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SO CLOSE, YET SO FAR
UTSA isn’t quite there yet. As close as this team and program is to something special, a game like Saturday reminds us how far UTSA still needs to go. Louisiana Tech was just better. The thing that stood out to me the most as I watched the game from the pressbox in Ruston was the Bulldogs’ speed. It simply was at another level. And that was on both sides of the ball. To UTSA’s credit, the Roadrunners never stopped fighting. UTSA cut La Tech’s lead to 14 points late in the fourth quarter. That was probably a more accurate portrayal of the type of game that was played than the 28 point difference the final score was. UTSA will eventually get better and be able to go toe to toe with a team like La Tech. Every recruiting class UTSA has signed has been better than the last. With new head coach Frank Wilson’s emphasis on recruiting, this years signing class is expected to be exponentially better. Eventually, you will see that improvement on the field and in games like the one the Roadrunners played Saturday vs La Tech. UTSA is getting there. Stay patient. Don’t flinch.
NO LOVE LOSS FOR LA TECH
Every single time I travel to Ruston (I’ve been there three times now), I tell myself I’m never going back. It isn’t an easy place to get to, their stadium is old and isn’t anything special, and their fans are not the friendliest. There isn’t a direct route from San Antonio to Ruston. You have to travel on several one lane roads through east Texas to get to the interstate. There isn’t anything wrong with that since Texas has such beautiful scenery, but it is a long haul. And once you get into northwest Louisiana, that beautiful scenery quickly changes. And why are the roads in northwest Louisiana so terrible? I mean there are literally bumps, holes, and cracks on seemingly every mile of road in northwest Louisiana. UTSA stays in Shreveport, which is an hour drive away. So you get up early on game day and drive for an hour down a long bumpy road. Someone asked me why UTSA stays so far away. The reason is that there is literally nothing around Ruston. It’s a small three-exit town surrounded by forest and wilderness. Once you get to Ruston, their stadium is located about a mile off the interstate. It’s a small stadium across from where their school is. It’s kind of in the middle of the woods with their basketball arena, track, and softball field surrounding it. One of the parking pass areas was on the actual softball playing field. Their pressbox, which began being demolished for a new one after the game, is one of the worst I’ve ever been in (that includes high schools). And their fans. Wow. Let me tread lightly here because it’s unfair to characterize the whole bunch from the actions of the few. But lets just stay their student section (who are stragetically positioned right behind UTSA’s bench) were fairly vulgar. That’s not an uncommon occurrence in college football but some of the “passion” La Tech students had may have been misplaced and a little over the top. And it just wasn’t the students. I was standing in their new endzone complex at the end game taking some photos. It's a plaza area open to the public that sits elevated over the endzone. After UTSA’s late-fourth interception, an elderly female fan (probably mid-60’s) comes and stands right next to me. She starts cheering, saying they needed a touchdown to cover the spread. She didn't touch me but was uncomfortably close. When La Tech scored a touchdown with five seconds left, she turned to me and said “in your face” and walked away. That was mild-mannered compared to some exchanges I’ve been apart of in the past. And while were on that topic, what about that last touchdown? Skip Holtz running up the score isn’t anything new. It’s not a classy move. That’s something I think UTSA would never do. But Holtz has now done it twice to the Roadrunners. After the touchdown, there was a little bit of extra boasting from some of the La Tech players on the field as they pointed to scoreboard. You put all of that together with the fact that UTSA is 0-3 in Ruston and what you get is a fairly unpleasant experience. But more than wins and losses, it just seems like the culture of un-sportsmanship perpetuates itself in Ruston. I’ve been to enough places following UTSA to say that none of those extracurricular things are real common practice. But I guess that’s just how they do it there. Everyone always asks the question who UTSA’s biggest rival is... I think that question answered it self with five seconds left in the game this past Saturday.
I took a week off from bashing Conference USA officials in my last post because I felt maybe Teddrick McGhee’s targeting penalty was borderline. For full disclosure, I didn’t see Josiah Tauaefa’s penalty in Ruston. I was headed down to the field and missed the play live. But I did see the replay on the screen and thought it was a bad call. Here’s the thing that hurts teams and players in CUSA. The conference’s television partners do not have enough cameras to be able to overturn these penalties. Usually these games have two or three cameras watching the game and that’s it. If it’s a bad angle, it’s missed. And it’s not like Conference USA cares to take into consideration other evidence. As an example, when Marcus Davenport was ejected a few weeks ago, UTSA sent CUSA a photograph that clearly showed that Davenport wasn’t targeting. You can’t look at that photograph and say it was targeting. So either Conference USA doesn’t look real hard at additional information submitted or they’d rather avoid saying they made a mistake in order save face. Either way, it’s a bad outcome for the teams and players. In this instance, UTSA’s best defensive player is penalized. Let’s take a step back and talk about what this means. Saturday’s game vs Texas A&M is a special game on UTSA’s schedule. It’ll be a time for players to take in the atmosphere of playing at a place like Kyle Field. It’s almost a reward for all of their hard work. Tauaefa has been a special player for UTSA this season. He’s also one of the best players in Conference USA. And for him to have to miss the first half of such a memorable game because of a bad call is a travesty. Way to go Conference USA.
THE TEXAS A&M GAME
Well, here we are. It’s November and UTSA is headed to College Station to play the Texas A&M Aggies for the first time ever. The game happens at an odd time on the schedule for UTSA. Typically, the Roadrunners play their non-conference games in September. But major programs like A&M often prefer to schedule a non-conference game at the back end of their schedule so they can gain some momentum headed into the post season. For the Roadrunners, this is the second of three opportunities they have to become bowl eligible. But more than that, this is marks a special time for UTSA. There will likely be more than 100,000 fans in attendance at Kyle Field. The Aggies have a storied history and unmatched traditions. For UTSA to be able to play on that kind of stage is significant. When UTSA takes the field Saturday, it’ll be a moment that players, coaches, and fans will remember for years to come. Regardless of the outcome, I’d encourage everyone to soak it all in Saturday. Games like this don’t come around often. See you all in College Station.