For part one, Jason Jones asked Jared Kalmus a few questions about UTSA. Louisiana Tech is looking to move to 3-0 in Conference USA play while UTSA is coming off of a home win against Florida International. Kickoff is set for 11:00 AM CST and the game will be televised on Fox Sports Network.
1. After giving up 40+ points in back to back weeks, the UTSA defense has improved the last couple of games. Have they made any noticeable changes that have helped slow down their opponents?
JK: I don't think there have been any big changes on defense at any point this season. The Oklahoma State game was an outlier as the #15 ranked Cowboys are by far the most talented team that UTSA will face this season. The score of the FAU game might be a bit misleading as the UTSA defense held the Owls to 409 yards of offense. FAU was able to capitalize on two interceptions, one of which was a 76 yard pick six. I think the UTSA defense is pretty solid, featuring some exceptional talent and great depth especially along the defensive line.
2. Tucker Carter accounted for three touchdowns against FAU, then he didn't play well at all against New Mexico - what was the biggest reason for his struggles in that game?
JK: It's been difficult to get a finger on Carter this season. It seems like every time you're ready to give up on the guy he throws a terrific pass that leads you to give him another chance. While Carter has a strong arm he's struggled with reading defenses and finding open receivers. Carter can move in the pocket but his ability to avoid pressure seems to have dwindled throughout the season and his inability to create offense with his feet has brought the Roadrunner offense to a sludge.
Based on media reports and comments from Coach Coker, it seems highly unlikely that Carter will play against Louisiana Tech. Carter has injured both of his shoulders this season. With Blake Bogenschutz also out for the game due to a fractured hand, 19 year old walk-on freshman Dalton Sturm is all the Roadrunners have left at quarterback behind Austin Robinson.
3. The fans have been calling for blake Bogenshutz for a while and he finally got his chance. Now he is hurt, but Austin Robinson played well against FIU. Who is Robinson and can he be the answer for the offense?
JK: Austin Robinson is a redshirt freshman and an extremely gifted athlete. At 6'3" and 220 pounds, he has the stature of a pocket passer but the speed of a track star. His long-reaching, graceful stride has drawn comparisons Vince Young. Robinson turned in the best performance we've seen from a UTSA quarterback this season with 65 yards on 15 carries and 144 passing yards on a 14 of 17 passing performance.
While it's too soon to anoint Robinson, he does bring a certain playmaking ability with his feet that could help the UTSA offense turn busted plays into big gains. Robinson's athleticism is impressive but he did lose the back-up QB battle to a true freshman. I believe that Manny Diaz will find a way to make Robinson beat the Bulldog defense through the air unlike FIU.
4. Does college football basically come down to the quarterback? Last year, UTSA had Eric Soza and they were a good team. This year Tech has Cody Sokol and they have improved.
JK: Doesn't it feel like it? The quarterback is the most important position in sports. Goalkeepers may be close but it seems like there is less variance between good goalkeepers and great ones. A great quarterback can single handedly lead a football team to success, especially at the college level.
5. Speaking of last year, UTSA won 30-10 over Tech. UTSA held the ball for 38 minutes despite turning it over twice. How fun was it for the fans to close out such a great regular season with a home win?
JK: That was a great win that helped ease the pain of missing out on bowl season. I think a lot of the UTSA players had a bad taste in their mouth from the 2012 game in Ruston. It was a physical game that was a lot closer than anticipated. UTSA was within striking range of the ranked Bulldogs until Sonny Dykes called for a fake punt despite a sizeable lead and caked on some late style points to impress the BCS conglomerate. I don't think those hard feelings are still floating around the UTSA locker room but it likely made that 2013 win all that much sweeter at the time.
6. Expectations were high this year, and they grew even more after the Houston win and the close loss to Arizona. Do the fans still have hope for bowl eligibility? What's it gonna take to get it done?
JK: Losing to New Mexico certainly did a number on UTSA's bowl prospects but I think there's still a pretty good chance that the Roadrunners reach bowl eligibility. With six games remaining, UTSA could drop two more games and still have the six wins needed for bowl eligibility. Six wins is never a guarantee for a bowl game so the Roadrunners will likely need to pick up two road wins at either LA Tech, Rice or WKU to feel confident about their chances.
Conference USA does have six bowl tie-ins to fill so it's not an impossible task for the Roadrunners. UTSA's great fan support makes them a great candidate for regional bowls such as the Heart of Dallas or New Mexico bowls.
7. Who does UTSA consider it's rivals in Conference USA? After so many years as a Southland Conference basketball school, how sweet is it for UTSA to be playing college football games at this level?
JK: UTSA's mission to build meaningful rivalries in Conference USA is very much a work in progress. There's a lot of animosity from UTEP and UNT fans but in my experience that rivalry only exists between a few hundred people on various message boards. In my opinion a good rivalry needs to be local and competitive.
I think UTSA will be heads and shoulders above UTEP most football seasons and LA Tech is a little bit too far away to interest the common fan so that leaves Rice and UNT. Rice has a small and apathetic fan base so the odds of that one taking off are slim. UTSA might actually have the larger and louder crowd in Houston this year if their 2012 matchup is any indication. Step on up, UNT.
It's funny that you mention UTSA as a former basketball school. Honestly, UTSA never was a basketball school. For whatever reason, a city gripped with Spurs mania never found interest in supporting their local Division I team. UTSA was always a football school waiting for a team. This season has provided a lot of emotional peaks and valleys for UTSA fans. After having low expectations through the first three seasons, UTSA fans are finally starting to feel the heartbreak and bliss that college football can bring. It's a beautiful thing.