In our weekly "Know the Foe" feature, we take a look inside the other huddle. Today, we have help from JJ Perez of InsideRunnerSports.com, Scout's UTSA affiliate. He gives insight into what to expect from UTSA in this match-up.
Saturday, the Golden Eagles travel to San Antonio for a critical C-USA match-up against the UTSA Roadrunners. The 11 AM game matches the 4-1 Golden Eagles (2-0 C-USA) against the 1-3 Roadrunners in the 3rd meeting between the two schools. Both schools have won once. The last time USM came to San Antonio, they fell in a 12-10 defensive struggle. Last season, USM won 32-10 at home.
UTSA head coach Frank Wilson served as a Golden Eagle assistant during the 2008 season and current Roadrunner assistant Pete Golding was on the Southern Miss staff the last two seasons. UTSA graduate assistant Deron Wilson played for the Golden Eagles from 2010-13. He missed his senior campaign due to an ankle injury.
The Roadrunners are a deceptive 1-3, however. After beating Alabama State in their opener, they lost a heart breaker on national TV on a Friday night against Arizona State. They led almost all of that game before falling at the end. They've also lost close contests to Colorado State and their C-USA opener against ODU.
UTSA plays very well at home, too. They'll be motivated against the Golden Eagles with many former connections on their staff as well as these two schools have engaged in some heated recruiting battles the last few years.
This week, we caught up with JJ Perez, the publisher of the UTSA affiliate for Scout, who gave us some insight into what USM fans can expect from the opponent. In this Q and A, we go in depth on the 1-4 Roadrunners..
How is UTSA adjusting to the new coaching staff? What are the major differences between this staff and Coker's?
"Players have adjusted well. Typically when a coaching change is made you will see a lot of attrition occur. That did happen much at UTSA. Players quickly bought into the coaching staff and got to work. That’s probably a reflection of the type of players the last coaching staff brought in. Overall, the team is made up of a lot of standup people who have worked hard on and off the field.
As far as differences between the coaching staff, things are very much different in San Antonio from a year ago. One of the bigger differences to anyone who watches a practice is the energy level. Frank Wilson and his staff are simply at another level. Where Larry Coker was more of a delegating-type of a coach, Frank Wilson will literally participate in drills to demonstrate to players exactly how he wants things done.
It’s a high-level of energy we haven’t seen at UTSA before. And probably the single-biggest difference is along the recruiting trail. UTSA boasts Scout.com
’s #1 recruiting class in Conference USA. Wilson and his staff have made recruiting a daily priority. And so far, the results have shown. UTSA is now in the mix, and have landed, several highly rated recruits that wouldn’t have even considered them in the past. To what extent that translates to wins and losses remains to be seen. But so far, the changes have been drastic and noticeable."
What are the strengths of the UTSA offense and defense?
"Offensively, UTSA is as multiple as they come. You’ll see the Roadrunners line up in shotgun, they’ll have multiple tight end/pro-style formations, and then they’ll also go no huddle. First year offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo wants to stay balanced. So you should see nearly an equal amount of pass plays vs run plays. If UTSA is playing well, they’ll have a productive run game with quick-hitting pass plays.
"Another strength that has emerged is QB Dalton Sturm’s ability to escape pocket pressure. A former walk-on, Sturm faced baptismal by fire last season. After a full offseason and stiff competition from graduate transfer Jared Johnson, Sturm has improvement his decision making. He’s also one of the better runners on the team and is a true dual threat. Sturm struggled in UTSA’s last game vs Old Dominion and was benched in favor of Johnson in the second half. We’ve seen Johnson play in three of four games this season so the likelihood of him getting in the game is high.
"There’s a lot of talent on UTSA’s defense. First-year defensive coordinator Pete Golding has already shown to be aggressive. In week one vs Alabama State, UTSA recorded a program record six sacks. And while UTSA’s scheme is listed as 4-2-5, expect to see a lot of three down configurations with multiple linebackers and/or defensive backs. UTSA is good defensively when they are attacking and swarming. The strengths in UTSA’s defense are in the middle of the field. Some of the playmakers are: DT Baylen Baker, MLB Josiah Tauaefa, FS Nate Gaines, and Lion Safety Michael Egwuagu."
Though UTSA is 1-3, they almost pulled off a huge win over Arizona state, what do they need to do to get over the hump?
"One day in the not so distant future, UTSA is going to win a game vs a Power Five Conference school. They almost did it a few weeks ago vs Arizona State. And they’ve almost done it a few times over the last six seasons. But it just hasn’t happened. Whether it be mistakes or simply not making enough plays, if it could happen to UTSA, it’s happened. The ASU game was a little different in that there weren’t many mistakes made by the Roadrunners. They even forced turnovers and had some breaks go their way. But in the end, Arizona State flexed their muscle and just did enough to come out on top. Right now, UTSA is a team that does not have a large margin of error. In order for them to win games where they are considered large underdogs, they almost have to play a flawless game. And we haven’t seen that type of performance so far from this 2016 team."
UTSA has a nice stable of RB's, how have they been able to get them the ball and keep them all happy?
"RB Jarveon Williams is UTSA’s workhorse. But he injured his ankle in the first half of season opener and was banged up for a few weeks after. He finally looked 100% two weeks ago vs Old Dominion where he had his best game of the season totaling 93 yards on 21 carries with one touchdown. If healthy, Williams should carry the ball around 20 times. His backup, Jalen Rhodes, is also a key contributor in the running game and the pass-catching game. Like Williams, Rhodes is fast, agile, and strong. The Roadrunners has a good one-two punch in the backfield. Overall, UTSA spreads things out offensively so it really does come down to the defense they face each week."
Is there a sense of disappointment or optimism in San Antonio?
"In all candidness, I’d say the answer is both. At this point in the season, with a 1-3 record, I’d say many fans were holding out hope that this year would be the one the team would get to a bowl. With a tough slate of games remaining on the schedule, that doesn’t look like it will happen very easily. But the Frank Wilson Era of UTSA Football has brought a ton of excitement to the program.
"Back-to-back losing seasons took a toll on the fan base. With Wilson and a new coaching staff, there’s been a renewed energy. The biggest challenge facing Frank Wilson and UTSA is winning games. Off the field UTSA has a small, yet dedicated fan base that has supported the program through some down years. The Roadrunners play in a terrific place in the Alamo dome in downtown San Antonio. They have an on-campus practice field and a relatively new locker room. And they have the support of students, alumni, and fans. So overall, the optimism is there. What they need now is to win."