Sean Kugler Media Luncheon Transcript (9/9/13)

Coach Sean Kugler

Sep 9, 2013

(Opening statement)
"Difficult loss for us [on Saturday]. The kids worked hard to get ready for that game. We came up short in the end. I thought the crowd was outstanding and really kept us in the game with their energy. New Mexico had some issues with the crowd noise and I couldn't appreciate the fans more. I wish we had a better result at the end and ultimately we came up short. That's on us."

(What do you have to do defensively this week?)
"We've got to get better fundamentally. There were too many missed tackles, many at the line of scrimmage or even behind the line of scrimmage that they converted to big runs. That's the first thing on the agenda and that will be the main focus this week."

(What is the latest on the injury situation?)
"Ishmael Harrison, our starting cornerback, had a concussion. He'll be evaluated throughout the week. Nathan Jeffery had a little knee strain. He'll be evaluated during the week. Everything else was just normal bumps and bruises. Wesley Miller is progressing. We hope to have him back this week. It started to look better at the end of the week. Hopefully the rest this weekend will accelerate him for this game."

(Was New Mexico's rushing offense a product of their system or lack of defensive execution?)
"Probably a combination of both. We knew going into it that it was going to be a challenge. They were one of the top five rushing teams in the country last year, averaging over 300 yards a game. But again, assignment wise, getting in our gap keys and fitting our keys probably made it look a lot worse than it was. We didn't do our job in that aspect. We need to tighten that up moving forward."



(Do you re-think the running back rotation late in the game based on Aaron Jones' performance?)
"Our game plan is situational. Each one play is geared to what those players do best. The particular plays that we called for Aaron Jones he executed, and the particular plays that we called for Nathan Jeffery is executed. Nathan Jeffery also scored on the same play and converted two fourth downs on the same play. There wasn't one damned thing that was going to keep me from handing the ball to Nathan Jeffery in that situation."

(What areas were you pleased with and what areas were you surprised that you didn't enjoy success?)
"I expected us to have success offensively. I think very highly of our running back corps. I thought our tight ends did an excellent job of blocking. I thought the offensive line played physical. When you average six yards a carry, that's a pretty good day at the office from an offensive standpoint. I thought Jameill Showers managed the game in his first real start since high school. We really only had one issue penalty wise with the clock. From a penalty standpoint, four penalties is not a lot but in actuality two of those penalties stopped drives. We've got to eliminate pre-snap penalties moving forward as well. But nothing surprised us from an offensive standpoint. I knew defensively that would be a challenge for us. We probably made it a lot worse by having missed tackles and missed assignments. What we've got to do from here is improve fundamentally. We hold our head high whether we win or lose. Our job is to get better as coaches and players and we don't worry about outside things that could affect us. My main concern is our team and getting prepared for the next game."

(Any comment on the spot of the ball at the end of the game?)
"It really should never go to that. We should never have to put that call in the referee's hands or the replay assistant's hands. We need to take care of business ourselves and leave no doubt. I'm never going to whine about an official's call. We have to get a first down on our own."

(What did you think of your first game as a head coach?)
"I enjoy being here in El Paso. I thought the crowd was great but once the game starts you're focused on what you do. I enjoyed everything except the end result. When you lose the game that's not a good feeling and you work hard and get ready for the next week."

(What were your impressions of special teams, particularly the kicking game?)
"I thought [Mike] Ruggles did a good job. There was one where he had a low snap that was tough to handle but he also did a good job in that situation of making something out of nothing. That could have easily been a punt blocked the other way for six points. He actually turned it into a positive gain. You take away that one punt and he averaged 42 yards. For a young freshman in his first game, he did a pretty good job as did Jay Mattox. I know both of those guys were nervous but getting that first one under their belt will be good for them moving forward."

(On New Mexico State)
"I think they've done a good job in their first two games. They have been very competitive against two excellent teams from the Big 12 and Big Ten. They gave both of those teams all they could handle. You could tell they're well coached. They make very minimal penalties. Their kids play hard schematically. They're a little bit different than they were last year. They run more of a pistol type formation on offense and a little bit different schematically up front on defense. It will be a challenge. This is a great game and a great rivalry. There's always energy from both teams and both fan bases. I always enjoyed it as a player and a coach and I'm looking forward to this one as a head coach."

(Is it good to have a rivalry game after a tough loss?)
"After a tough loss it's good to have a game next [period]. The key thing is we don't look back. We're just going to look forward. If we dwell on a tough loss, that can lead into the next game. Whether we have a big win and celebrate or have a tough loss, when we come back on Tuesday that game is behind us and we're moving on to the next game."

(What do you remember about the I-10 rivalry as a player?)
"I just remember it was real intense, not only for the players but the fan base as well. Whether we played down here against them or we went up to Las Cruces, there was great energy and you could tell it meant a lot to both cities and the players. There was a lot of bad blood. Everything you want in a rivalry game, this has it."

(On coach Doug Martin at NMSU)
"I just met him recently but I think he's a heck of a guy. I think he's doing a great job there. He seems like a real good guy and from people I know he's very well respected and respected by us."

(On NMSU's personnel)
"They played two quarterbacks in the first game and they're both talented. They're both mobile. They both can throw on the run. They've got a talented tailback. They have a couple of nice receivers, #5 and #6. Defensively the outside linebacker #2 has got some talent. He made a bunch of plays in both games. They have a transfer from Arizona, a defensive end #98 who had a sack against Minnesota this past week. They've got good talent on both sides of the ball. It will be a challenge and a battle and we're looking forward to it."

(How important is this game to both teams from a recruiting standpoint?)
"I'm sure both teams recruit a lot of the same guys and it's always important to show well in that game. We're trying to recruit players from El Paso and I'm sure they are as well. We want to play well in every game. There are also many things we want to show our student-athletes when we bring them in on visits and have a chance to meet our staff and players. It will be a big game for recruiting and a big game for both programs."

(Will we see Jameill Showers throw the ball downfield more in this game?)
"Yes, and a lot of times the way the games play out depends on the circumstances. [New Mexico] had some drives that controlled the clock. In that instance we didn't have the luxury of taking those chances and making the risk of a three-and-out. Our best bet in that game was to have sustained drives ourselves and eat clock and keep their offense on the sideline. We did exactly that. We took six minutes off the clock on our last drive, scored, didn't leave them much time and put it into overtime to give ourselves a chance to win. Unfortunately we came up short. But I thought coach [Patrick] Higgins called an outstanding game on offense. It will be different against different teams and different circumstances. We won't always keep a lid on Jameill Showers because we feel he does have a strong arm and can throw the ball downfield and we have capable receivers. That just wasn't the game to be doing that. That was our decision and I think it gave us our best chance to win."

(Is the defense still playing catch-up with a new coordinator?)
"We're not making any excuses. We need to get better in our tackling and assignments. We recognize that New Mexico is a very talented triple option team that's very difficult to stop and we didn't do a very good job of defending it throughout the course of the game. We had our spots here and there. But no excuses, we just have to get better."

(Will you try to find ways to get Nathan Jeffery and Aaron Jones on the field at the same time?)
"We have several two-back sets. We have three-back sets. We're always going to try to put our best players in the best situations. Aaron Jones may be good at certain plays, but on other plays he may not be as good as Nathan Jeffery. There are certain plays that L.A. Dowell may be better than both of them. We determine that throughout the week and that's where the flow of the game goes on Saturday. With the young man playing in his first game, the plan was to give him 10-15 touches and he made the most of it. All that does is build trust in the coaches to put him out there even more. He's earned that, and he'll get more and more as we go. To throw a young man out there and give him 30 plays when he's not quite ready for it, that's not the best plan. That's what you have to earn."

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