Sean Kugler Media Luncheon Transcript (9/16/13)

Coach Sean Kugler (right) and offensive coordinator Patrick Higgins.

Sept. 16, 2013

(Opening statement)
"It was a good game for us in all three phases Saturday night. It was a good team win for the kids. They really worked hard after that first opening loss to correct mistakes and try to improve. From a coaching standpoint, that's what you're looking for from your players. If you take advantage of it you can make your best improvement from the first game to the next. I really feel the kids did that and did a nice job throughout the week preparing for New Mexico State.

"Defensively we probably made our most improvement. We cut our assignment errors almost in half. Our missed tackles throughout the game were almost cut in half. Our goal was to keep them under 100 yards rushing and we accomplished that. The other goal was to force turnovers. We only got one in the first game and four in this game. Three were on defense and one was on special teams. I was very pleased with that aspect of it. We played a lot of young guys. It was kind of the `next man up' principle. James Davidson got hurt early in the game and Nick Usher came in and had five tackles as a true freshman. Wes Miller got hurt early in the game and in comes Dashone Smith and he ends up with two interceptions, a pass break-up and five tackles. We had good production from those young guys. We're playing three freshmen or sophomores in the secondary and I was pleased with their efforts. They were vastly improved from the first game.

"Special teams wise, I thought the kickers took a step forward. We punted both Ruggles and Moss and I think they averaged 43.5 [yards], which was an improvement and their net improved from the first game. We did miss a makeable field goal. Mattox knows he'll get another shot but that needs to be consistent in that area. He handled kickoffs well. I thought it was the most improved area of special teams. We made a few adjustments as far as personnel to get a little more speed on the field. Our kickoff cover was excellent. We forced one fumble that resulted in points for us offensively. Their average start area on the field was the 15.8 yard line. That means we were covering inside the 20 and kicking it deep. There were some good hits on that, some good collisions. I was very proud of how the kickoff coverage responded because we had two long ones against us in the first game.



"From an offensive standpoint, the things I was most pleased with was improvement not only in the passing game but the long ball efficiency. We had several converted long third downs. I think for the game we were 11-for-17 on third downs, which is where you want to be. The receivers were involved. Our yards per catch dramatically increased. We averaged 14.1 per reception. We'll take that. We had over 250 yards passing in the first half. The game was that way. It was a tale of two halves, what they gave us and what we had planned. We threw the ball extremely well in the first half. By structure, it kind of softened up for that and allowed us to come out in the second half and put the pads on and run the ball efficiently. We rushed for close to 250 yards in the second half alone. I thought New Mexico State did a good job taking away the run in the first half. In the second half we really got after it in the run game. There was a next man up principle just like on defense. Nathan Jeffery was out early in that game. He had an ankle and he has been battling quite a few injuries. I feel bad for the young man because he has worked hard to get healthy, but at this point he's just not that healthy. It allowed for other opportunities to happen. Guys like Autrey Golden we got no carries in the first game, Darrin Laufasa who had one carry in the first game and L.A. Dowell who had one or two carries in the first game. Those guys combined for 159 yards and three touchdowns. That's good production from guys that weren't even playing in the first game. That's how we view things. If somebody goes down, the next man needs to step up and take advantage of opportunity. For the second week in a row I was pleased with the efficiency running the ball. We averaged 5.2 per carry, and our goal is 4.5. We rushed for 293 yards on 56 carries. What that allows you to do is control the clock. Possession time was heavily in our favor and that gives us our best chance to win. Not only does that wear down the opponent, but it keeps your defense off the field and fresh. With the limited bodies that we have on defense, that's real essential that we try to continue to do that. I was excited for the kids. They worked hard. They earned this win. We put this one to bed and get right back to work focusing on UTSA."

(Was it adjustments that you made to run the ball better or did you just wear them out?)
"Probably a little combination of both. They played a cover 2 shell which gives you a seven man box and it was kind of a pick your poison type thing. In the first half, we threw the ball extremely well. If you're going to defend that, you've got to play the safeties a little bit higher and as soon as they did that it opened up the run game. I did think it was a combination of both in the first half. They were defending the run well. It wasn't tons of adjustments. We went more to our bread and butter plays in the second half. We got back to the outside plays that they were defending in the first half late in the game and had a lot of success. It was a little combination of both."

(On the defense improving after a rough start to the game)
"I think the players just responded. We gave up 14 points in the first five minutes of the game. It looked like it was going to turn into a track meet on both sides of the ball, but our kids responded. They shut down the run game pretty efficiently and the secondary started making plays with interceptions and pass break-ups. The credit goes to the kids. They responded when they could've easily said `Here we go again.' They didn't and I was proud of that."

(On Nathan Jeffery & LaQuintus Dowell's injury status)
"Nathan Jeffery is battling multiple injuries and we're really trying to get him healthy. He's a little frustrated right now because he wants to get out there and compete. We want to get him out there as soon as we can. Dowell had an outstanding 54-yard run on our counter play and right there at the last five yards he pulled up with a hamstring pull. We're going to monitor him but right now it seems significant enough that he might miss this game."

(On the running back depth if Jeffery and Dowell can't play Saturday)
"We've got four or five backs. Even if we didn't have Jeffery or Dowell, we still have Jones, Autrey Golden, Laufasa and Josh Bell, all the guys that finished that game. Those were the guys getting the productive carries at the end of the game. It's a very deep position for us and if we do have a few injuries we're fortunate."

(What did it mean to get your first career win against NMSU?)
"We just needed a win for confidence reasons and to build into our conference schedule. Getting the win was the most important thing. To go on the road up there and get a win against them, it makes it a little more special because it is a rivalry. We have all the respect in the world for New Mexico State. I think they're vastly improved and they gave us a great game. They had more turnovers than we did and we cashed in. That was kind of the story of the game."

(On utilizing Laufasa more at NMSU)
"Our plan all along was to incorporate a two-back offense. That kid is an excellent fullback. I think you'd be hard pressed to find two better freshmen in the backfield than Darrin Laufasa and Aaron Jones. Both of those guys wouldn't be playing if they weren't mentally and physically ready. Not only are they physically ready, which we expected, but they have handled the mental part of it very well. They have got the offense down, they rarely make mistakes and they compete. Miner fans are going to have a treat with those two in the backfield for the next four years."

(What is the status of James Davidson, Ishmael Harrison and Wesley Miller?)
"Davidson sustained a lower leg injury in the first half. It will be day to day for him. Nick Usher stepped up and competed, finished the whole game and ended up with five tackles. So he held his own and then some and provides a pretty good pass rush. We're hoping to have Davidson back. Ishmael Harrison had a concussion and he was ruled out in the past game. He'll be back. He passed his impact test. We anticipate having him back 100 percent and that will help with depth in the secondary. Wesley had a knee injury and I feel awful for that kid because he battled to come back from specific injuries and goes out and gets hurt. It's probably going to be a little while for him."

"They're a well-coached team. Coach Coker does an outstanding job. They're fundamentally sound in every aspect. Offensively we've got a lot to prepare for. They have multiple formations with a lot of moving parts. Their quarterback has thrown for over 800 yards and rushed for close to 150 yards. He is a dual threat guy. He's active, he's accurate, he's a senior and he's extremely competitive. They've got two receivers, #18 and #1, who are also their returners and both have over 100 yards receiving so far this year. They run a lot of bubble screens and they do a good job of blocking on the perimeter as well. They're balanced. They're putting up 425 yards per game and they have played some quality opponents. They beat New Mexico at New Mexico, they gave Oklahoma State a tough battle and they just played Arizona. Those last two teams were bowl teams a year ago and they gave them all they can handle. Offensively they've got an outstanding group. Defensively they're very sound. They don't do a lot of different things in terms of different fronts and pressures but they do play some fundamentally sound football. Their two safeties, #10 and #7, make a lot of tackles. They're very deep up front. They rotate two different lines in there and their tackles are very stout. Three of the four guys are over 300 pounds and they've done some work on the guards they've been playing against. Those four guys are very stout run defenders. We'll have our hands full there. The backers are very sound. Overall they're a fundamentally sound tackling team with good speed on the defensive side of the ball. Their punter is averaging 40 yards. They're solid on special teams but where they're really good is in their coverage units. Teams with very good speed have only been getting back to the 17-yard line on their kickoff cover. Opponents only average 3.3 yards on punt returns. That's excellent. We're facing a fundamentally sound team with good speed. These guys have been playing together now for four years. Most of these guys are seniors. They have good team speed and they're well coached. We've got a challenge ahead of us and we're excited about getting into the conference part of the schedule. That's when it all counts."

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