go back to work and you find out about character of young men, you find out about character of coaches,” Kugler said. “It’s two games into the season. We’ll go right back to work. We don’t have much time to think about it because we have a Pac-12 team coming in here Friday night. You won’t see us dwelling on it. We’ve got to get back right to work.”
After a 1-2 start to the season, the Miners finally come home with extra pep in their step following the overtime win against rival New Mexico State Saturday night, 50 to 47.
As win against the Aggies came in dramatic and exciting fashion, UTEP head coach Sean Kugler allows his players 24 hours to celebrate and then move on to the next opponent. That’s exactly what will need to happen for the Miners to avoid a letdown against Incarnate Word on Saturday.
“Kids came out ready to work today, they’re energized,” Kugler said. “Anytime you come back as down as we were – and the kids kept fighting…pulled off maybe one of the biggest comeback wins in school history against a rival team – they’re energized and they practiced well.”
The Miners will host the FCS’s Incarnate Word Cardinals in their final non-conference game of the season. The home opener comes after a three-game road trip to begin the season.
“We’re extremely excited about coming back to the Sun Bowl, I kind of joke about it, but our fans up there (Las Cruces) were outstanding,” Kugler said. “They were vocal, they energized our players after the game, our players were so excited to have the fanbase there. It doesn’t go unnoticed, we love our fans, we can’t wait to have them come out this week in the Sun Bowl and give us the energy we need.”
Andress grad Ryan Metz, became the hero of the game in the win, after he replaced the injured Mack Leftwich.
“My prayers go out to Mack (Leftwich), it’s sad that he went out, I got some big shoes to fill,” Metz said. “He’s a really good quarterback and he’s a good friend of mine and I wish him all the best, but it is a really good feeling to be able to come in here at the Sun Bowl, in my hometown and start the game.”
Metz now enters the week of preparation as the starter for the Miners, something he said he’s been preparing for since training camp, despite being third on the depth chart to begin the season.
“I treated every week as if I might be put in there, last week Garrett (Simpson) had come back and I didn’t get as many reps,” Metz said. “Coach again said, ‘get mental reps and make sure you know what’s going on because your number might be called.’ I took that to heart, I try and treat every week like I was going to be the starter.”
The Miners managed to win their first game without their best player in Aaron Jones, who is out for the season. The offense was built to feature Jones’ skills and now Kugler is looking at Metz and other players to create productivity in the offense.
“We’ll always try and utilize the strengths of our players…one thing Ryan can do he can run, he’s got a strong arm so of course we’ll try and utilize that,” Kugler said. “Again, we’re gaining more trust in our receivers, I’m feeling real good about our receiving group moving forward, those guys are making plays…really the most improved group on the team.”
One of those receivers is another local talent Coronado alumni Cole Freytag, who aided UTEP’s comeback win by scoring one of the two touchdowns needed to tie the game with four minutes left to play. Freytag, like Metz, is looking forward to playing at the Sun Bowl in front of family and friends.
“It’s everything, my family is going to be there,” Freytag said. “The crowd, the energy there’s nothing like playing in the Sun Bowl, so it means a lot.”
This marks the first ever meeting between Incarnate Word and the Miners. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. on Sept. 26 at the Sun Bowl.