Four Down Territory 10.12.16

Presenting a weekly post in which InsideRunnerSports’ JJ Perez tackles four burning topics facing UTSA this week. Presented by the law firm of Saucier & Smaistrla PLLC.

Presented by the law firm of Saucier & Smaistrla PLLC.

UTSA’s 55-32 thumping of Southern Miss last week not only gave the Roadrunners their first conference win of the year, but it may saved this entire 2016 season. The win catapults UTSA back into postseason play consideration. It also means they are very much in the mix for the Conference USA West Division title. Even if you take a glass half empty approach, the win at the very least means the Roadrunners will remain in contention for postseason for a large part of the remainder of the season. And that’s all you can really ask for. Two weeks ago following a dismal performance against Old Dominion (a team that, by the way, is looking pretty good themselves) it seemed like this season would one in which UTSA and first year head coach Frank Wilson would be rebuilding. Now, not so much. With a record of 2-3 overall and 1-1 in conference, everything is in front of the Roadrunners. Saturday’s win over Southern Miss was huge, probably one of the biggest in program history. A few weeks ago I wrote that the Arizona State game was a turning point in the season. This Southern Miss game is very much in that same mold. The win could propel the Roadrunners forward.

I’ve had the same answer for everyone who has asked me about these upcoming games… I feel like matchups vs Rice, UTEP, and North Texas are becoming (or will become) those types of games where you throw the records out the window and you expect just a knock-down-drag-out type of affair. There is no love loss between UTSA and each of the three other Texas schools in Conference USA. Rice dominated UTSA the first three times they played with the Roadrunners finally breaking through last season. It seems like the fan bases of UTSA, UTEP, and UNT really despise each other. With the schools competing with each other on and off the field, it’s almost like these games have developed into natural rivalries. From recruiting the same players to upset wins in down seasons, Rice, UTEP, and UNT have turned into good football foes for UTSA. And that’s what college football is all about. This season, UTSA faces the Texas Triangle in consecutive weeks. Coaches and players have to look at each game with a one game at a time mentality. But to UTSA’s fan base there would be nothing more satisfying this season than sweeping the three other Texas schools in CUSA (aside from a bowl berth/victory, of course). That should make for a fun and entertaining next three weeks.

Redshirt freshman Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa has the potential to become one of the best players UTSA has ever seen. That may come across as extremely high praise considering some of the talent that has come through Roadrunner country. But five games into his college career, all indications are that Josiah Tauaefa is one of the special ones. A year ago, Tauaefa was a defensive lineman that could have played as a true freshman. But he decided to take a redshirt. When the new coaching staff came in they converted him to a linebacker. Through five games in this 2016 season, the impact he has made has been one of epic proportions. The north Texas-native has recorded 58 total tackles, 23 solo tackles, and 35 assisted tackles. Each one of those stats lead the team. He’s tied for the team lead in sacks with two and second on the team with three quarterback hurries. This past week vs Southern Miss, Tauaefa came up with the defensive play of the game, a fourth quarter goal line interception that helped seal the upset win. Nationally, his 58 tackles are the most of any FBS freshman. And his 11.6 tackles per game average is third in the nation. Arguably one of the best freshmen in the country, Tauaefa has already made his mark in Conference USA. This week he was named defensive player of the week. That certainly won’t be the last time he earns that honor. The future is certainly bright for Tauaefa and UTSA’s defense… Now if only we could all figure out how to pronounce his last team correctly... Or maybe come up with a catchy nickname?

So UTSA now heads to Houston this week for their most important game of the season vs Rice. That may sound strange since the Owls are 0-5 and have mostly struggled this season. But it is absolutely the biggest game so far for the Roadrunners. A win would even UTSA’s overall record to 3-3 and push them up CUSA’s west division standings. It would also setup even bigger games vs UTEP and North Texas (both home games) the following weeks. A loss to a win-less team could have the opposite affect and would likely end legitimate hopes of postseason play. Historically, Rice is a good program. Just a few years ago they won 10 games. UTSA head coach Frank Wilson called the Owls a “dangerous” team this week. You know there’s nothing Rice would like more than to upset the Roadrunners. Houston may as well be UTSA-East. It’s a short three hour drive from San Antonio to Houston. The Roadrunners have a large fan base there. A fair share of the players on the roster hail from the area and Houston is one of the places UTSA recruits heavily. Roadrunner fans will likely paint Rice’s stadium orange Saturday in support of the Roadrunners. But the UTSA is 0-2 vs Rice in Houston. So, the team will be looking for a break-through win Saturday. All the way around, it’s a big game. See you all there.

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