UTSA is reclassifying to the FBS after having started their program three years ago at the FCS level. It will be a full FBS bowl qualifier in the 2014 season.
With that being said, the Roadrunners have nothing to lose by taking to the road and looking for the upset. They gave Oklahoma State a good fight a week ago, but came away with their first loss of the season 56-35.
Even though the Roadrunners are relatively new to the FBS and have never played a game against Arizona before, it won't be all new faces for some of the coaches. UTSA Head Coach Larry Coker and Arizona Head Coach Rich Rodriguez have some history of their own.
UTSA will be riding the shoulders of senior quarterback Eric Soza. The senior transfer from Texas State has been the strength of the offense all season long. Soza leads the team in rushing and passing. He has run for 73 yards on the season, as well as thrown for 545 yards and five touchdowns.
The reason that Soza leads the team in rushing with so few yards is due in part to the spread out running attack. Six players, not counting quarterbacks, have received at least two carries in the first two games of the season. Evans Okotcha and David Glasco II, the two feature backs for the Roadrunners have combined for ninety yards and a touchdown on 29 carries.
Wide receiver Kam Jones has also received quite a few carries in the backfield, as he has taken the ball seven times for 45 yards in two games. Jones is also the team's leading receiver with nine catches for 104 yards.
The offense won't be the only problem for Arizona on Saturday. UTSA runs a different 4-2-5 defense that is similar to the Wildcats 3-3-5 defense. The main difference is that the 4-2-5 focuses on stopping the rushing attack with a strong push up front and has one fewer linebacker to focus on blitzing and covering short passes.
The Roadrunners have two big bodies up front that won't be easy to move. Ashaad Mabry and Richard Burge are the two defensive tackles that will give the Wildcats problems. Mabry weighs in at 315 pounds and Burge at 290 pounds. They have combined for thirteen tackles in two games and will give the offensive line quite a handful.
They won't be the only ones trying to stop the Arizona run game. A pair of upperclassmen, Cody Rogers and Jarron Harris, anchor the ends of the defensive line. Both have quick hands and can get into the backfield. In addition, they have seven tackles on the season, with Harris also adding a sack.
The weakness of the defense may be in the secondary, but there are still a few key players that stand out. Junior safety Triston Wade is the Roadrunners' leading tackler. He has fifteen total tackles through two games of action. The rest of the defense leaves something to be desired, as UTSA has given up an average of 301 passing yards per game in the first two games of the season.
This will actually be one of the most important aspects of the game due to the fact that Arizona has only passed for an average of 84 yards per game. If Arizona continues to struggle throwing the football, it may wash out the advantage given by UTSA's weakened defense.
Arizona will be trying to defeat UTSA in the first of their three game series in consecutive years. Rodriguez will also be looking for his first win over Coker. If the Wildcats come away with the victory, it would also put them halfway towards their goal of making a bowl game two years in a row.
Players to watch:
#8 – QB, Eric Soza: The biggest threat on the offensive side of the ball is the Roadrunners' quarterback. Soza can do it all. hurting teams through the air or on the ground. The only way for the Wildcats to keep the Roadrunners off the board is to find a way to stop Soza.
#1 – WR, Kam Jones: With the running game not being very dominate for UTSA, receivers have stood out on the offensive side of the ball. Jones is the team's leader in receptions and should be targeted plenty by Soza on Saturday night.
#81 – WR, Kenny Bias: Bias leads the team in receiving yards. He has homerun capability and does a great job getting past defenders. Arizona has done a good job containing players of his caliber so far this season, but did allow a long touchdown towards the end of the UNLV game.
#7 – S, Triston Wade: The junior safety leads the team in tackles and he is easily one of the best players on the defense. Arizona will likely see Wade all around the field in different scenarios. He can come up to the line to stop the run or drop back and cover deep balls on long third downs.
#21 – CB, Bennett Okotcha: The sophomore had to sit out a season after transferring from Oklahoma and could be one of the better players in the Roadrunners' secondary when all is said and done. He will be seeing his first action of the season against Arizona and will be prepared to make it worthwhile.
Keys to the game:
1. Balance the offense: Arizona will be facing a defense that it hasn't ever seen before under Rich Rodriguez. The 4-2-5 is meant to stop the run and the pass, but will it be enough to slow down Ka'Deem Carey? Arizona needs a healthy dose of passes so the defense won't key in on the star running back.
2. Contain Soza: The Wildcats had notoriously done poorly against running quarterbacks before Rodriguez arrived in Tucson. Since his arrival, they have done a much better job shutting down dual-threat signal callers. Arizona will have to continue that run against Soza.
3. Don't be fooled by trickery: UTSA thrives on lining up in strange formations and running trick plays at times. Arizona needs to stay focused and not be fooled by reverses, options, or anything else that the Roadrunners will throw at them.
4. Force turnovers: So far this season, the Wildcats are +4 in the turnover margin, which is a great deal better than it was a year ago. If Arizona can continue to force its opponents into making mistakes and turning the ball over, there is no reason to believe that the defense won't thrive.