UTSA is 1-5, but has played one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the nation. Head Coach Larry Coker brings over a team that is going to be hungry for a win and feeling good about themselves after taking Louisiana Tech to the wire last Saturday. For all you need to know on the roadrunners, UTSA scout publisher JJ Perez took a few minutes to answer some questions and give his insight about the match-up.
Q: With the tough start, how has Larry Coker been able to keep the team together and fighting?
"The team is made up of really high-quality individuals. So there hasn’t been any pointing fingers or in-fighting. But losing gets old. And UTSA is past the point where they can hang their hat on moral victories. Everyone around the program knows their out of conference schedule was tough. Probably a little too tough. But those games were scheduled years ago when UTSA’s conference affiliation was uncertain. So this season, that’s just the luck of the draw to have to play such difficult opponents. So the team has just kept punching away. Every player and coach believes they can win every game remaining on their schedule. Regardless of what happens the previous week, both players and coaches have always the mentality of flushing it, and driving on. That stems from the leadership that Coach Coker has instilled in this program from day one. UTSA is getting close to winning some of these close games they’ve lost. They all know that and that’s what keeps them fighting."
Q: Talk about sophomore RB Jarveon Williams and his skill set.
"More than any other player on the roster, Jarveon Williams he has the ability to make game-changing plays. An every-down back, Williams is the rare combination of speed and power. Many of his runs occur between the tackles. He’s strong and tough enough to those extra few yards when he finishes off runs. He’s also fast enough to turn on the jets and bounce it to the outside. An under-appreciated facet of his game is his ability to catch passes out of the backfield. UTSA uses a multiple formations so you’ll see Williams in motion and in various places on the field. As Jarveon goes, typically so does UTSA’s offense."
Q: UTSA lost a lot of seniors from last year's team, how are the young guys responding and is there improvement from week to week?
"It’s a case of talent being more important than youth and inexperience. Last season, UTSA graduated a record amount of seniors. Many of those players were recruited to UTSA when there was only a vision of what football could become. Many of those players were not necessarily Division 1 talent. But they were able to max out the talent that they did have in order to be successful. This season’s team is filled with more talent, albeit very, very young. The skillset is improved across the board, however, with young players come inexperience and mistakes. Those mistakes (miscommunications, penalties, interceptions) are directly attributed to the team’s youth and have been what has cost UTSA games this season. There has been improvement, but it may deeper into the season until we see a more tangible return on improvement."
Q: Talk about the UTSA defense and what you expect from them on Saturday.
"UTSA runs 4-2-5 defense. That’s four d-linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs. The unit is anchored by Senior Mike LB Drew Douglas. A preseason all-conference selection, Douglas is the captain on the field for the defense. Next to him is Hawk LB Marcos Curry. A little under-sized, what Curry lacks in size he makes up for with his athletic ability. Curry may be one of the more athletic players on the defense. The strength of the entire defense is going to be the d-line. Starters Marcus Davenport, Brian Price, Kevin Strong, and Jason Neill will all be a handful. If there’s one place the defense struggles, it’s in pass coverage. UTSA has had some issues in the secondary giving up some long balls. A lot of that has stemmed from poor third down defense. Hard-hitting safety Nate Gaines has proven to be a play maker but the rest of the defensive backfield has been suspect at times. One of the things we’ve seen recently from UTSA’s defense is multiple turnover games. After struggling to force turnovers in the beginning of the season, UTSA has forced multiple interceptions in their last two games."
Q: What does UTSA have to do well to come in to Hattiesburg and get a win on the road?
"UTSA Head Coach Larry Coker announced Tuesday that Sophomore walk-on Dalton Sturm will get the start at QB in place of regular starter Blake Bogenschutz (who suffered a concussion two weeks ago at UTEP). Sturm had a four touchdown game in his first start vs La Tech last week. But he also threw two back-breaking interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. For UTSA, this has been the story of their season. Back-breaking mistakes. Not only has UTSA suffered turnovers, nearly all of those turnovers have led to opponents scores. So Sturm will need to be good to have a chance but will also need to take care of the ball. RB Jarveon Williams will also need to get his fair share of touches. Last week vs La Tech, the Bulldogs stacked the box and held him to a season low in production."