Western Kentucky Hilltoppers at UTEP Miners – Game Time, TV, Line, History and Can We Talk About Being A Great Supporter?

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (2-2, 0-1) at UTEP Miners (0-5, 0-1)

Location: Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX

Time: 7:00 PM CT

Line: WKU -18.5, O/U 56.5


Series: WKU won only previous meeting in 2014

It’s been a rough year for Western Kentucky, Under Jeff Brohm, Hilltoppers fans were spoiled rotten by an offense that scored at least 30 points against everyone but Alabama and topped 40 points 10 straight times to close out an 11-3 season last year. This year, WKU has only scored 9 points in five games and they damn near got shut out by a mediocre Illinois team that is the best opponent they’ve faced to date.

Their season has been nothing compared to what UTEP fans have had to go through so far, though. After three straight decent seasons that saw the Miners rack up a record of 16-21, this year has started with five straight losses – including dropping their rivalry game against New Mexico State for the first time since 2008 – a head coach resigning and a fan base that isn’t really sure where their team is, where it’s going, or how to feel about either.

But that doesn’t justify how some folks act, which is what I want to discuss.

The Value of Negativity

It’s said that we tend to suffer negative input far more than we relish positive input. Which makes sense at a caveman level because you tend to benefit more from having a great memory about how to avoid danger than you do from remembering how to get praise. Remembering how to avoid getting eaten by a lion is more valuable than remembering how to get a hug from mom. One keeps you happy, the other keeps you alive.

Obviously, death by lion is not the same as death by internet comment, but every now and then it can feel like it.

UTEP has had an interesting last week or so, as Sean Kugler resigned as head football coach ahead of the weekly Monday press luncheon that the Miners host. At that luncheon, athletic director Bob Stull stated that he had not yet made a decision on who the interim head coach should or would be and that he needed more time and conversation with players and coaches first.

Then, by the end of that same day, Mike Price was announced as the interim head football coach of the UTEP Miners.

First, UTEP twitter was raging at Stull for dragging his feet on what seemed to be an obvious decision to them, which was to name either TOm Mason or Brian Natkin – both long-time assistants – as the interim coach for continuity’s sake.

That fire had only just started to quell when Price was announced and the universe went ablaze all over again. Why would you give the interim coaching job to an outsider, one with completely different gameplay philosophies? Why would you give it to a man who hasn’t coached in five years, and who is as much remembered for getting fired by Alabama five months after he was hired as he is for anything he did in his nine seasons coaching UTEP football?

Let me introduce you to Nicole.

And to those who want to start spinning it in a negative direction…

she fires back with some real logic.

She has a very smart perspective on this situation. UTEP football has been, by and large, hard to watch even when it was good the past five years, thanks to a very vanilla approach and gruff exterior from Sean Kugler.

With Price at the helm – and the immediate understanding that it’s for the rest of this season and only that long – it’s very likely that at minimum UTEP football goes from “unwatchably bad” to “entertainingly bad” and that’s at least something, right?

Look, the guys who suit up for UTEP football on a daily basis, whether it be future NFLers like Will Hernandez or green freshmen like Mark Torrez, already have enough going on with the criticism they get from themselves and their coaches about the way the season has gone so far. The one thing they could probably use more of is realistic optimism like what they get from Nicole.

She’s not trying to gloss over the facts and tell you “don’t worry, everything is fine.” She’s simply trying to point out that you can either waste your time griping about all of the ways in which this unknown situation could be a negative, or you could invest some energy in trying to be part of the reason it winds up as a positive.

Even I have my moments – I used the heat of the moment to curse out UAB’s return man a couple weeks ago like an idiot with a “tweet” button and no perspective; sorry Andre, you deserve better than that.

But I do my best to step back now and then and go “what am I really doing?” There is no real value to espousing the negativity, it makes you feel sour, can ruin your day, and can spread like kudzu. Instead, you should be more like Nicole. Acknowledge the suck, lean into it, and have a little optimism that you are participating in something that can turn out right.

About the Football Game…

Whoops, forgot to finish talking about the football game again.

So both of these teams struggle to run the ball on offense, but for Western Kentucky, that’s been the weakest link on offense, while UTEP has had that as a symptom of struggling everywhere on offense. UTEP has shown enough flashes on defense to present an intriguing matchup for a Hilltopper offense that has struggled a good bit so far this season, and maybe another defensive touchdown will do the trick.

There’s not a lot to say about this game just yet; we don’t know for sure who will be under center for the Miners, nor do we know what and how much Mike Price will change in his first week back in office. Is there a bunch of talent that Kugler just wasn’t deploying optimally? Is this such a mess that Price isn’t able to do much but hold the rudder until December?

What we do know is that we have a game worth watching, and a team that deserves your (tempered, realistic) support in a time of crisis so that they can know people have their backs at their worst and can have extra motivation to get back to being successful sooner rather than later.

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