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What’s to come of coach Kugler

After a 1-5 start, Kugler points the finger back at himself
File Photo The Prospector

Sean Kugler could not have asked for a better time for a bye week for his troops than now. The Miners came off yet another disappointing loss after falling to one of Conference USA’s weaker teams, Florida International (2-4, 2-0 C-USA), who rolled over UTEP 35-21.

He did not blame the fact that the squad did not have a capable quarterback to sustain the game after Zack Greenlee struggled, who completed 17-of-39 passes with a crucial interception and a late touchdown pass.

Nor did he blame standout running back Aaron Jones, who did not play the majority of the game due to an ankle injury but still trotted for 73 yards and a monstrous 49-yard touchdown.

He definitely did not directly blame the defense that allowed 499 total yards of offense (258 through the air and 241 on the ground).

Instead, on a gloomy Saturday night after the loss to FIU, Kugler pointed the blame to himself for the loss and the team’s inability to come back from the losing streak.

“It’s not the quarterback position, it’s not offense, it’s not defense, it’s not special teams,” Kugler said during the post-game press conference. “If you want to point a finger where our record is right now, point it at me. Don’t blame the kids because I’m not ever giving up on the kids.”

Unlike previous instances where Kugler has sounded upfront during interviews to take the blame, Kugler said this it in a muted, self-defeated tone—the first time in his four seasons with the Miners.

Kugler also raised eyebrows when he alluded toward his dismissal if this poor play continues for the remainder of the season. Kugler still has two years left on his six-year, $500,000-plus contract.

“We’re not a very good football team right now—our 1-5 record reflects that,” Kugler said. “We have half a season to fix it. I’ve been in the business long enough and I’m smart enough to understand the ramifications if I don’t get it fixed, so that’s on me.”

The likelihood of Kugler being dismissed is slim—even if the Miners finish their season with more than eight losses. Athletic director Bob Stull has been known to tolerate struggling coaches. He did not terminate Mike Price, the previous head coach of the Miners football team, when his (2006-09) team did not win more than five games through four seasons. Even if the Miners falter for the remainder of the second half of the season, it seems like Kugler will be safe unless he resigns as the head coach himself, a decision that will forfeit more than $1 million in salary.

The Miners, who had a measly 17,000 attendance last game, have been outscored 204-56 throughout the past five games. They are ranked as the third-worst team in scoring (126th) and 121st overall according to CBS Sports.

A win against the Panthers is exactly what they needed—a boost of confidence to shed light on their season. But, after a crucial holding penalty calling back a touchdown in the second half, which would have had the Miners leading 14-13 at the half, the Miners were simply unable to come back. The Panthers stormed out of the half and scored a quick touchdown, increasing the margin for FIU 20-7.

The game was not out of arms reach after receiver Eddie Sinegal took a noteworthy reverse 42 yards to the goal line. Jones finished the drive with a one-yard touchdown run that cut the game 20-14.

The defense just could not hold, and the offense could not prosper moving forward. FIU notched two back-to-back swift touchdowns and stole a pick from Greenlee to extend the lead 35-14. Greenlee, who was without Jones at tailback, threw a touchdown pass that came too late in the fourth to spark any sort of comeback.

“This has got to be fixed by me and my staff and I assume full responsibility and I always will,” Kugler said. “I will never give up on these kids and I hope they stick together and I hope they stick by me. I want a team of fighters and right now I acknowledge we aren’t a good team.”

Sinegal, who has continuously progressed to make an impact at the receiver position week after week, believes that it is about team unity to turn things around.

“Staying together—we lost and it’s tough, but we can’t fall apart,” Sinegal said. “Coach Kugler came and told us the loss is on him, but it’s on everybody. He let us know if we stay together, we can make the most out of our season.”

Linebacker Alvin Jones, who played in his first game since Texas, was not as optimistic as he was unfulfilled after the loss. The defense allowed three crucial touchdowns in the second half, all for drives that spurred 70-plus yards. Quarterback of the Panthers Alex McGough threw for 241 yards for three touchdowns while running backs Alex Gardner and Anthony Jones rushed for 143 and 130-yards respectively.

“It’s frustrating. We came out after halftime and tried to get a stop, and we couldn’t,” Alvin Jones said. “I felt like this was worse (than Army). We couldn’t stop (FIU). We’ll make some changes; we’ll get people healthy.”

Health—yet another season where the injuries are starting to pile up and plague the Miners. During the bye week, the Miners seek out to regain their health to maximize playing time for different individuals such as Aaron Jones, Alvin Jones and Ryan Metz. They need the rest for their matchup on the road against the C-USA fourth-ranked UTSA Roadrunners on Oct. 22.

“Number one, we have to get healthy,” Kugler said.  “We’ve got some guys banged up, in particular, Aaron and Alvin and [Hayden] Plinke, a few other guys— Zack, Metz, and we need to get those guys healthy.  We’ll look at ourselves schematically, whether we need to change some things, whether we need to tone down some things.  We’ll look at our personnel, how can we get better.  Just look at every avenue on how to get better.  And not to point fingers, not play the blame game and sit here and feel sorry for ourselves and where we’re at.  That’s not going to help anything.  We’re going to do our best to get it done and turn it around.”

Kugler and the Miners’ attempt to regroup will be highly tested against the Roadrunners in less than two weeks. UTSA is coming off a defiant 55-32 win against Southern Mississippi—a team that ripped through the Miners 34-7. It is a test to see how Kugler responds to all of the backlash directed towards him and the team.

Any coach with a headset can appear successful with an army of stellar athletes; but to take a team battered with injuries and a losing season and scrape a win week after week is the mark of a truly great head coach. In the rest of the upcoming season, Kugler will be tested on which coach he wants to be.

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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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    reisterOct 11, 2016 at 1:08 PM

    Bob stull should be fired too!!!

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