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Miners look to bounce back against FIU after disappointing homecoming

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After a frustrating 25-6 loss in their Conference USA home opener against the UTSA Roadrunners, UTEP football head coach Sean Kugler and the Miners will look to rally behind freshman quarterback Ryan Metz with the hope of breaking even on the road against the Florida International Panthers.

“We’re right where we were last year, whether they want to hear it or not,” Kugler said. “We’re 2-3. We lost our first conference game in an embarrassing fashion; and they have two options – they either come together as a team and they fight, or they fracture and split up into small groups and become losers.  I will not allow that to happen.  I am the head coach here and I’m going to choose the latter.  I’m going to fight and do everything I can to try to fix this thing.”

As Kugler explained, the 2-3 (0-1) record reflects some similarity to the 2014 season, in which they started in the exact same fashion. However, the Miners from last year had Jameill Showers, Wesley Miller and a healthy Aaron Jones.

This year, the squad must advance without their initial weapons on offense and some of the top impact players on defense. Although Metz filled the spot at starting quarterback when Mack Leftwich suffered a concussion, the Miners have not been able to fill the void left at the running back position, which was held by Aaron Jones.

Losing both Jones and Darrin Laufasa early in the season leaves the options for a tailback very limited for the offense. Against the Roadrunners, the defense experienced their share of injuries.

Alvin Jones, who produced 10 tackles and three sacks, Ishmael Harrison and Kelvin Fisher finished the game injured according to head coach Sean Kugler.

“We are bare bones,” Kugler said. “(When) you lose your entire starting backfield and it’s tough to regroup.”

In their first conference game, the offense was left in the hands of Metz, who, unlike his past two games, couldn’t stimulate the offense effectively.

Metz threw four interceptions in the loss, which resulted in 13 points for UTSA. Despite the discouraging loss, the junior quarterback knows that he, with the help of his teammates, will rally back in the coming weeks.

“My receivers, on the passes that were completed, made me look good,” Metz said. “I wasn’t me (against UTSA). This week at practice, I’m going to have to go out there and just be myself. That’s something I went away from. We’re going to have a good week of practice this week. These guys are going to rally around me, and that’s the most awesome thing.”

Entering next Saturday’s game, both Conference USA teams show distinct similarities. FIU, like UTEP, has a 2-3 (0-1) record. Similar to the Miners, FIU also struggles on the offensive side, and was outgained last weekend 188-495 against UMass.

However, unlike the hometown team, the Panthers have an experienced gunslinger with Alex McGough, who has 1,129 passing yards and 10 touchdowns thus far.

McGough is sure to seek out his favorite receiver amongst the FIU secondary, Thomas Owens, the 6-foot-1-inch sophomore who has 349 receiving yards and five touchdowns.

The FIU Panthers also can run the ball smoothly. Alex Gardner, the Panthers’ running back, averages 16.8 carries per game and has gained 315 yards thus far.

FIU is coming off a staggering 24-14 loss against UMass, leaving the Panthers hungry for redemption. Like the Panthers, the Miners will play with high expectations to secure a victory.

Metz continues to have faith in his team, and has bigger plans for the coming season.

“It’s a long season,” Metz said. “We still have seven games, and there’s nothing saying that we can’t go on to still play in a conference championship game, and that’s the goal. The goal is still to go to a bowl game and win. (The UTSA loss) was a minor setback to a major bounce back.”

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Adrian Broaddus, Sports Editor
Adrian Broaddus is the sports editor for The Prospector. He is a junior multimedia journalism major with a minor in political science.   Adrian was born and raised in El Paso, TX, and is a graduate of Franklin high school. He entered college in the fall of 2015 in hopes to better his career in journalism.   Along with sports, Adrian enjoys writing music reviews, perspective columns and news stories on politics.   Although he is pursuing his degree in journalism, Adrian would like to go to law school and be an attorney while doing part-time work in journalism.  
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Miners look to bounce back against FIU after disappointing homecoming