The UTEP Miners made an impression last weekend, if not on national television (provided America was still awake at 12:45 am MDT) then certainly on their coach.

Sean Kugler ran off stat after stat at his Monday press conference, and if you hadn't known who'd won the game, you might think UTEP upset the Red Raiders.

It did not.

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Tech prevailed, 30-26, but don't doubt that Red Raiders head coach Kliff Kingsbury's famously handsome face was showing some cracks late in the contest.

Autrey Golden's 52-yard kickoff return on the heels of a Texas Tech touchdown late in the fourth quarter may have given a real challenge to Kingsbury's hair gel.

Kugler didn't have to worry about hair gel, but his visage after the loss would have made a WWE wrestler scared his opponent was about to veer off-script.

By Monday, however -- though still dissatisfied with the results -- Kugler was clearly proud of the progress his team has made.

Any Miners fan at the game could see why. Linemen who can block. Running backs who got bunches of yards after contact. A defense that did decently at the line, getting early pressure that threw Tech QB Davis Webb off his game.

But, as a fair-minded person, Kugler revealed plenty of bad along with the good. Senior QB Jameill Showers was not as sharp as he should be. Receivers are being challenged to step up and be the go-to guy after a lackluster effort Saturday/Sunday. A secondary that is also being challenged after losing more than a few receivers and probable interceptions.

The verdict for the coach: the game was played tough, just not well enough.

And, don't look now, but the NMSU Aggies are 2-0 after a huge come-from-behind win in Georgia last weekend. The Miners' I-10 rivals are headed to the Sun Bowl this Saturday for a 6 pm MDT kickoff.

As ticket prices return to normal, we'll see if UTEP fans have been impressed, too.


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