Miners head into much needed bye week


Andres Martinez

The UTEP football team is heading into their bye week after a 52-12 loss to the FIU Panthers in Miami this past Saturday.

Adrian Broaddus, Staff Reporter

Following back-to-back grueling losses to the University of Texas at San Antonio and Florida International University, respectively, the UTEP football team finds themselves in a desperate rebuilding mode entering week seven of the season. Falling to 2-4 (0-2) after six games, the beat-up squad will have their much-needed first bye week of the season.

During the off week, Sean Kugler is left to serve as a messiah to a shaky team. Many holes need to be fixed such as finding true starters on offense and working around the health issues for some of the injured players.

The rough 52-12 loss against the FIU Panthers was both unexpected and a disappointing performance for the Miners. The Panther offense opened the game by easily maneuvering through the defense for 75 yards to score in just six plays. Then, in a blink of an eye, the Panthers stopped the Miner offense and scored back-to-back touchdowns, extending their lead to 21-0 with 1:05 in the first quarter.

Starting quarterback Ryan Metz could not get anything rolling on offense, as he threw a pick-six on the next drive. Metz, who went 2-for-4, had a mere 10 yards and was benched after the interception.

Freshman Kavika Johnson, who’s seen playing time in a wildcat package, took Metz’ place and finished the game. Johnson was able to lead a 73-yard drive, which featured a 53-yard pass to Cole Freytag on a third and six, that ended in a field goal. The Miners trailed 42-3 at the half.

“Ryan had a pick-six and the offense stalled at that point,” Kugler said. “We just needed a spark right before halftime. We put in Kavika.  He gave us a little spark down the field.  He continued to give us a spark in the second half.”

Halfway into the third quarter, Johnson again found Freytag for a 23-yard touchdown pass. However, this was the only touchdown the Miners had on the day. Although the Panthers outgained the Miners 518 to 272-yards, the Miners were on par with FIU in the running game. Lead receiver turned running back, Warren Redix, rushed for 52 yards.

The Miners outgained the Panthers 188-166 on the ground. Also, with his 92 yards on kick off returns, Autrey Golden became UTEP’s all-time leader in kickoffs with 2,758 yards in his career. However, the 40-point loss did not register well with head coach Sean Kugler.

“Beyond tough,” Kugler said referring to the loss. “We lost a few more guys. I can’t say enough. We’re a beat-up team. As the head coach, I’ve got to do a good job of keeping these guys together and trying to field a competitive team and keep them fighting. That’s on me.”

Now midway into the season with a bye week, the heavily injured Miners are left to find diamonds in the rough.

Due to injuries, the squad is playing their third and fourth-string quarterbacks, Metz and Johnson. However, during this bye week the question of whether Mack Leftwich, the former starting quarterback, will regain his starting position still remains. Leftwich suffered a concussion in the New Mexico State game and has not played for the Miners since then.

Another spot where the offense is hurting is the running back position. After both first and second-string players, Aaron Jones and Darrin Laufasa, respectivewly, were sidelined due to injury, coach Kugler resorted to changing positions on the depth chart to fill the void.

During the FIU game, two more tailbacks, LaQuintus Dowell and Treyvon Hughes, suffered injuries that took them out of the game. Alongside Redix, what’s left of the running game is Jeremiah Laufasa and Johnson.

On the defensive side, injuries have resulted in the switching of various positions. Nonetheless, key players such as Alvin Jones, Kelvin Fisher and Ishmael Harris will be expected to fully recover from their respective injuries and get healthy during this off-week.

“We’ll try to get healed up as best as we can and try to compete our tails off the rest of the year,” Kugler said. “We’re playing with a wide receiver at tailback, a safety at tailback, and we’re down to our third or fourth quarterback. We’re bare bones, but it won’t keep us from competing.

After the bye week, the Miners will host Florida Atlantic on Saturday, Oct. 24.

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]