Miners look for first conference win after bye week

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Miners look for first conference win after bye week

The UTEP football team is looking for their first win in three weeks after coming off a bye week.

The UTEP football team is looking for their first win in three weeks after coming off a bye week.

File Photo / The Prospector

The UTEP football team is looking for their first win in three weeks after coming off a bye week.

File Photo / The Prospector

File Photo / The Prospector

The UTEP football team is looking for their first win in three weeks after coming off a bye week.

Juan Carlos Navarrete, Staff Reporter

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The UTEP football team will look to get their first win in three weeks this Saturday when they face the Florida Atlantic Owls at home.  The game against FAU will be the first game between these two programs in school history.

“We are coming off a bye week, a productive bye week for us,” said head coach Sean Kugler.  “The coaches did self-evaluations on each individual group and collectively as an offense and defense to see where we can get better.”

After failing to secure a win in their first two conference games, the Miners now sit at 2-4 for the year and have a 0-2 conference record.

A humbling 52-12 loss to FIU two weeks ago put the Miners at the bottom of their conference in second to last place. The Miners have been a mystery on offense thus far, after losing their pillar on offense, with the injury to running back Aaron Jones.  Who will start at quarterback is a week-to-week question, while the offense has not managed to get anything going.

To make matters worse, the 40-point loss to FIU was not even the worst loss of the season for a team that has struggled to get consistent play week after week.

In terms of records, FAU is not doing any better than the Miners; they are fifth in their conference with a 1-5 record through the first six games. Their conference record is at 1-2, something the Miners can definitely use to gather momentum toward the end of the season.

“It is a team that I feel right now should be easily 3-3,” Kugler said.  “They lost an overtime game to Tulsa. They played Miami extremely tough.  It was 20-20 going into the fourth quarter. They lost a last-minute game versus Rice that was a tough loss for them at home.”

The Miners need a statement win, and although a win against the second-to-last place team in the conference might not impress most, it could work as a confidence boost that the team desperately needs.

Although the Miners have struggled, the team remains positive. The team is taking their losses, but not losing sight of the good things they have accomplished.

“I want to make it a positive experience for this entire team because, as I have mentioned many times before, when you’re 2-4 in a lot of cases going to work is miserable,” Kugler said. “That hasn’t been the case with this group.”

The Miners are number one in conference in sacks allowed, one of the few things the offense has done well, but FAU has a good defense that can make the day worse for whoever is under center for the Miners.

“From the turnover standpoint, they’re in the negative category -2,” Kugler said.  “One thing that stands out to me is they have gained 10 interceptions on defense.  Time of possession, they are 11th in Conference USA.”

The Miners will look to rearrange their offense after Mack Leftwich was cleared to play after sustaining a concussion against NMSU. With him under center, it will be interesting to see if he picks up where he left off or if he will have a learning curve.

The Miners have not been able to do anything on defense either this year. UTEP ranks at 106 for the year, and has not been able to stop opposing offenses at home or on the road consistently. The Miners will hope to force turnovers and get sacks as they have done in the past and get their first conference win of the season.

While they have had their struggles early on, UTEP is a team that is favored to win against FAU, and a win at home could boost this team. Even though they have a losing record it is not all bad news for UTEP, a win against FAU would put them a game closer to an even record and would give them momentum toward the end of the year.

Juan Carlos Navarrete can be reached at [email protected]

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