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Five Questions with Jay Koester of the El Paso Times

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Well this week Rock Chalk's little "deeper look" piece drew the ire of some UTEP fans over on "Turn up the Orange" a UTEP sports blog connected with the El Paso Times

After doing a little peaking around the site I realized that there was in fact a KU journalism graduate that worked for the El Paso Times and was a contributor to this UTEP blog. In an effort to learn a little more about this matchup I thought this had the opportunity to provide some insight from an individual who has a working knowledge of both programs and teams.  Jay Koester was kind enough to grant my request and answered five questions regarding UTEP, Kansas and the upcoming game.

Before we get started though I wanted to give everyone a quick background on Jay.  Jay Koester has been working for the El Paso Times since 2003. He's been an online editor, asst. city editor and copy editor at the newspaper. He is also a contributor to the "Turn Up the Orange" UTEP sports blog.  A Lawrence, Kansas native, he graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas in 1994.

His wife is a copy editor at the El Paso Times, and he spends most of his free time running around the playground with their six-year-old daughter.  

Jay's wife is a UTEP graduate, but he assures us the ratio of Kansas gear to UTEP gear in their house is at least 5-to-1 in favor of the Jayhawks.    

5 Questions with Jay Koester after the Jump...


1.)  Starting off, what are the expectations for UTEP football this season for the fanbase, the players and the coaching staff.

I think the expectations were reasonable enough, at first. Another year hovering around the 6-6 mark, and let's hope they slip into a bowl game. Then Sports Illustrated came along and turned everybody crazy.  

Sports Illustrated came out predicting a 10-2 year for Miners, with a Conference USA championship. Several other places picked the Miners high, as well, but that Sports Illustrated prediction is when fans really started shooting for the moon.  

So the loss Saturday is stinging fans perhaps a little more than usual. When you are thinking of a 10-2 finish, with both Kansas and Texas on the schedule, you know one of those two losses shouldn't be to Buffalo.  

I think the players and coaching staff were probably a little more realistic. (Price would only say one thing about the SI prediction: "Don't believe anything you read in Sports Illustrated.") But they do think they should be in a bowl game this year, and they think they have the skills to beat Kansas.  

2.)  Week one for UTEP, what surprised you about the team?  What did they do well and where did they leave room for improvement? 

What surprised nearly everybody is just how bad they played, especiallly in the first half. Of the five of us who participate in the Turn Up the Orange podcast, I was the only one to predict Buffalo to win. But deep in my heart, I was hoping the other predictions were right, and this was the year UTEP would show up.

They didn't.   What did they do well? Well, they didn't give up, and they mounted a furious comeback, playing a great fourth quarter, with quarterback Trevor Vittatoe throwing a winning touchdown pass with about 30 seconds on the clock ... except it was called back for holding. But without that holding penalty, we might be talking right now about how great UTEP played in the second half to win. And Kansas fans would be a little more nervous than they probably are.  

Where did they leave room for improvement? Well, that's the good news for UTEP fans. They looked very bad in the first half and cost themselves the game. But it was all things that are easily fixable, and it seems like they had them fixed by the second half.   UTEP had three bad snaps that really cost them the game; hopefully, that is easy to fix. Vittatoe and his receivers missed on some wide-open plays, including what should have been an easy fourth-down make. That seems harder to fix, but the coaches seem sure Vittatoe was just a little off that first half.  

So, it's a tale of two halfs. That first half has fans preparing for the worst. But that second half has a few remaining hopeful of great things.  

3.)  Being that you are a Kansas grad I'm going to assume you catch the occasional game with the Fighting Mangino's. What problems might UTEP pose and where might they exploit a Kansas weakness?  

Kansas had some struggles in the defensive secondary in week one, and that is where UTEP attacks everybody. So that is certainly a concern. UTEP is all about offense and should be able to score points on Kansas. But I have faith Reesing and crew can keep up.  

If UTEP's offense has a problem it is that Vittatoe sometimes tries to go for too much, going deep on too many plays. If the Kansas secondary realizes that weakness and stays back, controlling the big plays, I think they'll find UTEP error-prone in the end. Long, painful drives are not UTEP's cup of tea.  

4.)  This will be the second year in a row Kansas has gone into a hostile environment for a non conference road game, does the Sun Bowl and the UTEP crowd present a problem and can it be enough of a factor to rattle Kansas this early in the season?  

Yes, the Sun Bowl certainly can be a hostile environment that causes problems for teams. The Miners played Texas pretty strong last year in the Sun Bowl, just down 28-13 at the half before getting blown out. And back in 2006, Texas Tech came to town and should have lost, but they snuck out with an overtime victory, 38-35.  

But WILL it be a problem for Kansas? Maybe if UTEP had beaten Buffalo, then sold out this game, there would be reason to worry. But fans are pretty discouraged now, and I don't expect a sell-out crowd, especially with the game on TV.  

The Sun Bowl is a special place, tucked into the mountains about 500 yards from Mexico. If the crowd shows up, it gets loud with the mountains keeping all the sound in, so it could offer a test.

5.)  How do you see this game playing out?  Who wins, how and what factors into it?

Both teams have the capibility to score a lot of points. But UTEP is error-prone, and I think Kansas takes advantage of those errors to score the win.   They main factor I see is that UTEP never touched Buffalo's quarterback. Anybody who watched Kansas against Northern Colorado knows Reesing is a magician. If UTEP couldn't get Buffalo's quarterback, they are even less likely to get a hand on Reesing. Reesing should be able to light it up.  

Final score, Kansas, 45 UTEP, 31.


Big thanks to Jay for giving us some of his time this week and here's hoping he represents KU come Sunday and ignores all his journalistic urges to remain neutral.