Miners and Lobos renew 94-year rivalry


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UTEP and NMSU began their rivalry in 1914, the rivalry will hit its centennial mark in 2014.

Javier Cortez, Staff Reporter

The UTEP Miners’ 2013 season will begin with a home game against the New Mexico Lobos, which will be the first of four matchups between 2013-16.
The Rio Grande rivalry has been in hibernation for over a decade now; in the past 12 years only five games have been played between both teams. UTEP and New Mexico have faced each other every year for more than six decades.

“I love the fact we are playing UNM again,” said Manuel Laguna, sophomore business administration major. “Rivalry games are usually the best and I’m really looking forward for this game.”

This rivalry goes all the way back to 1919. The Miners and the Lobos have played each other a total of 76 times, with the Lobos leading the series 42-31-3.
Head coach Sean Kugler, a former offensive lineman for the Miners, experienced the rivalry first-hand in the ‘80s and he is very excited about the renewed rivalry.

“I think it’s awesome,” Kugler said. “UTEP and New Mexico should play every year, they’re natural rivals, they’re rivals from the past, the fans get into it. I remember playing in that rivalry and I think it’s great for both programs.”

In UTEP’s history, New Mexico is their second-biggest football series, first being New Mexico State with 90 games, and third Arizona State with 42.

Kugler is not the only person on the coaching staff who has experienced the rivalry, but a few of his assistant coaches understand the importance of the game as they themselves are alumni. Among them is nickelbacks/safeties coach and former linebacker for the Miners, Robert Rodriguez, who said he is glad to see both teams play again.

“I grew up in this rivalry, playing in the old Western Athletic Conference and New Mexico was a big deal,” Rodriguez said. “New Mexico, at New Mexico, so it’s really exciting to be part of this rivalry; it’s going to be an exciting time for true UTEP fans.”

Most of the players on this year’s UTEP football team haven’t played against New Mexico or truly experienced the rivalry, but alumni such as Kugler and Rodriguez emphasize the intensity of the rivalry.

“With coach Kugler, at the very least, he appreciates what this rivalry means to the true fans,” Rodriguez said. “The fact that the fans care about this rivalry, that we’re so close to each other and the long history with our two programs is enough.”

Junior running back Nathan Jeffery is one of the few players on this 2013 team to understand the rivalry; he got to experience the tension, volatile crowd and overwhelming sense of pride from both teams as a redshirt freshman in 2010.

“Last time we played them was my redshirt freshman year, and we went over there to New Mexico and it was pretty bad, lots of mouthing off from them, fans talking trash and they’ll get the same when they come here,” Jeffery said.

For some UTEP students today, having New Mexico as a rival is probably unknown to most, but here are some interesting facts about the football rivalry.

In 1967, UTEP scored a record-high 75 points in the series when they beat the Lobos 75-12 in Albuquerque. UTEP has a 21-15-3 record at home against New Mexico, and has won six of the last 10 games played between both teams.

The last time these two teams played was in 2010 and the Miners won 38-20 in Albuquerque. This year’s game will be crucial for both teams, as they are both coming off losing seasons and are trying to rebound.

New Mexico hasn’t beat UTEP since 2006 and the Miners would like to keep it that way. The Miners open their 2013 season against the Lobos, at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Sun Bowl.

Javier Cortez may be reached at the [email protected]