Miner backfield full of depth


Michaela Roman

The Miners rush offense ranks third in Conference USA.

Javier Cortez, Sports Editor

At homecoming, the UTEP football team found its footing again after a deplorable showing on the road the past two weeks. They found their success on the basis of their running attack, and the Miners now seem to be off life support.

Starting in 2013, head coach Sean Kugler has tried to instill a new brand of football that is based on physicality and running the ball. Although Kugler had a go-to running back in Nathan Jeffery, who came off an impressive sophomore season in 2012, Kugler and his assistant coaches never latched onto the phrase “go to back.”

Fast forward to Kugler’s second season and that rings true. The Miners best represented their depth and talent in the backfield against Old Dominion. Four Miners ran for at least 50 yards in the game and, in total, the team finished with 334 rushing yards, which accounted for 68 percent of the Miners’ total offense.

The Miners’ success is solely predicated on whether they can run the ball or not, and their statistics show the drastic difference. In the Miners’ two blowout losses to Kansas State and Louisiana Tech, the Miners rushed for a mere 59 and 81 yards, respectively. In the Miners’ three wins they have averaged 336 rushing yards per game.

The Miners’ slow and methodical attack on the ground is their calling card, and what sophomore running back Aaron Jones calls special.

“We all feel like we can do as another one does,” Jones said. “I feel like that’s what makes our running back group special.”

Every pack has a leader and Jones is just that for the Miner backfield, leading the team in every statistical rushing category. The Burges High School grad had a great start to the season, ranking inside the top five nationally in rushing yards at the start of the season.

To go along with settling at the top of the nation in rushing yards, Jones is among the best running backs in Conference USA, if not the best—ranking second in rushing yards, sixth in yards per attempt and fourth in rushing touchdowns.

Behind Jones is senior running back Nathan Jeffery, who has been a consistent second player to Jones, racking up 295 yards this season, while averaging 4.8 yards per carry. The rushing troop doesn’t stop there.

Fullbacks Darrin and Jeremy Laufasa have been consistent lead blockers all season, and senior Josh Bell made his name known against Old Dominion, rushing for three touchdowns.

“It’s just fun to watch,” said offensive specialist Autrey Golden. “I’m the type of guy to just sit back and watch the show. We love watching our teammates be successful— especially when you see them put in the work all week. When you’re just a spectator watching them have fun, it’s a great feeling.”

Whether the Miners can right the ship and find continuous success coming off their homecoming victory, the answer lies within the run game. Sixty-two percent of the Miners’ total offense comes from their running attack, and it accounts for nearly 70 percent in their wins.

In the offseason, the focal points where the Miners needed to improve were on defense and in the passing game, and neither has come to fruition. The Miners’ defense still ranks as one of the worst in the nation and the pass offense is averaging a 142.3 yards per game, which is the
lowest since 1984.

Slow and methodical is they way the Miners like to go, and head coach Sean Kugler wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I’ll take slow and methodical, that takes possessions away,” Kugler said. “That’s the plan, to steal possessions. We milk the clock, and that doesn’t work unless your run game is extremely efficient.”

Javier Cortez may be reached at [email protected]