A slow transition under Kugler

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A slow transition under Kugler

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Javier Cortez, Staff Reporter

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Every season starts with certain expectations, optimism, dreams and goals, but as the season progresses some of those expectations change. Optimism may turn into pessimism, dreams into nightmares and goals are unmet.

After a 1-5 start to their 2013 season that is what the UTEP football team must be going through. The Miners have been on a tailspin, losing four straight games going into their bye week. At the beginning of the season, many of the players were talking about competing for a Conference USA championship and a possible bowl game bid; now the rhetoric surrounding the football team is improvement.

“My main focus for this team is to just improve. I want to see improvement from the defense in tackling, to see improvement from the offense in consistency,” said head coach Sean Kugler. “I never put a number on wins going into the season, I just want to see improvement on a weekly basis.”

Despite the Miners’ losing record, in theory they could still make a bowl game, and if they win five of their next six games they will be bowl eligible.

If coach Kugler has done one thing right so far at UTEP, it’s changing the focus of the team, but the players would be lying if losing wasn’t on their minds.

“It’s definitely in our minds right now,” said defensive back Wesley Miller. “We know what the magic number is, we have to win and it’s in our minds right now.”

Unlike last season, the Miners have done a solid job with its offense, averaging 31.2 points per game, but the defense–with many new faces–has allowed an average of 37.7 points per game. If they want to have any chance of salvaging this season, the defense has to step it up for the next six difficult contests ahead of them.

Going into the second half of the season, the Miners are up against stiff competition, and with the majority of their games on the road, the Miners need quick improvement. The combined record of their first six opponents is 11-30, and the combined record of their next six opponents is 23-18.

“Our toughest test is going to be Texas A&M, but we can match up with anyone we play,” said quarterback Jameill Showers. “In conference play, Rice should be tough, and I heard that Middle Tennessee should be pretty good. So probably between them and Rice, they should be good, and I heard that UNT (North Texas) is no slouch. So we have our work cut out for us, but I think we can do it.”

Showers said the team can get a lot better if they are able to change the mistakes that have been plaguing them throughout the first half of the season.

“It’s been the same story all season, execution,” Showers said. “We got to get back to the basics and fundamentals, and we got to win games–bottom line.”

With the Miners having the time to reflect and look back on the first half of the season, one thing they would like to change is the attitude of the defense.

“Changing the culture of anything takes time,” Kugler said. “It takes patience, it takes hard work and it takes guys buying in. It’s a process that we’re going through right now, but we’re willing to work at it. We’re patient and the kids are willing to work at it, and we’ll get it turned around.”

On Oct. 26, the Miners play Conference USA co-west division leader Rice in Houston–a well-equipped team that can play defense, and that has the ultimate Achilles’ heel for the Miners–a solid running back. If the UTEP players and coaching staff have made anything clear to their fans, it’s that they’re focusing on improvement. Whether that comes with wins or more losses, only time will tell.

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