Football team ends season against Blue Raiders

"Offensively they are really potent, they have ran for 250 yards the last four games and have played really well." -Sean Kugler, football head coach


Aaron Montes / The Prospector

UTEP will face Middle Tennessee State on the road, on the final game of the first season under Sean Kugler.

Javier Cortez, Staff Reporter

The UTEP football season will come to an end on Nov. 30, as the Miners take on the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Whether they win or lose, with their 2-9 record, the Miners have been out of any bowl consideration for the past five weeks.

Coming into this game, Middle Tennessee is on a four-game winning streak and stand at 7-4 overall with one game left in their regular season. Over the past four games, the Blue Raiders have outscored their opponents 165 to 91.

“Offensively, they are very potent, they have ran for 250 yards the last four games and have played really well,” said head coach Sean Kugler.

The Blue Raiders are led by senior quarterback Logan Kilgore. The three-year starter is looking to send the Blue Raiders back to a bowl game as he wraps up his career at Middle Tennessee. Kilgore has been the most prolific passer in the school’s history. He is also Middle Tennessee’s all-time leader in touchdown passes, pass attempts and soon to be the leader in pass completions and passing yards.

“He is very efficient. He is a senior and he is experienced,” Kugler said. “Middle Tennessee, like other teams we’ve faced–They are strong when they have senior leadership at that position, it has meant a lot for them.”

The biggest threats the Miners will have to face are once again in the backfield. The Blue Raiders are led by sophomore running back Jordan Palmer, who leads the team in rushing with 656 yards, as well as junior running back Reggie Whatley, who leads the team in yards per rush with 6.8.

Overall, Middle Tennessee ranks 35th in the nation with 199.6 rushing yards per game. Whereas the Miners’ defense has given up 242.7 yards on the ground per game and ranks 117th in the nation. The Blue Raiders will be sure to give the Miners a full dose of running plays, as the Miners have the worst rush defense the Blue Raiders have faced all year.

After an emotional season finale home win on senior night in El Paso, the Miners traveled to New Orleans  to play Tulane and were thoroughly dominated by the Green Wave, 45-3.

The Miners struggled all during the game to move the ball offensively, only collecting 13 first downs in comparison to Tulane’s 26. Last week, the Miners also struggled in the run game, only collecting 49 rushing yards.

“It was a disappointing loss, after the win I anticipated the team to play with more energy and more intensity,” Kugler said. “It was a through whipping in all faces of the game.”

Freshman quarterback Mack Leftwich will make his fourth start this season, and through three games he has thrown for 336 yards on 51 pass attempts, with two touchdowns and two interceptions as well as a  58.8 pass completion percentage.

The Miners’ game plan will most likely be shaped around the running game. With Leftwich at the helm, the majority of offensive plays have come on the ground. Junior running back Nathan Jeffery will lead the Miners’ rushing attack, along with return specialist Autrey Golden and backup quarterback Blaire Sullivan.

Although the Blue Raiders are 22.5-point favorites heading into this game, one thing the Miners should not be surprised by is the level of play. Middle Tennessee might be 7-4 and among the Conference USA elite, but the Miners have played plenty of quality opponents all year, especially on the road.

“There is one game left for our seniors and I hope they play like its their last game, because it is,” Kugler said. “It will also be an opportunity for the unproven guys that came in place for those who were injured to give it their best.”

A win or loss will not affect the Miners’ future this season, but a win will be a sign of hope for next year, as the Miners close out one of their worst seasons in recent history.

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]