The Sean Kugler era at UTEP began with a lot of fanfare, hype, and expectations. Kugler had been associated with the program as either a player or assistant coach in UTEP's few shining moments over the past 45 years. Something just felt different when Kugler assumed the headset.
Halfway into his first season, the Miners find themselves at 1-5 and searching for answers. Call me a homer or eternal optimist, but something still feels different about the Kugler era. Sure the record is bad, but this team never quits and doesn't make a ton of mental errors. Yes, the defense is historically lousy, but that can be fixed over time.
Offensively there have been a ton of bright spots. Burges graduate Aaron Jones is among the best freshman running backs in the nation. He left the Tulsa game with a shoulder injury, but there is hope that he will be back for the Rice game. Last week Jones told us about the progress he's making at UTEP.
Quarterback Jameill Showers hasn't lit the world on fire, but he's been remarkably efficient. Showers has 11 touchdown passes to 4 interceptions, and his completion rate is at 57.3 percent. Junior wide receiver Jordan Leslie has really picked up his game too. The junior is on pace for a 1,000 yard season and has become a dependable target for Showers.
The good news about the bye week is the team can spend more time fixing mistakes than gameplanning for the next opponent. Kugler has reiterated all season long that he does not possess a magic wand nor has he concocted an elixir that will instantly solve UTEP's problems (that would be cool if he did though). It will take hard work, dedication, and discipline to cure what ailes the Miners.
I don't anticipate many more victories over the last half of the season, but I anticipate a team that won't quit and will run through a flaming brick wall for their coach. Rome wasn't built in a day after all!