How sweet it is, the domination of a rival

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How sweet it is, the domination of a rival

Saturday night the Miners tied the record for most consecutive wins by any team in the 100-year-old rivalry with six straight wins.

Saturday night the Miners tied the record for most consecutive wins by any team in the 100-year-old rivalry with six straight wins.

Michaela Roman

Saturday night the Miners tied the record for most consecutive wins by any team in the 100-year-old rivalry with six straight wins.

Michaela Roman

Michaela Roman

Saturday night the Miners tied the record for most consecutive wins by any team in the 100-year-old rivalry with six straight wins.

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

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In football, every win is counted the same. It does not matter if you win with a game-winning field goal or a 30-point blowout—a win is a win. But there is one exception to that rule. When it comes to rivalry games, the complexity of the game changes.

Defeating your rival can make up for a season of trials or tribulations, or a loss can take away everything that a city, school and team were looking for—bragging rights.

Full steam ahead and the Miners have already made major strides in the young 2014 season—an impressive road win over New Mexico and a closely contested battle against Texas Tech showed that the Miners were not the same team they were last year. And Saturday night’s game against New Mexico State proved that once again, as the Miners won 42-24.

Head coach Sean Kugler has been involved in the rivalry as a player, assistant coach and now as head coach. “We take this game very seriously and I know the fans do, so it’s exciting for both sides,” Kugler said. “I respect the rivalry. I really enjoyed playing in it, I enjoyed coaching in it, and since I have been head coach I have enjoyed coaching in it as a head coach. It’s exciting, it’s intense and that’s what football is all about.”

Although the outcome is counted the same, the adulation and joy that comes with beating a rival can make up for a season of mishaps and disappointments. Last year, the UTEP football team had a dismal season, finishing with one of the worst defenses in the nation and a laundry list of injuries that resulted in a 2-10 record for the Miners.

One of the few bright spots in that season was the Miners’ win over New Mexico State in the Battle of I-10. It was a dominant win for the Miners, something that was a rarity last season. The 42-21 score was overshadowed by the overall disappointment of the season; but senior safety Wesley Miller has made it clear this season that the Miners are not looking back on last season.

“We don’t really look at positives from last year,” Miller said. “It was just a rough year all around. Looking back now, you never want to lose a game to your rival. Last year that wasn’t really in our mind. This year that was all that was on our mind.”

The 18-point routing of the Aggies marked the Miners’ sixth straight win in the Battle of I-10, which ties the longest winning streak for either team in the 100-year old rivalry. The Miners have dominated the rivalry over the past 15 years, and for the seniors on the 2014 squad, they have gone out in dominant fashion with
Saturday’s win.

“It’s fantastic, I can’t really express it right now,” Miller said. “We’re definitely ending the rivalry on a high note, I hope it continues. I think its been six straight for us and we hope to continue that for the next
couple of years.”

For Miller, the win was nothing short of special. After tearing his MCL in last year’s game, the Fresno, California, native finished his career off against New Mexico State in style. With New Mexico State driving midway through the second quarter, Miller intercepted a pass in the end zone, while taking a big hit. If the pass had been completed, the Aggies would have taken the lead.

Miller’s interception changed the state of the game in favor of the Miners, and is the lasting memory of Miller’s career against the Aggies—not his injury from last year.

“Yeah that totally washed away that memory,” Miller said. “It hurt so good. I felt it right when it happened, but it was totally worth it and I would do it every time.”

Even for underclassmen, the importance of the game is understood with clarity. From freshman to senior, every Miner understood how important the game was and how much it means for UTEP and the
city of El Paso.

“Growing up watching the games and seeing the previous UTEP teams win, we didn’t want to lose the (Silver) Spade,” said sophomore running back Aaron Jones. “In high school, you always hear them compare Las Cruces football to El Paso football. Showing that we can play is a good feeling.”

The Miners now lead the overall series 55 wins to 35 losses, with two draws. Over the Miners’ six-game winning streak over the Aggies, the average margin of victory is 19 points, with the Miners averaging a staggering 36.8 points per game.

Whether the Miners go onto have success down the road this season or falter like the teams of the past, the 2014 squad will always have the memory of dominating the Battle of I-10. How sweet it is.

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected] 

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