Cyrus Smith: Is Sean Kugler on the hot seat? After taking you guys to a bowl game a few years ago the Miners have dipped and with North Texas’ and UTSA’s new hires it seems you guys could potentially lose ground in C-USA West with him still running the show in El Paso.
Alex Nicolas: Yeah to the fans the whole North Texas/UTSA 'rise' after necessary proactive changes surely pushes the hot seat button, but UTEP's administration doesn’t see it that way, at all. Kugler's biggest drawback and reason for being on the "fan hot seat" if you will is the lack of the true development of a quarterback.
Now Ryan Metz appears to be the solution, but the question now is it too late since UTEP's attendance is now dropping at an alarming rate? UTEP is building legit depth at other areas, particularly on the defense, but the lack of a stud QB could be Kugler's demise, or self-demise after this season. If UTEP ends up on the outside looking in at the bowl picture, December will be an interesting month for those that follow UTEP football closely.
CS: I pegged UTEP as a C-USA West dark horse division contender with the return of Aaron Jones and a very easy schedule. UTEP currently sits at 3-6 and needs to win out to go bowling. What happened?
AN: In my opinion, the Zack Greenlee experiment backfired, and UTEP had no idea of what identity they could develop with Greenlee at quarterback which set things back. UTEP's offense has struggled mightily due to a lack of a consistent passing game, and Greenlee was not the answer, while Ryan Metz is proving to be the answer and even possibly a late season savior.
Kugler put all his chips in on Greenlee being the guy, but his injuries mixed with the lack of energy he failed to infuse inside the offense with playmaking ability has UTEP where it's at in my opinion.
CS: What should we expect from Brent Pease’s offense this Saturday?
AN: Lots of Aaron Jones, some play action, a ton of personnel packages, and tight ends running crossing routes. Those have been some of the successful marks since Ryan Metz has taken over at quarterback, but in what is a playoff type game for UTEP, it's hard to predict exactly what Pease will throw out there.
Could UTEP be desperate and finally hand the keys to Metz and the passing game? That’s what fans want, but UTEP will run first to set up the pass, and hope to catch FAU slippin'. Also, Aaron Jones is less than 100-yards away from the school's all-time rushing record, so I would expect a heavy dose of #AJ29 at least early on.
One thing that has stood out to me examining this game is the pre-snap motion UTEP uses that Charlie Partridge kinda seemed concerned with, and UTEP does use a very high number of personnel packages. That could be a small advantage UTEP has if FAU is unable to adjust to what UTEP is doing pre-snap wise.
CS: What type of defense does UTEP run? Who are the names FAU fans should lookout for on that end?
AN: UTEP has ran a pressure based 3-4 defense with a number of players emerging almost weekly. Dante Lovilette is proving to be the best JUCO signee under Sean Kugler, and Alvin Jones is a flat out C-USA stud who thrives in stopping the run. Those two give UTEP a strong presence at middle linebacker, then you have senior Nick Usher who is the perfect rangy fit at outside linebacker and has been very productive as well.
In the secondary look for veterans Devin Cockrell and Dashone Smith to have some sort of impact as both have turned it up a notch at the right time. Also cornerback Nik Needham is a sneaky pick for All-C-USA honors as he's had a very solid season.
CS: Who wins the game?
AN: UTEP is 0-20-1 in the Eastern Time zone in their almost 100-year football history. Sean Kugler switched up UTEP's travel plans and the team will arrive on Thursday to get an extra day under them after traveling two time zones and over the Gulf of Mexico.
That being said, I'm just not sure if this UTEP team has what it takes offensively to put up points on the road. UTEP's defense will be tough to crack if FAU does not get the run game going, but will UTEP's offense respond to some defensive success? It happened against NMSU, UTSA, and Houston Baptist, don't know if it will happen in the Eastern Time Zone against what could be a confident FAU team.
FAU 25 UTEP 21 in a thriller no one will get to see since C-USA's TV deal…..sucks, and basketball season will be officially be upon us in El Paso.
CS: Who do you want to punch in the face?
AN: I'm actually at peace right now, so I think I'd save that punch in the face for a series of dates and private jet rides with J.Lo.