Presented by Pat Clynes and The Fritz Kennel in Houston, TX
By Jerry Briggs
POSTSEASON HOPES STILL ALIVE
UTSA coach Frank Wilson said Monday that his team has not lost sight of its goals for the season.
But he knows he needs to beat Conference USA West division rival North Texas at the Alamodome on Saturday to bolster its postseason aspirations.
"Our goal for this year is to position ourselves for a conference championship, position ourselves to compete for a bowl game," he said on his Monday morning radio show on The Ticket. "I think those things are still in line for us. They’re still in our sight, and we still think we can achieve ‘em."
UTSA (3-4, 2-2) had a two-game winning streak snapped last weekend. The Roadrunners lost at home, falling 52-49 in five overtimes to the UTEP Miners.
Surprising North Texas (4-3, 2-1) won its second game in a row with a 35-18 victory at Army.
Picked by some to finish last in the West, North Texas is in good shape to make a championship run.
Louisiana Tech leads the West with a 3-1 record, followed by Southern Miss and North Texas at 2-1 and UTSA at 2-2.
"They’re athletic as they can be," Wilson said of the Mean Green. "It may be the fastest defense we’ve played. They’re athletic. They’re fast. Their secondary is outstanding, boating 10 interceptions. Interceptions for touchdowns in back to back weeks.
"(Coach) Seth Littrell has those guys playing well."
KING EXPECTED BACK
UTSA fullback Andrew King is expected to play in Saturday's home against North Texas after sitting out last weekend's loss to UTEP with a stomach virus, coach Frank Wilson said Monday.
Wilson said King, UTSA's top blocking back, tried to get ready to play last weekend but couldn't hold down any food.
As a result, he sat out the 52-49, five-overtime loss.
It didn't help the Roadrunners' cause that center Austin Pratt was ejected in the first half for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Pratt is also a run-blocking specialist who could have made a difference late in the game against the Miners.
"It (the ejection) probably had some effect on us," Wilson said. "But you know, what do you do? Before the game we lose our starting fullback (King) with a stomach virus. We lose Trevor Stevens (thigh bruise) and he’s not with us. Jarveon Williams has the flu.
"Adversity will happen, and you got to be able to overcome it. We've had our share of it."
Wilson said Stevens likely will miss a second straight game this week.
The coach said he hopes to have Stevens back for a road game at Middle Tennessee on Nov. 5.
Williams said the Roadrunners will need to move past the emotion of the loss to the Miners.
"You just have to forget it and get ready for the next opponent," Williams said.
Williams also said he has mostly forgotten last year's 20-13 loss in Denton to North Texas, an in-state rival in the Conference USA West division.
"Yea, I remember how I felt after the game, but it's not really on my mind, because that was last year," Williams said. "Both teams have very different teams.
"I know they're coming off a few good wins. We're still trying to reach our goal. It'll be a tough, conference battle. We'll be ready."
North Texas (4-3, 2-1) has bounced back from a slow start with two wins in a row under first-year coach Seth Littrell. UTSA (3-4, 2-2) had won two straight before the loss to UTEP.
DEFENSE LOOKS TO BOUNCE BACK
The UTEP Miners entered last week's game at the Alamodome averaging a Conference USA-low 15.7 points per game.
They emerged with a dramatic 52-49 victory over UTSA in five overtimes.
Given the Miners' track record on offense and their success in moving the ball against UTSA, especially after intermission, coach Frank Wilson was asked Monday if his defense was a concern leading into Saturday's home game against North Texas.
Wilson said, no, he isn't concerned.
"You know, I think on our end, we’ll be better, from a coaching standpoint, to put our guys in better position (to succeed)," he said.
Added Wilson, "I think at times we missed tackles. But the reality was, for the first time, someone really tried to take advantage of out-scheming us, with the bye week in preparation, and they had some trickery and stuff that they had not shown before, that allowed guys to kind of run free. And that’s unlike us."
The coach said he expected improvement.
"We’ll be better at that," Wilson said. "I’m not worried about our defense. I think we have one of the better defenses in our conference. I think (defensive coordinator) Pete Golding and our staff are one of the best defensive staffs in this country and certainly in Conference USA. So I think we’ll bounce back."
Frank Wilson Media Roundtable Transcript Excerpts (from UTSA)
On the mood of the team after the tough loss on Saturday night …
“We are focused on North Texas. It was a tough one. It was tough that night and it will carry over to the next day, because you have to watch the film and deal with it. We're beyond it. We're on to the next opponent right now."
On how physically tired players were after the game …
“I think they were mentally drained and physically, because so much went into it at that time, the desire to win and trying to find a way to get the job done. To come so close on so many different occasions, whether it was in regulation or in each one of the five overtimes, I thought it was emotionally draining."
On Dalton Sturm's play …
“He's a young man who wants responsibility, who doesn't mind the burden of being in position to make the big play. There were several third-down plays, whether it was the throw or him deciding 'I'm going to get it ,Coach' and ran for it, I just applaud his leadership ability, his desire to want to compete."
On the way the team battled on Saturday …
“We played to win the game. I thought we did some really good things in all facets — rushing the ball, throwing the ball and designed quarterback runs. We get into overtime, we match a field goal, we come back and throw a touchdown, then we get a touchdown and a two-point conversion, and I think we really responded in a lot of situations for us, which was good to see. In the fourth overtime, I thought we had a chance to put the game away with a chip shot from the 25. Unfortunately, we did not. At the end of the day from an offensive standpoint, you've got to score one more point than they do. From a defensive standpoint, you've got to hold them to one less, and we weren't able to do that."
On the balance on offense …
“We're getting better. I know it's hard to see sometimes and it doesn't reflect in the win column, but we're getting better. Technically, we counted one sack in the game and they gave us two, but it was a run where Dalton got tackled back at the line of scrimmage, so we were better in that category. We've been giving up at times four-plus, so we're better there. We rushed the ball extremely well. I thought our offensive line came off and created some running lanes for us. We blocked extremely well on the perimeter. I thought our receivers were outstanding. You look at JaBryce Taylor and those guys out there, as well as Josh Stewart, Larry Stephens — we physically dominated their secondary and that allowed us to have nine runs of plus-10 yards, and that's huge for us. We didn't catch the ball as well as I would have liked us to as a team at times. Of course, we made some clutch catches but there were six drops and that's not like us. We've got to hold on to those balls."
On what North Texas brings to the table …
“They run a 3-3-5 defense. They're fast. They run around well. They blitz on every play, no matter if it's run or pass. They're coming after you. They do a good job of being active, running around, being in position to be disruptive to say the least. Even if it's not sacks, they're hurries, they're hits on the quarterback. They're not the biggest team we've faced, not as big as our last opponent (UTEP), but they're probably the most athletic team that we've played. Their secondary is very talented. They have 10 interceptions on the year. The last game they got back-to-back picks for touchdowns, so they're a good defense. Offensively, they want to spread you out. They're kind of a combination or mixture of traditional spread with zone-read type stuff, as well as Air Raid. They have a passing game coordinator, as well as a run game coordinator and an offensive coordinator. When you take that and look at Seth Littrell as the head coach and his background, you have a lot of quick stuff, get it out of their QB's hands. They will run two-back stuff at times when necessary. They'll do the things that are necessary to get them an advantage from an offensive standpoint. For us from a defensive standpoint, we have to be able to cover, contest passes and tackle."