Slowly, but surely, Sean Kugler has been trying to teach his team. Toughness. Pride. Teamwork.

But maybe the biggest lesson is that those are only words unless you work to give them definition.

The Miners may not yet fully comprehend, but after dominating UTSA for their first road shut out since their coach played here, you can safely say they've cracked open the dictionary to find out.

Kugler would never be accused of being Pete Carroll Cool in good times or Nick Saban Sour in bad, but he got about as close as we may ever see him to gushing over his team's performance in a 34-0 win over UTSA last Saturday, UTEP's first shutout on the road since 1988.

Kugler is wary of Southern Miss and of lingering on the win for even a second too long. The Miners have certainly had their issues with physical teams like the Golden Eagles, and Southern Miss will not easily let go of the momentum the program is building on the road back to respectability.

However, you'll pardon UTEP's coach if he brags on his team a bit, especially after the thumping they gave the Roadrunners before a few thousand ex-El Pasoans and alumni -- and more than a few shared recruits -- in San Antonio.

Yes, UTSA was down to its third-string quarterback, and the 32 yards passing showed that in part. But this wasn't a whole team of freshmen on the field. There are still plenty of players on the Roadrunners' roster who manhandled the Miners in the Sun Bowl last season, 32-13.

UTSA rushed for 181 yards and three touchdowns in 2013. In 2014: 38 yards.

When you can only manage 38 yards rushing, you've been whipped.

Meanwhile, the Miners' offense was just as good. Under Kugler, you get the impression the UTEP "O" will never purr like a sports car. It can chug like a diesel dually, though.

For a long-suffering program, having something that even sounds halfway durable might just get people looking down the road.