Presented by Pat Clynes and The Fritz Kennel
By Jerry Briggs
COMPLETE TEAM EXPECTED
Saddled with a three-game losing streak, UTSA will host Southern Miss in Conference USA football at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Alamodome.
Roadrunners coach Frank Wilson had an open date last week and used it in part to evaluate personnel. He said Monday morning he anticipates no "drastic" change in the depth chart against the Golden Eagles.
"We're so thankful we'll have a complete team out there, from a health standpoint, at every position group, so we'll continue to evaluate this week and see how it unfolds," he told Mike Taylor, a morning radio host on KTKR.
UTSA (1-3, 0-1) was off last week after suffering a 33-19 setback on Sept. 24 at Old Dominion. Defending Conference USA-West champion Southern Miss (4-1, 2-0) played at home and walloped Rice, 44-28.
The Golden Eagles fell behind early against the Owls and then roared from behind to register a school-record 702 yards of offense. Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens threw for 591 yards and four touchdowns.
Mullens had a big day throwing to Allenzae Staggers, who caught six passes for a school-record 292 yards and three TDs. His scoring plays covered 75, 81 and 93 yards.
UTSA, in its sixth season of football, has split two games against Southern Miss, a traditional power in C-USA. The Roadrunners beat the Golden Eagles 12-10 at the Alamodome in 2014. The Golden Eagles retaliated last year in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, rolling to a 32-10 victory.
Jay Hopson, a first-year head coach at Southern Miss, worked the past four seasons as head coach at Alcorn State. He replaced former Southern Miss head coach Todd Monken, who left after last season to take a job as offensive coordinator with the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Coming off a 9-5 record and an appearance in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, Southern Miss hasn't missed a beat under Hopson, who led the Golden Eagles in their season opener to a 44-35 victory at Kentucky.
Claiming "we're not done yet," UTSA safety Nate Gaines said Monday that his teammates remain committed to their long-term goals in spite of a three-game losing streak.
"We're all level-headed right now," Gaines said. "It just makes us that much more hungry. Three games in a row without a win is something that could deplete a team, but it hasn't with us. It shows. Yesterday at practice, we came out with energy, enthusiasm. We're not done yet. We still got a long season. We still got goals we can attain."
UTSA (1-3 overall, 0-1 in Conference USA) hosts Southern Miss (4-1, 2-0) at 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Alamodome.
After a victory over Alabama State to start the season, UTSA has lost to Colorado State, Arizona State and Old Dominion. The Roadrunners didn't play last weekend, allowing them to re-charge mentally and physically.
UTSA coach Frank Wilson said his team did "a lot of self evaluation" in the wake of a 14-point loss at Old Dominion on Sept. 24.
"We get back to fundamentals, from assignments to alignment and the principles that we've instilled and make sure were still adhering to (them)," he said. "We look at our tendencies and some of the things we've been doing in the first quarter of the season. Then we use opportunity to get our team healthy and ready to go for the next opponent."
Southern Miss, under first-year head coach Jay Hopson, is expected to provide a stern test for UTSA.
Asked how UTSA's opponent for its C-USA home opener compares to Arizona State, Wilson said simply, "They're very talented. I think they're as talented at the quarterback position as any team we faced, or will face."
Southern Miss senior quarterback Nick Mullens is coming off a 591-yard passing performance in a 44-28 victory over Rice.
"He's a very talented quarterback," Wilson said. "The receivers are very good players. They rush the ball well. They lead the conference in rushing. They're very active on defense, as well."
The play of UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm has been up and down.
At home against Arizona State, he accounted for 311 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, throwing for three and rushing for one. On the road at Old Dominion, he was held to less than 100 yards of offense. For the first time this year, he didn't throw or run for a touchdown.
"I think his progress is going well," Wilson said. "I think he continues to develop and do the things that we need to do as a team. His progress is on par. He needs to continue to build week by week and do the things necessary to improve himself."
UTSA's Jared Johnson is an option at quarterback if the offense isn't moving the ball against a stout Southern Miss defense. Johnson led UTSA to 10 points on two second-half drives against Old Dominion.
Asked if Johnson might get more time this week, Wilson said, "We'll see how the game unfolds."
In defeating Alabama State 26-13 and then losing to Colorado State (23-14), Arizona State (32-28) and Old Dominion (33-19), UTSA suffered a number of minor injuries.
A few offensive linemen and defensive backs went down against Old Dominion. Most prominent in the setbacks against ODU was the loss of safety Michael Egwuagu, who was wearing a sling on his right arm in the second half.
Wilson said he expects Egwuagu, the team's second-leading tackler, to play this week.
Senior tight end Trevor Stevens said UTSA needed the time off to heal up.
"It was good for us because it gave us time to relax, and get a lot of guys healthy again," Stevens said.. "There were bumps and bruises that guys incurred through the previous four games. It was big for us to be able to heal up and get our legs back under us.
"We did a little bit of extra weight training, to work out some of that lactic acid and soreness. I think that was really good for us, and we rebuilt some of our energy and focus as a team."
Wilson encouraged fans to turn out for an important game on UTSA's home schedule.
"It's a big day for the city of San Antonio, for our program," he said. "So we need you guys. We encourage you to come out and support us, to be loud and proud to represent Roadrunner Nation."
SIXTH ANNUAL FOOD DRIVE
UTSA will hold its sixth annual food drive, sponsored by Whataburger, prior to the Southern Miss football game scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday at the Alamodome.
Fans are encouraged to bring cans or non-perishable food items to donation bins that will be located on the VIA Bridge on the north side of the Alamodome. Monetary donations also are encouraged and accepted. Every dollar donated provides the equivalent of seven meals. All donations will be given to the San Antonio Food Bank.
Anyone who donates a minimum of two cans or non-perishable items will receive one coupon for a free Whataburger (while supplies last).
According to the San Antonio Food Bank, nearly one out of every four children and one out of every five adults in Southwest Texas is food insecure and has difficulty meeting basic nutritional needs.
Sixty-five percent of the people requesting emergency food have children.
FRANK WILSON TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS (Courtesy UTSA)
On the bye week
“It was good. It was much needed. We took advantage of it. It gave us an opportunity to heal up, to get healthy, to reflect on ourselves and the things we need to do to better ourselves."
On Southern Miss and the biggest challenge they present …
“Challenge? To contain a team that leads our conference in scoring. To be effective offensively against a team that allows the least amount of touchdowns (in our conference). This is a team that boasts the best punter statistically in our conference at this time and a field goal kicker who is 100 percent, so they're a well-rounded and very well-coached football team."
On how Southern Miss compares talent-wise to other teams UTSA has faced …
“I think they're very talented. I think they're as talented at the quarterback position as any team we've faced or will face. He's a very talented quarterback. The receivers are really good players. They rush the ball well. They're very active on defense, as well."
On how Southern Miss has adapted to its new coaching staff …
“When you have a four-year starter at the quarterback position and a team that made a run at it last year and returns the amount of veteran players that they return, and an offensive line with three of those starters (back) there and a starting tailback, and some quality receivers, and then the defense and specialists, as effective as they are, I think the transition has been smooth for them. I think Jay (Hopson) does an outstanding job. He was there years before, so certainly he's familiar with the culture and the place. That's helped. He and his staff are quality coaches.
On the attitude of his team after the bye week …
“We look good. We were fresh yesterday at practice. We bounced around and that's what you look for when you have a couple of days off in the bye week. Of course, we didn't play Saturday so that Thursday, Friday, Saturday there's no practice. It was good for the guys to be able to freshen up and be eager to go. Now it's for the mental part of the game, which happens this week in preparation for our opponent."
On if he noticed a spring in the players' steps after the bye …
“Certainly. They needed it. You're a quarter way through the season and they've played a lot of snaps on various teams, so we needed that sigh of relief, that self reflecting, so it was much needed and I think it was much appreciated."