Time Keepers: Can UTEP Control The Clock & Texas Tech?
The official time keeper will be up in the Jones AT&T Stadium press box next Saturday, but UTEP head coach Sean Kugler would love to be the one pushing the buttons.
Rather than trying to go toe-to-500-yards-of-passing-toe with Texas Tech, Kugler believes the best way for the Miners to beat the shell game the Red Raiders play with the football is much simpler.
Just don't let Tech have the ball.
No guarantees. The Miners kept the ball longer than Arkansas last Saturday and ... well, 43-18.
The good news for UTEP was that the Miners were still orange and blue, not black and blue, upon departure from Fayetteville, Ark. UTEP won't face nearly as much pork on the hoof this season as they did against the 18th-ranked Razorbacks.
Though Texas Tech returns four of five starters on the offensive line, including senior Le'Raven Clark, an All-American candidate at left tackle, it is no Arkansas. Despite being in the bovine-intensive Texas panhandle, Texas Tech has fancied itself less the bull, more the matador.
The more UTEP keeps the ball and grinds out drives that sap the clock, the less opportunity Tech will have to reach for the red cape. And for what's behind it.
It's a philosophy that almost worked against the Red Raiders last season in the Sun Bowl -- a game that finished with a very un-Tech-like scoreline of 30-26.
The Miners controlled possession for two-thirds of the game. They even took the lead on an Aaron Jones run deep into the fourth quarter.
Just not deep enough.
UTEP scored with 5:05 on the clock. Tech needed half that to get the game-winner, as Davis Webb found Brad Marquez on a nine-yard touchdown pass with 2:32 left.
The Razorbacks may have a better passing game these days, but they have nothing on the Red Raiders' ability to sting defenses with huge plays faster than you can say Kliff Kingsbury.
"Arkansas to Texas Tech, it’s like going from a tank to a Ferrari, really," said Kugler. "It’s just two totally opposite teams.”
Still, to change the outcome in Lubbock this season, Kugler won't be changing the philosophy from last season.
“The formula is going to be the same," said Kugler at his Monday press conference. "We have to control the clock versus this team. We have to have efficient drives, and for us to do that we have to be efficient in our run game and we have to be efficient in our play action passes off the run game because they are such a quick-strike scoring offense."
Keep the game in front of you and Tech's offense to the side of you -- on the sidelines.
The Miners must play this way. UTEP may have gotten close last season, but Tech is still a Big XII team with Big XII athletes.
How will they do? Perhaps the best litmus test is the most ironic -- if the Miners control more of the clock, the game itself will take less time. Says here that the closer the game is to three hours in length, the more the game goes UTEP's way.
For Sean Kugler and his Miners, better for the time to fly by than the football.