Cyrus Smith: How do UTEP fans feel about Sean Kugler as the Miners sit with a 2-4 record and a winless record in conference play? Is he getting a pass due to missing All-Conference running back Aaron Jones with an injury?
Miner Rush: It's about 50/50 in where fans are giving him somewhat of a pass per say, and the other half have that stank look of "Kugs is in over his head on this one." It's not really the fact that UTEP is losing, but the Miners have been getting flat out curbed stomped which happened less often in the Mike Price days.
Personally, I still feel he is the right guy for the job. His 2013 and 2014 classes should be fully available and developed for depth chart depth in the next couple of seasons which in my mind is how he should be fully judged after essentially burning things down from a roster standpoint in 2013.
Next year seems to be an ultimate hot-seat year, but this season has raised a lot of questions about his job security going forward mainly because the ugliness of every loss in his short tenure.
CS: Aside from missing Jones, what's holding back the UTEP offense from becoming more successful?
MR: A huge identity crisis and inconsistent quarterback play are the two main culprits. UTEP thought they had their guy at quarterback in Ryan Metz, but he struggled against defenses not named NMSU or Incarnate Word after week one starter Mack Leftwich went out with a serious concussion.
Leftwich (who will start against FAU) is limited without Aaron Jones in my opinion with his 5'8 stature, below average arm strength, and he just really hasn't shown much other than taking care of the ball in a conservative offensive scheme. While true freshman Kavika Johnson just hasn't had enough game reps to fully judge, he could be UTEP's best option at this point.
The Miners want to run the ball, but the offensive line has been disappointedly inconsistent, and the lack of the Aaron Jones factor has UTEP shuffling at running back. The thing is UTEP has athletes to overcome the loss of Jones, but a lack of a plan B identity without Jones has been the offensive story in the first half of the season.
Also UTEP's fourth receiver has been the Miners best running back post AJ, so that should pretty much explain it all.
CS: What has been the biggest issue on the defensive side of the ball?
MR: Allowing big plays. The Miners have allowed 101 total plays that have gone for over 10-yards this year. Mix that with 29 run plays over 10-yards and 34 pass plays-over 10 yards both on first down situations and you have bigger than big problem.
UTEP lost all-conference caliber safety Devin Cockrell who was a two-year starter, big time communicator and a tackle machine in the second level which is another main factor. The Miners are very young in the secondary with up to four freshmen playing all at once, so the youth movement has seen its fair share of growing pains in allowing those big plays.
Key for UTEP's aggressive 4-2-5 defense is pressure on the quarterback, and a heavy dose of TFL's, but that production has not been consistent enough for UTEP to even be respectable on the defensive side.
CS: Who should FAU fans keep an eye on when the Miners have the ball? Who should they be on the lookout for when the Miners are on defense?
MR: On the offensive side, senior Autrey Golden seems to be fully healthy for the first time all season, and will get more touches out of dire necessity. He's a converted running back who now plays wide receiver, but could see some snaps at tailback this week.
He's also one kickoff return touchdown away from tying the NCAA record for kickoff return touchdowns in a career, so I would expect him to be hungry in many ways to turn this around.
Defensively, sophomore linebacker Alvin Jones has to be accounted for.
He is second in the C-USA in tackles for losses, and is a relentless blitzer, and sure tackler. UTEP moves him all over the field, and is a big key when it comes to passing down packages.
CS: Who win this week's game? UTEP or FAU?
MR: FAU 31 UTEP 10. UTEP just hasn't shown any growth the past two games, and with Mack Leftwich back at quarterback you just don't know what you're going to get out of the UTEP offense.
If the Miners come out fast on both sides of the ball, which hasn't happened at all this year, it could be a close game. But again UTEP just hasn't shown any winning tendencies to make any game look like a "winnable" contest.
CS: Who would you like to punch in the face?
MR: I actually have a top five list of humans on Earth who would earn that honor so let me give you the top two who are actually the 1a and 1b douche bags on that prestigious list.
Kanye West and former Southern Miss. and Tennessee cheater/basketball coach Donnie Tyndall.