Miners lose physical battle to Rice in home opener

Adrian Broaddus, Editor-In-Chief

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Sean Kugler did not have the outing he wanted for the UTEP home opener.

Rice accumulated 306 yards on the ground and held the Miners to just 26 yards rushing, as they conquered UTEP 31-14 on Saturday night at the Sun Bowl.

“We got beat on all phases of the ball,” said Kugler after the loss. “They ran efficiently, we didn’t. Starts with me—poor effort on my end. We were out-physicalled. When they rush for 300-plus, that’s more physical.”

In front of 19,136 discouraged fans, the Miners were outgained 425-238 on total offense against Rice and couldn’t reach the goal line until 3:47 left in the third quarter.

“I’m not going to question play calling,” Kugler said. “(We) have to go back to work. It’s two games into the season. We don’t have time to dwell on this loss because a Pac-12 team (Arizona) comes into town next week.”

What the team may dwell on is injuries. Throughout the game key players, such as tackle Greg Long, center Derron Gatewood, linebacker Julian Jackson and even quarterback Ryan Metz, had to come out of the game and did not return.

“Very significant injuries,” Kugler said. “Even potentially season-ending injuries.”

In the first half, the Miners came out flat. They couldn’t get anything going offensively, accumulating 26 yards on the ground off 13 carries and only 56 total yards of offense.

On the other end, Rice was able to capitalize on the Miners’ inability to stop the run and scored 10 points in the half, which should have been 17 had quarterback Sam Glaesmann not fumbled deep into UTEP territory.

Running back Walter Dawn does not blame the play calling. Instead, he believes his team needs to go with the plays that have been called.

“Gotta run with the punches,” Dawn Jr. said. “We have to execute way more.”

Out of the half, the Miners still did not accomplish much offensively. It wasn’t until 3:47 in the third quarter, trailing 17-0, when Metz connected with wide receiver Warren Redix through the air for a 44-yard touchdown play, putting the Miners on the board for the first time.

But it wasn’t enough.

Rice chipped at the UTEP defense the following drive, with a 10 play, 87-yard drive resulting in a Jordan Myers 3-yard touchdown run.

In a lasting effort, Metz brought down his offense on a speedy, 10-play drive that ended in Metz diving in the end zone on third down at the 1-yard line.

But, again, it wasn’t enough.

The Miners defense needed to stop Rice and get the ball back with what little time they had. Instead, Rice kept it on the ground and rushed for another touchdown, this time by Nahshon Ellerbe.

“We improved, but we have a whole lot to improve on,” Dante Lovilotte, who led the Miners with 11 tackles, said. “They ran the ball real well on us.”

Wideout Kavika Johnson, who finished the game with six catches for 67 yards, is more optimistic about the execution moving forward but sees a deeper problem in the attack.

“We have the most explosive wide receiver core since I’ve been here, I believe in our running backs—Walter Dawn and Kevin Dove are great running backs,” he said. “It was our energy. I think this team is very versatile, but it comes in spurts. We need to keep it consistent.”

Instead of energy, Lovilotte thinks that the team’s unity is what’s lacking right now.

“Guys arguing on the sideline—we can’t have that,” he said. “Things got bad. Dudes on the sideline wanting to fight each other.”

Johnson reminded the media after the game that the season isn’t lost yet and there’s a lot of room for improvement.

“It’s a long season,” he said. “This is our team. I believe in our family. I refuse to let that go to waste. We take this loss and move onto the next one.”

Next up the Miners will host Arizona on Friday, Sept. 15. The game will be televised on ESPN and kickoff starts at the late slate—8 p.m. M.T.

Follow Adrian Broaddus on Twitter @adrian_broaddus

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