Kugler and team feel added intensity against Rice

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Kugler and team feel added intensity against Rice

The Miners take on Rice in their home oponer this Saturday, Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl.

The Miners take on Rice in their home oponer this Saturday, Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl.

File photo

The Miners take on Rice in their home oponer this Saturday, Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl.

File photo

File photo

The Miners take on Rice in their home oponer this Saturday, Sept. 9 in the Sun Bowl.

Adrian Broaddus, Editor-In-Chief

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After an abysmal 56-7 loss to No. 7 Oklahoma, head coach Sean Kugler said his team is hungry for redemption.

Embarking on their 100th year in program history, the Miners will play host to C-USA division opponent Rice on Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Sun Bowl.

“They’re excited and ready to go,” Kuglar said, whose program has lost seven of nine games following a loss to a top-25 team. “They were embarrassed how they played (against OU). This is a team that’s very unified. We’re 0-1, our kids will be energized and ready to go.”

Like the Miners, Rice lost their opener against No. 14 Stanford 62-7 in Sydney, Australia.  Rice was completely dominated on both ends of the ball, quite similar to what UTEP experienced against OU.

“They’re sitting in the same boat as us,” Kugler said. “This is a team who got at us last year. We have to get back at them this year.”

Last year UTEP was handed a surprising 44-24 loss against Rice in Houston. The Owls overmastered the Miners offensively, amassing 482 total yards of offense, compared to the Miners’ 232 in the game.

While last year the two teams squared off late in the season, this year the two league foes square off before the start of conference play, something that has not happened in program history.

“You think about urgency and intensity. Whenever you have an early conference game, it gets your attention,” Kugler said. “You’ll see guys reps go up and down. The first game to second game transition is one of the most drastic looks we’ll have.”

On the offensive side of the ball, Kugler was impressed with the play of quarterback Ryan Metz against Oklahoma, despite the loss. Metz finished the game, completing 10-of-18 passes for 56 yards.

“He did a good job,” he said. “I was pleased with his play. I’m still comfortable with all three of the quarterbacks and I think we can win with any of them in.”

But overall offensively, Kugler believes the offensive line shined the most against Oklahoma.

“They did an outstanding job early,” he said. “They need to see the little mistakes they had on film and they’ll know how they need to fix it.”

Kugler briefly touched on how he is still content with running back Walter Dawn, who rushed for 56 yards and scored the only touchdown for the Miners. However, he did say that backup tailback Kevin Dove captivated him on his short yardage game. Although Dove had a fumble during the game, he showed what he could do in a short yardage situation, rushing for 17 yards in the game.

It seems that it will still be a running back by committee type of scheme for the offense.

On the other end, Rice brings to the table two running backs who can cause some damage for the Owls. Against Stanford, running backs Austin Walter and Samuel Stewart combined for 170 total yards of offense, with Walter scoring the Owl’s only touchdown of the game.

They also bring to the table redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Glaesmann, who completed 7-of-18 passes for 69 yards in his college football debut.

Kugler himself has a lot of respect for head coach David Bailiff, as both coaches maintain a professional relationship off the field.

“Bailiff gets the most out of his players,” he said. “It’s going to be a battle.”

The Miners’ defense will certainly need to battle since their main linebacker and captain Alvin Jones has been ruled out for the first half of the game due to a targeting call against him in the Oklahoma game.

The defense allowed OU’s three quarterbacks to complete 32-of-36 passes for 496 yards through the air. They also let go 180 yards on the ground and OU was able to connect 7-of-7 times for touchdowns in the red zone against the defense.

“We’ve got to generate more pass rush,” Kugler said.

When asked how he believes the Rice players will respond to playing while all the problems of Hurricane Harvey plague the individuals back home, Kugler believes it could add fire to their play.

“You could rally around that and use it as fuel,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to coach Bailiff and everything they’re going through.”

Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at the Sun Bowl.

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