UTEP's Sean Kugler talks about win over New Mexico, looks ahead to Texas Tech

EL PASO, Texas - UTEP Head Football Coach Sean Kugler addressed the media Monday and talked about the team's win on the road over New Mexico and the Miners' upcoming home game against Texas Tech.

Below are Kugler's quotes from the news conference.

Sept. 1, 2014(Opening Statement)
"I want to thank all the players and the coaches for putting in the effort that they did during the offseason and training camp to prepare for this first game. It all starts back then. You don't just come out for your first game and practice for a week and get it done. There's a lot of hard work involved. I thought from an attitude standpoint, from a preparation standpoint, everybody was on point and it allowed us to get our first win on the road against a rival opponent from the Mountain West Conference. It was a great team win and there were a lot of positives in the game. There were some negatives that we're going to work hard to correct. But all in all it was an outstanding team effort and I was very proud of the players.

"Some goals that we had going into the game ... ball security. We always want to be on the plus end of turnovers. We had no turnovers on the offensive side of the ball. Between defense and special teams, we forced three turnovers, which put us at +3 on the year. If we can stay on that end of the gig, it betters our chances of having a winning season.

"One thing I was really proud of, we had four young offensive linemen who hadn't played as a starter in a collegiate game. To be honest with you, I probably had a little anxiety going into the game knowing their youth. You expect maybe some false starts or some assignment errors, those types of things. Those kids went out and competed. We had no penalties on the offensive side of the ball. We had no sacks. And we rushed for 330 yards. From an offensive line standpoint, that's a pretty good day at the office. I thought they were physical, they owned the line of scrimmage against New Mexico and I was proud of that group. I thought for their first time getting out there, they played like we expect a UTEP offensive line to play.

"I thought Jameill [Showers] was very efficient with the ball. He did have two drops. He was at about 50 percent [completion percentage] but he managed the game great. He made great decisions with the ball. I think he only made one poor decision with the ball. What I like was he made plays with his legs and put stress on the defense and we encourage him to do that.

"I thought the running backs were outstanding. Aaron Jones had 237 yards and a 10.8-yard average. He was getting stronger as the game went on and really had some outstanding vision runs. More importantly he had some strong runs, some physical runs. Nathan Jeffery had an outstanding game as well. He rushed for over 80 yards and had six yards a carry. He got more of the tough inside the tackle runs and he was running physical the entire night.

"Jarrad Shaw, really getting his first start as a receiver, is stepping up this year as a senior leader. He had a 48-yard touchdown and led our team in receptions. That's what we're excited about, having senior leadership out there and I thought the seniors did an excellent job.

"You don't get those yards if the tight ends and the running backs and the receivers aren't blocking. I thought Ian Hamilton did a great job on the edge blocking their safeties. I thought the fullbacks, Josh Bell andDarrin Laufasa, did an outstanding job. I think both of our tight ends are excellent blockers, [Eric] Tomlinson and the guy who did an excellent job in this game was Katrae Ford. He graded out at 90 percent. He was very physical at the point of attack.

"From a defensive standpoint, I know they got a lot of yards, but from a head coach's perspective I didn't have the same feel as we did last year. I felt last year we got physically dominated. I didn't feel that was the case this year. Last year we only had five plays where we held them to two yards or less the entire game. We had 20 plays this year where we held them to two yards or less. There were nine tackles for losses. The disappointing thing is we did lose edge contain. They did have some schemes that we had not seen that they implemented during the offseason and they got us a few times. That is a very difficult scheme to stop and they run it very well. They are very efficient on the offensive side of the ball. I felt our tackling was much improved. I felt the effort was much improved. Even though we had a lull in the second half where they got some drives going against us, the defense stepped up at the end of the game and forced turnovers that gave us a chance to win that game. So I was very proud of that group. The guy that really stood out was [Anthony] Puente. He had 16 tackles and was all over the field. Trey Brown had nine tackles and Alvin Jones had six tackles, three of those being tackles for losses. I bring that up because linebacker production last year really didn't show up on film. I was excited to see linebackers making the tackles because when your secondary guys are leading the team in tackles, that's not a good sign. When your linebackers are making all the tackles, you're heading in the right direction. Other guys that I thought did a good job were Gino Bresolin, Maurice Chavis and Alejandro Villarreal. They had a hard time running interior wise on them. Those guys did a nice job controlling the line of scrimmage on the inside. We've just got some perimeter things that we need to clean up when we play option teams again.

"I thought the special teams was extremely solid starting with the punter Mike Ruggles. He averaged 54 yards per punt. We even had some pooch punts with Jameill and he did an excellent job. At the end of the game Mike Sroka, who is our pooch punter -- he does it better than anybody on the team, that is his specialist role -- he put the nose of the ball down and that thing dropped on that guy pretty quick. Their guy made a poor decision fielding the ball on the six-yard line, and L.A. Dowell is the guy who forced the fumble and recovered the fumble. We have really made a big emphasis on special teams. Coach Natkin and coach Rodriguez, they tally up every single point from an effort standpoint and an assignment standpoint. We have a thing called Top Gun where coach Natkin showed some clips from the movie. I don't think any of our guys on the team had even seen that movie, but they now know who Tom Cruise is, Ice Man and all that stuff. The Top Gun guy this week was L.A. Dowell. He was the most productive special teams player. He has a role on this team and he took that role to heart. I also thought [Jay] Mattox was outstanding. He was 100 percent on field goals and PATs. He booted three of his kickoffs out of the end zone. That was really important to us because they were the number one kickoff return team in the country last year. Our goal was to keep their average start at the 25 yard line or less. We held them to the 22 yard line. I thought the kickoff coverage unit was outstanding. We were very solid on the special teams. We did have one mistake there where we didn't snap the ball and we had a delay of game. But all in all for a first game to have just two penalties, that shows the players are in tune and disciplined and they understand their role. It was a very clean game from a penalty standpoint, a very physical game, and I'm proud of our team and the way they handled going on the road against a team that defeated them last year. That's a good taste to get the win at New Mexico. It made for an enjoyable bus ride for everybody on the way home."

(How impressed are you with the team's focus compared to last year?)
"Overall everything is night and day. These kids are focused. They come to work every day starting with the meetings. You can see with their eye contact. They are paying attention and taking notes. They take it on to the practice field. They practice hard and with energy. We're not pulling teeth as coaches trying to get those guys to work. They enjoy it. Sometimes that always doesn't translate into the game. They've got to carry that into the game and our guys did that. Another goal was to get off to a fast start and that's about as fast of a start as you can have getting up 24-7. It really kind of put the game out of balance and forced those guys to come from behind. My hat does go off to New Mexico. They fought back. They're a scrappy team, they're well coached, and they showed a lot of resolve and fight. I'm kind of glad that we had to win a game like that. It was in the balance and it was either team's to win or lose. I think our players went out and found a way to win that game."

(How much did the tempo help your team, especially in the first half?)
"We always practice at a fast tempo. I felt that they were in good condition. At the end of the game our offensive linemen were standing tall and playing physical and getting after their guys. That's the style of tempo that we want to play here at UTEP moving forward."

(On the offense in the second half)
"Really in the second half the offense moved the ball just as efficiently as they did in the first half. It's just that we had an errant snap that killed one of our drives, and we had the fourth and one at the goal line that killed another drive. It wasn't a factor of moving the ball, we just had two mistakes that shot our own foot."

(On the injury front)
"We've got a few bumps and bruises. We'll see how that goes throughout the week. But for as physical of a game as it was on both sides of the ball, I think we're pretty healthy."

(On resisting the temptation to let Aaron Jones carry the ball 30 times a game)
"We have a pitch count on our backs. We try to adhere to that the entire year. Of course you go with the hot hand. I felt both of the backs were running extremely well. I love mixing it up [with them]. It gives the defense different tempos. I want the ball in Aaron Jones'hands as much as we can possibly do, not only as a running back but also as a receiver. But we've also got to keep in mind that we're not dealing with a 240-pound back that can withstand 30 carries and the pounding. He's a 185 or 190 pound back. If we have 44 attempts and he's getting 22 of those attempts, I think we're in good shape."

(On Texas Tech)
"I know we're extremely excited about Texas Tech coming to town. They're a Big 12 opponent, they won their bowl game last year and really got after Arizona State. They pretty much return their offense intact. The quarterback started the bowl game as a freshman and he's back. He threw for 452 yards and four touchdowns in the last game. They've got two excellent running backs, both kind of the same stature. They both averaged over five yards per carry. They return most of their receivers, in particular Bradley Marquez. He had 11 receptions last week for 184 yards and a touchdown. They play a very up-tempo style. They do run the ball and run the ball efficiently. But they sling it all over the yard. We're going to have to be on our screws defensively because I can't think of a more drastic switch going from the pistol triple option to a spread, up-tempo passing attack. It is going to be a complete switch for our guys and I know they'll be excited about making the change. That's what's great about football. Each week is different.

"Defensively they are a multiple front team. They've got some linebackers returning. They have added some size up front with some junior college transfers, in particular Branden Jackson their defensive end. He was their leading sacker last year. He is a dominant player. He had a sack in their last game. One of their outside backers, Pete Robertson, had a sack. Their returning leading tackler is back. They're young in the secondary but you can see they've got a lot of talent back there. They return their punter, their kicker and their kick returner. They are very solid in special teams and they have a new punt returner, a high school kid who has some outstanding speed. They return intact a very solid bowl team that won eight games. We have an opportunity to play in front of a packed house, which I'm expecting. I know the El Paso fans will come out in full force for this one. It's a 9:00 game, nationally televised, and we're going to be the only game on in the country at that time. I know the fans are going to go out and show their support. I hope they're as rowdy as they can be from start to finish and put a lot of pressure on Texas Tech. As a staff and as a program, we're excited. We do know it's only one win. But to get that first win gives us a lot of momentum and gives us energy. We needed that energy to bring us into this second game. I'm excited about having a chance to come home to El Paso in front of a great crowd and play a quality opponent like Texas Tech."

(On Central Arkansas controlling the line of scrimmage last week versus TTU)
"They really kind of held the run game in check. They had 184 yards rushing but it was also on 54 attempts. So they only averaged three yards a carry. I thought Texas Tech controlled the run game. They were up-tempo and they did complete a lot of passes. They've got a young secondary. You always make your biggest improvement from your first game to the second game. I'm sure they'll be working hard to correct those things. Offensively they are scary. Their quarterback is efficient. He looks like he has even added some weight. He is stronger than he was last year. He is the future of that program. That's the way they view him and justifiably so. He is good. They are loaded at the skill positions and they have a veteran offensive line. They really do a great job of pass protection. They had over 40 pass attempts and no sacks. For a drop back passing team that's impressive. So we've got our work cut out for us. We know that. But the thing I like is this team is we're up to the challenge of working and taking on challenges and we look forward to it."

(On preparing for the Texas Tech offense)
"We've got to practice it. We'll probably throw two huddles at our defense the entire week. Rapid plays, one after the other. We do have to get lined up quickly and get our communication in there quickly. We've got to make our calls quickly because they will catch you off guard if you're not ready. There are rules in place where if they do substitute personnel they give us time to substitute as well. There will be substitutions on defense. We'll probably play a lot of guys in this game and expect them all to perform at their best level."

(On the team's depth)
"We're probably not where we need to be depth wise at a few positions. That comes down to us. We've got to do a good job of recruiting and developing players while we're here. Everybody has some holes, everybody has some issues. Injuries always factor into it too. If we miss a couple of guys in this game at a certain position, obviously that will affect our depth. Really depth is about recruiting and developing. I put that on us, I put that on the coaches. You'll never hear me whine about depth. We have what we have and that's who's going to be out there playing. But two years down the road, if I'm saying the same things about the same positions dpeth-wise, then I haven't done my job."

(On the importance of having a big crowd Saturday)
"I can tell you first hand as a player and a coach, there's nothing like stepping on to that Sun Bowl field with 52,000 screaming people. It's one of the more difficult places to play when this place is rocking. I'm excited for our players because I think they're going to have the opportunity to experience that for the first time against a Big 12 team in front of the nation. It's an exciting week but again it is one game, it's a non-conference game, but it's against a quality opponent and we're going to prepare as such."

(On Jarrad Shaw beating out Tyler Batson and Brandon Moss)
"We challenged our leaders to step up and our seniors to step up and he certainly did that. I felt more comfortable with him as we got closer to game time just from a knowledge standpoint and how he was practicing. He didn't have the jitters. He wasn't dropping the ball at all. We made a personnel change going into the week. I think it benefited us. I think Batson and Moss are going to be quality players for us. I just felt that easing them into it was probably the best chance for those guys to be successful when they did get out there."

Source: UTEP Athletics

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