Miners ready for battled tested UTSA Roadrunners


Michaela Roman

Redshirt freshman quarterback Ryan Metz has led a resurgent Miner offense in the last two weeks.

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

With the Miners 27-17 victory over Incarnate Word, their record now stands at 2-2. Their eyes are set on moving up in the standings in the Conference USA West division, which has three other teams in front of the Miners at 2-2.

This Saturday, Oct. 3, will be their opportunity to make a move as they open their conference schedule. The Miners will welcome the UT San Antonio Road Runners (0-4) for the Miners’ third meeting with the Road Runners.

Don’t expect the same result as last year when the Miners were able to shut out UTSA on the road. Though the Miners are at home, they are playing a much different team, a battled-hardened team.

A 0-4 record does not do this team justice, who, according to coach Sean Kugler,  has the toughest schedule in the nation. They lost to two top-25 teams and last week lost by three points.

“In my mind they have the hardest schedule in the country,” Kugler said. “They are sitting at 0-4 right now, but I think they are a very good football team.  They started off with four bowl teams from 2014.”

If you add a depleted Miner team, the Road Runners have a shot at taking one away from the Miners. UTEP lost their second running back in the win over Incarnate Word, when Darrin Laufasa, who had taken the place of their number one running back Aaron Jones. With a team that is already depleted at the back, the Miners will become increasingly predictable on offense.

If UTEP is forced to throw and is not able to establish the run, this would play right into UTSA’s hands. Although Ryan Metz has done a great job as the back up quarterback, he is still a first-year quarterback transitioning into an offense, something that bodes well for a defense that can stop the offense.

“They have given up some yards, but they have played some of the best offenses in the country when you talk about Arizona and Oklahoma State,” Kugler said. “They have gotten seven sacks on defense.”

A key for the Miners will be keeping the home field advantage. Although the Miners won two in a row, this one will be much more complicated, and momentum will have a big role in this game. If the Miners are able to get on the board first and keep UTSA off balance, it could play well for the Miners.

Home field advantage is something that coach Kugler emphasized as key. Another win at home and the Miners could do well for the rest of the campaign.

“They are going to feed off that our goal is to go undefeated at home, Kugler said.  “Playing in front of our fans is the best feeling in the world, I love our fans.”

If the Miners are able to keep the home field advantage and force UTSA into committing early mistakes, then they can take care of the win. Turnovers for UTSA have proved costly for the Road Runners and contributed to their current record.

“Where their biggest struggle has been is turnovers,” Kugler said. “Much like ours was up until this past week.  Going into last week, we were -6.  Overall they are -8.  They have had six fumbles and four interceptions and they’ve gained two fumbles on defense.  That’s probably the telling story for them–with where their record is and where they’re at.”

Special teams could also be a big boost for the Miners. They are ranked in the top 50 in the country, the only facet of the team that has broken into the top 100. The Miners have already had a punt return for a touchdown earlier against New Mexico State, and they could benefit from that facet of the game.

If the Miners are able to win their homecoming game, they should be able to gain momentum for later in the year. Although they have not looked impressive in their first four games, they sit at .500 and in third place in Conference USA West. The Miners have not dominated any game so far, but have been resilient and gotten the win when they had to. A win on Saturday could be the game to push them over the edge and carry them through.

Juan Carlos Navarrete can be reached at [email protected]