Kugler Respects, Wants to Emulate Kansas State Program
The list of things Sean Kugler believes his team is doing well is lengthy, and he has the stats to back it up. But good stats are just symptoms of something else he hopes his Miners are catching -- something Kugler knows UTEP's opponent Saturday caught a long time ago.
Call it esprit de corps. Call it attitude. Call it a formula for success. Whatever "it" is, No. 25 Kansas State has had it for over 20 years. As a result, the Wildcats' good stats are now measured in seasons and decades, not just over three games.
Still, Saturday morning Kugler hopes his team is able to take another step forward at K-State (10 am MDT/FOX Sports Network). Sadly for the Miners, the Wildcats will not be in a giving mood after a narrow loss to No. 5 Auburn; a game KSU knows it could have -- should have -- won.
Kugler went down the football statistics liturgy -- turnover margin (UTEP's plus-5 is 7th nationally, tops in C-USA), rushing yards per game (also 7th nationally, first in conference), lack of penalties and more. The Miners stack up nicely in many regards.
They are pieces of a larger puzzle Kugler is just beginning to sort out. Unfortunately, at UTEP, people have been putting the football puzzle back on the shelf with missing pieces for years.
But the NFL and college coaching veteran believes he has a good pattern to use as a guide -- Kansas State.
According to Kugler, what the Wildcats have done under Snyder is to create a program that doesn't chase blindly after talent, but looks for talent that fits. It might be the only way to go when a school's location and poor history makes recruiting hot shots a long shot.
It is amazing -- perhaps heartening for UTEP fans -- when you consider that, before Snyder, K-State was dreadfully poor. It was easily considered one of the nation's worst college football programs in a conference (the Big 8) that had two of the nation's best in Oklahoma and Nebraska.
The Wildcats' history was just plain bad before Snyder came to Manhattan, KS. K-State had only one 10-win season prior to his tenure -- in 1910.
But since taking over in 1989, Snyder has won 180 games at KSU, proving that building something from nothing can still happen in college football with the right focus and a lot of determination.
UTEP wants to take another step along that road Saturday morning. But the Wildcats have already traveled it and they're not about to turn back.