InsideRunnerSports.com reporter JJ Perez offers several thoughts on UTSA-related topics.
JJ’s Journal Entry for 9.8.15
Thank Goodness Football is Back
I had a fairly eventful trip to and from Tucson to cover UTSA
vs Arizona. Without getting into all of the details (you can look at my twitter timeline from last Wednesday if you’re interested), lets just say some poor planning combined with some TSA-related issues led to some very interesting events in my travels. Non-Saturday games are always challenging because it compresses everything by a day or two. So when I left for Arizona, I knew I had some long hours of work ahead of me. But one of the good things about non-Saturday games is being able to take some time off on a Saturday. That doesn’t happen much during the season and you’re surprised how much you actually miss it. So I arrived back in San Antonio late Friday afternoon. After catching up on some sleep, I spent literally all day and night watching the opening weekend of college football on Saturday. While I did do a little work watching the Kansas State game online for a scouting report I’m writing, for the most part I just watched as a regular fan would. Games like Texas/Notre Dame, Texas A&M/Arizona State, Southern Miss/Miss St, Northwest/Stanford, Auburn/Louisville, and many more filled my flat-screen tv throughout the day. It was a glorious Saturday. Thank you, football, for coming back. And a huge welcome back to the NFL this week.
Another Near Shocker
What else can be said about UTSA’s season-opening game against Arizona? Another close one. Another almost. More what-ifs. Every game has an ebb and flow in and of itself, so it’s really difficult to predict what will happen, especially in these non-conference matchups vs more-established programs. But hasn’t UTSA always competed and given it their all? That sounds cliché but look back at previous games vs Arizona and Oklahoma State. UTSA was out-matched in talent but were still there at times. Last Thursday night in Tucson, UTSA showcased for the first time (in my opinion) that they were right on par with a nationally ranked team. That’s more than just playing up to your level of competition. UTSA is getting close. And all things being equal, Thursday night should have been the biggest win in program history. But it wasn’t. You live with those mistakes that contributed to the end result and you try to improve on them. That’s the whole game of football. But UTSA is getting close to upsetting one of these big time opponents. Very close. Part of me thinks an upset could happen as soon as this weekend.
Talent > Experience
Let me say this again. This 2015 roster is the most-talent group of football players UTSA has ever put together. Nevermind the lack of experience. The shear talent is off the charts. Now how does than translate to wins and losses? It’s very hard to predict. Sometimes you have a redshirt QB break two school records, then you also have that same player throw a pick six that had a large affect on the outcome of the game. How many mistakes in UTSA’s 10 point loss to Arizona could be attributed to youth and inexperience? I’d say most of them. It’s a give and take, across the board. And until many of these players get enough game-reps to gain a certain amount of experience, UTSA will have to live with these types of youthful mistakes. But based on shear talent alone, the future for UTSA football is very bright. A new era is certainly upon us.
Bogenschutz Breaks Records
I did not expect redshirt freshman QB Blake Bogenschutz to be this good, this fast. In just his second-career start and his first full game, the East Texas-native was phenomenal. Forget about the stats and the touchdowns. I’m talking about his poise and ability to bounce back from the interception for a touchdown on his first pass. Look, Bogenschutz played good in 2014, but he didn’t play a lot. And watching a QB in practice is much different than watching him in a game. So there’s been no real opportunity to measure Bogenschutz’s ability in this type of situation. Well, that question can be put to rest. His ability to come back from that play, in that environment (51k attendance and a jam-packed student section filled 20 minutes prior to kickoff) says something about him. He wasn’t perfect the rest of the game but that performance was the best I’ve seen out of any UTSA player, ever. And was anyone else impressed with his ability to throw the back-shoulder pass? If you consider this his first real game (it was the first full game he’s played in), it was a heck of a debut.
O-Line Better Than Advertised
Was anyone else blown away by how good the offensive line was Thursday? One week until the season starts and O-line Coach Mike Markuson shuffles RG Austin Pratt to Center. And it worked. For the most part, the offensive line exceed every logical expectation of them. And more than that, the left side was really good. Many times, UTSA found success running behind Reed Darragh and Kyle McKinney. And the pass-protection was simply phenomenal. Bogenschutz was only sacked once. The starters played in every snap vs Arizona and graded out a collective 93 percent.
Jarveon Williams had a good game vs Arizona. He was the team’s leading rusher amassing 79 yards on 21 carries for a 3.8 yards per carry average. Williams will be a workhorse for UTSA this season. But who else was surprised by how much Jalen Rhodes was used? After being injured off and on for three seasons, Rhodes came in and made some nifty runs. He finished the night as UTSA’s second-leading rusher picking up 66 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown. The one-two punch of Williams and Rhodes could become a very dangerous weapon for UTSA.
Tight End David Morgan showed off his complete skillset Thursday vs Arizona. The Senior from Marble Falls had a career game catching a school-record nine passes. His 109 receiving yards was also a personal best. He also caught his fourth-career touchdown pass. Morgan was a huge weapon for UTSA. Often times, he was lined up on a smaller defensive back and was simply un-guardable. On his touchdown pass, Morgan split out to the right and a cornerback lined up with in. It was an easy pitch and catch for touchdown. If Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown can continue to get Morgan in mismatches, he could have a big season.
As the end of the game nears, a spokesman for UTSA will ask your interview requests. I typically interview players who have played well and are in consideration for our “Game Ball.” This week I gave my defensive game ball to DE Jason Neill. He had a solid game and his forced fumble was critical game-changing play in favor of UTSA. But I debated with myself on LB Marcos Curry. In his second start as a Roadrunner, Curry was a beast. He flew around the field and Tucson and seemed like he was involved in every other tackle. Officially, he led the team with 8.5 total tackles (8 solo and .5 assist). The sophomore from Central Texas is deceptively quick and athletic. While it’s just one game, Curry has showed his has the goods at Hawk LB. We could see a breakout season from him.
The Hard Hat D is Back
With the exception of a few long passing plays down the center of the secondary, I was pleased with the production of UTSA’s defense as a whole against Arizona. For a majority of the game, UTSA was very stingy against the run. In fact, the front seven of UTSA all but shutdown the Arizona running game in the first half. The Wildcats broke loose a little in the second half but for the most part, UTSA held them to a moderate rushing total. In the defensive backfield, the ‘Runners did give up some long balls but not as many as I expected from an offense as prolific as Arizona’s. A unit that was very good in 2014 has the ability to be improved in 2015. Conference USA should be keep an eye on the UTSA Hard Hat Defense.
So Long Austin Robinson
Less than a week after a called Austin Robinson a class act for deciding to switch positions to defense, the sophomore decided to leave the program in a less than amicable manner. A lot was written over the weekend about Robinson’s departure. The easiest way to explain it is that he simply changed his mind. It happens for time to time. Often times we forget we are dealing with 18-22 year olds. It’s too bad things didn’t work out for Robinson at UTSA. 6-3/220lbs with 4.5 speed doesn’t come along too often. But the writing was on the wall for Robinson ever since Michigan graduate transfer Russell Bellomy joined the team. This hasn’t been the first QB to leave the program and it won’t be the last. This is the way of college football.
Closing Thoughts – Elevated Expectations
Last week I wrote that external factors should not affect fans’ expectations of their team. Little was expected of this 2015 UTSA football team. Now, after a narrow upset bid against Arizona, UTSA has shown a glimpse of what could be. The 2015 Roadrunners are good. How good will depend on how quickly they mature. But for the fans, there is a ton of things to be excited for. A record-breaking QB, one of the best TEs in CUSA, a stingy defense, exciting WRs and RBs, the list goes on and on. A lot will go into what UTSA’s won-loss record will ultimately be. But fans should really enjoy the ride of this 2015 season. It could go down one of the biggest surprise seasons in UTSA’s short history.