By Jerry Briggs
After a week off for rest and self-evaluation, the UTSA Roadrunners return to the football field Saturday at home against Southern Miss, hoping to correct some of the issues that have haunted them in the first month of the season.
The Roadrunners (1-3 overall, 0-1 Conference USA) have lost three in a row heading into a pivotal game against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (4-1, 2-0).
Kickoff for UTSA against the defending C-USA West champions is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the Alamodome.
In losses to Colorado State, Arizona State and Old Dominion, the Roadrunners have yielded four first-half touchdowns in the final minute of a quarter. All four of those scores have come off drives of 75 yards or more.
Also in those three losses, UTSA has been shut out by a combined score of 28-0 in the fourth quarter.
"Our theme is to play for 60 minutes," UTSA coach Frank Wilson said after Tuesday's practice. "Whether it's the end of the second (quarter), whether it's the end of the football game, we haven't put together a complete game. That's our intent this week, to try and put it together for 60 minutes."
Wilson said his players have "flashed a quarter." He said they've "flashed a half." In fact, they have led during the first half in each of the three games. Against Arizona State, they led in the fourth quarter.
"We haven't been able to do it for an entire game," the coach said. "We've done it for three quarters, but we haven't been able to finish."
Asked if he could explain why, Wilson said he couldn't pinpoint one reason.
But he expressed optimism that even though his team has let leads slip away and has failed to rally from behind in close games, that the lessons will pay off in the long term.
"I think it's a growth process," Wilson said. "I think we're growing from it. We're learning from it. Hopefully this week, we'll be better because of it."
Wilson was asked if he thought some of his players needed to win to learn how to win. In response, he said, "Sometimes you got to lose to win. Does that make sense? I think there are valuable lessons to be learned if you take heed to them. It's all around you.
"The room for growth, the room for correction, the opportunity is so minute that sometimes if we just take one step to the right and one step to the left, we're in position to win the ball game," he said. "I think everything happened the way it was supposed to happen (so far). We own it. Even the (games) we finished second in. We'll be better because of it."
Wilson said his team is as healthy as it's been since the days leading into its Sept. 3 season opener against Alabama State.
He said receivers Marquez McNair, JaBryce Taylor and Dannon Cavil are all available, as is defensive end Kevin Strong. Earlier in the week, the coach said safety Michael Egwuagu also should be ready.
If Cavil plays, it would be the former Madison standout's UTSA debut. He sat out the first four games this year with an injury, after sitting out all of the 2015 season because of the Division I transfer rule. Cavil is a transfer from Oklahoma.
Both McNair and Strong, who opened the season as starters, sat out against Old Dominion. Egwuagu, UTSA's second-leading tackler, had to come out of the game in the second half, while Taylor played a limited role, making only one catch.