UTEP Football Loses Chance for a Postseason Bowl Game
Last night, the Miners were a little more than four minutes away from their first ever win in the eastern timezone and they had an 11 point lead over Florida Atlantic. Then, in what seemed like a blur, the Owls scored two touchdowns including the final score with 25 seconds left in the game to stun UTEP 35-31. Just like that, the Miners' shot at a postseason bowl game ended in heartbreaking fashion. The truth is, the 2016 football season has been nothing short of a nightmare for head coach Sean Kugler and his Miners.
Most observers looked at UTEP as a seven or eight win team before the season started. After all, the Miners won five games last year with 15 players from their 2-deep out with season ending injuries. The sky was the limit with a healthy group and a schedule ranked as the easiest in all of college football according to Phil Steele. What many of us did not realize was that many of last year's poor performers like Texas and Army were much improved this season. Even after defeating NMSU in their season opener, the Miners lost five straight games and found themselves in a huge hole that they could not dig out of once conference play began.
There have been some positives despite UTEP's 3-7 overall record. Aaron Jones became the all-time rushing leader in school history last night. Ryan Metz continues to get better each week as the team's starting quarterback. Senior tight end Hayden Plinke has been the most dominant tight end the Miners have had since Brian Natkin more than a decade ago. It is just sad that these players will not have an opportunity to play in the postseason.
There are still two more weeks left in the season and the Miners still have to play at Rice and then at home against North Texas. The internet message board rumor mill has already started and fans are speculating as to whether or not Kugler will be back as the team's head coach.
I am one of Sean Kugler's biggest public supporters and have always believed that his form of discipline along with recruiting both El Paso kids and students students was exactly what UTEP needed to become a consistent winner. Despite winning seven games and going to the New Mexico Bowl in his second year, the Miners have failed to take the next step in recent seasons. Now, the big question will be whether or not Kugler will get an opportunity to continue building his program and coach the Jones brothers for their senior seasons.