Kugler, Miners Rue What Might Have Been in Loss to Texas Tech
UTEP RB Aaron Jones had 147 yards and the Miners held the ball for almost two-thirds of the game; but in the end, an explosive Texas Tech offense and solid defense left UTEP thinking about what might have been in its narrow 30-26 defeat.
Head coach Sean Kugler (comments below) was grim-faced in his post-game press conference, still stinging after the Miners' final drive fizzled, ending the upset bid.
UTEP could only manage four yards before turning it over on downs, muting a huge 52-yard kickoff return by Autrey Golden after what proved to be the game-winning touchdown by the Red Raiders.
"No loss feels good," said the second-year coach. "But I'm proud of the way the kids played. They fought their hearts out. If we fight like that every week, I like our chances to win games."
Just the fact it was in doubt until the final 90 seconds is a testament to the toughness Kugler is building at his alma mater. It's one thing to say you're going to limit the possessions of a team that ran 89 plays in its opening win, it's another thing to do it.
The Miners got some timely stops from its defense, then got the ball back to an offense that was able to ram the ball down the throat of a Big XII team. It is Tech, not Oklahoma, but Lubbock is closer to Norman, OK, than El Paso in more ways than one.
Yes, the Miners passing game leaves a bit to be desired. Yes, the tight ends continue to be a disappointment when it comes to catching the ball. But UTEP has a five-headed monster at running back led by Jones, the former Burges standout, and a line that can push a defense around.
As for Texas Tech, fans can't be assured after two narrow wins over supposedly inferior competition. The Red Raiders were 21.5-point favorites in El Paso after beating Central Arkansas by just a touchdown, 42-35, in their opener.
Tech QB Davis Webb may have thrown for 278 yards, but he was inconsistent Saturday night in the Sun Bowl. He is certainly used to having the ball a lot more than he did against UTEP.
The Miners limited Texas Tech to just 59 offensive plays and held the ball for 39 minutes to the Red Raiders 21.
Add a more successful passing attack to the arsenal of ball carriers and there is no telling what Kugler and Co. can accomplish.
Rest assured, it should be considerably more than last season.