Four Down Territory 10.19.16

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.


How dramatic was that finish to the Rice game? With a one point lead, UTSA gets stopped on fourth down and goal deep in Rice territory. Rice then drives down the field for a potential go ahead field goal. But the attempt goes wide-right. It appeared the game was over at that point. But UTSA’s offense would go three and out and was forced to punt, which gave  the Owls another chance. Rice would get into field goal range but would eventually run out of time. Confusion by the officials about whether to give Rice another play at the end only added to the drama of the game. But UTSA escaped with the W. The Roadrunners didn’t play their best game. And, as I expected, Rice is a little better than their winless record indicates. But at the end of the day it’s a win. But more than just any win, it’s a conference win within the division on the road. I’m not sure last year’s team would have been able to pull that type of a game out. Take it and move on.

First-year head coach Frank Wilson has shown himself to an aggressive style of coach, especially when it comes to fourth and short situations. On Saturday, however, his aggressiveness almost came back to bite UTSA. With seven minutes to play, and the Roadrunners clinging to a one point lead, UTSA lined up to go for it in fourth and goal at the Owls’ two-yard line. RB Jalen Rhodes was stopped in the backfield. Rice took over with a chance to take the lead. What happened next is the kind of thing you frequently see in college football. In the next three and a half minutes, the Owls would drive 70 yards in nine plays to setup a potential go ahead field goal. But the attempt was no good. Rice loses, UTSA wins. But why did UTSA go for it on fourth down? Had UTSA elected to kick the field on fourth and goal from the two (a relative chip shop), the Roadrunners would taken a four point lead and would have forced Rice to score a touchdown instead of a field goal to take the lead. Following the game, and for much of this week, Head Coach Frank Wilson hasn’t backed away from his decision. He believed that with two yards to go, UTSA could have won the game then and there. And he had the confidence that his offense could get it done. If not, he had the confidence the defense could stop Rice. That’s a bold mentality when wins and losses are on the line for a program that is clawing and scratching to earn a bowl berth. But in the end, Coach Wilson was correct. Although there may have been a little luck on UTSA’s side, the Roadrunners executed just enough to get the win. Aggressive coaches make aggressive playcalls. That’s what we’ve seen so far. We’ll see if this trend continues for UTSA and Coach Wilson.

Well, well, well… Look at the west division of Conference USA now. Three games into conference play and it’s shaping up as a four-team race with UTSA square in the middle of things. Although the Roadrunners overall record is 3-3, two of the wins have come against west division opponents (Southern Miss and Rice). Currently, four teams in the west division have the same 2-1 conference record (Southern Miss, UTSA, La Tech, and North Texas.) It may be a little early to look at tiebreaker scenarios but keep this in mind, the team that represents the west is the one with the highest winning percentage vs conference opposition. If there’s a tie, the tiebreaker is head-to-head matchup. Currently, Southern Miss is atop of the division but has an identical conference record as UTSA’s. But the Roadrunners own the tie-breaker with the Golden Eagles because of UTSA’s upset win a few weeks ago. Again, it may be a little too early to look at the standings, and tiebreakers get a little complicated if there are more than two schools involved, but the important thing is that UTSA is very much in contention. With conference games remaining vs UTEP, North Texas, MTSU, La Tech, and Charlotte, everything is in front of the Roadrunners.

Up next on the schedule are the UTEP Miners. Some would say that UTSA and UTEP have somewhat of a rivalry brewing. UTSA leads the all-time series 2-1. The last time the programs got together, UTSA dominated UTEP 25-6 in a game marred by weather and lightning in El Paso. Most fans will remember that game as former QB Blake Bogenschutz’ last time playing. In the fourth quarter, a UTEP defensive lineman landed awkwardly on Bogenschutz. He suffered a concussion and missed the rest of the season. In the offseason, he was forced to give up football because of lingering concussion-like symptoms. The last time UTEP was in San Antonio, the Miners thumped the ‘Runners 34-0. That was the first time in program history that UTSA was shut out. That was one of the hardest games I had to watch UTSA play. The Roadrunner offense only amassed 70 total offensive yards that day. I think what I remember most about that game two years ago was that UTSA was only able to generate two first downs. Two. One right before halftime and one at the end of the game. And in 2013, as a new member of Conference USA, UTSA beat UTEP 32-13. That was a historic night in El Paso as the win was UTSA’s first- ever in CUSA. So you can say UTSA and UTEP have a bit of a history. Another chapter in the history book gets written this Saturday. It’s also UTSA’s homecoming and an orange-out. I don’t know what to expect from the Miners. They have a tough/hard-nosed coached and a good running game. But UTSA has some momentum on their side. Last week I predicted drama and that came to fruition. This week, I think it will be tougher than most expect but mark me down as the Roadrunners getting it done in a grind-it-out type of game. See you all there. 

Like the Colorado Buffaloes’ infamous 1990 game vs the Missouri Tigers, sometimes there’s a “Fifth Down”. So I’m using my extra shot to give a shout out to the Roadrunner faithful. By the thousands, UTSA fans flocked to Houston this past Saturday to support the Roadrunners. As a general rule of thumb, I do not like to travel the morning of game day. So I got to Houston late Friday and really didn’t have a sense of what fan turnout would be like on the road. On Saturday afternoon, at least a dozen people told me it a was UTSA takeover at the Buccees on Interstate 10 (the unofficial midway point between Houston and San Antonio). Hundreds of UTSA fans got to the stadium very early to tailgate. The school’s Alumni Association had a huge hospitality tent that was full of fans for most of the afternoon. On top of people from out of town, fans from the greater Houston area turned out as well. All of that equated to an almost home field advantage on Saturday. When Rice’s 42 yard field goal attempt sailed wide right at the end of the game, you would have thought you were in the Alamodome if you would have closed your eyes. And the thing is, this is the third time UTSA fans have taken over Rice Stadium. But this was the first win. And the fan support Saturday was very much victory. Below is a photo I took from the press box of the fans in the third quarter. Well done Roadrunner Nation, well done.

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