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More than just an 0-12 season


Editor’s note: Augie Touris plays for the UTEP football team and willingly wrote this opinion piece to illustrate the season and how it felt playing on the field.

Being on the worst team in the nation isn’t fun–shockingly. And this season, that’s just what we were. Regardless of the arguments I could make about why—aside from our record—we really weren’t truly the worst, the statistics remain.

Because at the end of the day, all that really matters is our record.

The season began with promise when we rolled into Norman, Okla., ready to test ourselves against an elite team with the best player in the nation. We showed life, for what it was worth, and managed a nice drive where we scored early on. The atmosphere was electric and being in for the first play of that game is something I’ll remember for a long time. Oklahoma adapted and changed their scheme and we couldn’t adapt with it. The feeling wasn’t bad despite the thrashing. We had just played a stellar squad in a game nobody expected us to win anyways and had shown flashes of potential.

The hope was the most damning part. After Rice we said, you know this game didn’t go as planned but we showed we can do it. The beating that Arizona handed us we brushed off because after all we’d shown potential again. The loss to New Mexico State was the “oh shit” moment of the season. That’s when the alarm bells went off—they hadn’t beaten us in nearly 10 years, and that was a game going into the season that we could always bank on for a win.

We traveled to West Point the next week and left on a Thursday to better combat the long travel. We were given a tour that Friday and it was a wonderful experience. As I’m from Buffalo, the trip was like home to me. Even the game itself was perfect—chilly, rainy and gray skies ruled.

It was our last game with coach Sean Kugler and that’s probably what added to the memory. We fought and battled a very good team and went to halftime all tied up. We were 0-4, playing against a team that had buried us in El Paso the previous year in front of a crowd that seemed more for the black and gold than for us. We slipped slowly away, letting an excellent possession team have their way in the second half.

The next day, we were stunned to learn that coach Kugler was leaving. He had dismissed offensive coordinator Brent Pease two weeks prior, but that was understandable to the extent of it being a shocking, but necessary, shakeup in lieu of our 0-4 start.

We knew that he would never quit on us, but the storyline we were fed seemed easier to pass along for us. He was a class act to the end and so many of us owe our scholarships to his faith in us.

Yet, despite the miserable situation and chaos, we didn’t quit. We fought with tenacity against Western Kentucky and dropped the game by a point. The rest of the season seemed to mush together. The bye week and the next seven losses, most of which were blowouts, came and went.

We endured jeers from numerous fan bases and there wasn’t anything to be said about it. The entire process was disappointing, and the feeling of letting down the diehard fans was even worse.

The uncertainty of the future of the program didn’t help, and even now, the head coach for next year is unknown. Hopefully there will be recruits as the current class of 2018 is at zero.

In hindsight, what’s left? A team with the absolute worst record in school history is left.

However, beyond the surface is a class of seniors that stuck through it and with it as things fell apart. Indeed, despite loss after loss, the team never truly quit. We may have been outplayed at times and outfoxed, but there never was a quit. Teams simply put us down like wounded animals and the sting from each loss slowly became less painful with each week that went by.

The wonderful thing is that football is far more than what’s on the surface. It’s the experience of coming to El Paso in 2014 as an 18-year-old kid eager to compete and play at the next level. It’s countless nights of debauchery with my friends who will be there for life. It’s competing and selling your soul for a cause that’s futile, but you do it because you’d rather die than quit–no matter how adverse things are.

Going forward, things will get better. A coaching staff will come in under the new athletic director and change things around. Everything from practice times to our offensive and defensive schemes will be different.

The thing about rock bottom is that the only way to go is up.

Augie Touris may be reached at [email protected].

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More than just an 0-12 season