1. The Schedule
The difficulty of the first half of the schedule created a 1-5 record that is not indicative of how well UTSA has played for the majority of the season. If you remove the blowout against Oklahoma State UTSA has only trailed by 10.5 points in their losses despite playing one of the toughest six game stretches in the country. Four of the Roadrunners losses were to top 40 programs. The average S&P rankings of UTSA's first six opponents is 56. The next six? 101. That includes three teams sitting in the bottom 11 of the rankings.
2. Growing Up
You all know that UTSA is a young team right now. Last week's depth chart included 35 underclassmen when special teams are included. Thirty five! That UTSA has managed to maintain any semblance of competitiveness against this juggernaut of a schedule is a minor miracle.
The young guys on the roster are starting to show improvement and getting closer to their talent ceilings. Free safety Nate Gaines is coming into his own as a free safety. Quarterbacks Blake Bogenschutz and Dalton Sturm are both becoming more comfortable in the offense. Kevin Strong is establishing himself as a top defensive tackle in Conference USA. These guys will continue to improve, especially when facing less talented competition throughout the remainder of the season.
3. Performance Timing
UTSA has played some really good quarters of this football this season-- just look to the third quarter against UTEP and the second quarter against Arizona for some great examples. Unfortunately for the Roadrunners, they've also matched those great quarters with turnover-riddled quarters that prevented wins. Good football teams maintain solid play for a full four quarters but this young team hasn't learned how to string performances together yet. The defense has been mostly consistent. If the offense can avoid nightmare quarters like they've had so far then this team will be inline for some big wins throughout the remainder of the fall.
One of the hidden costs of playing extremely tough schedules like UTSA is known to do is having injuries pile up. The Roadrunners bottomed out against Colorado State as far as injuries go. Things have improved each week since then. Guys are certainly banged up like all other football players are in October but most starters are back on the field for UTSA. The last remaining piece for the Roadrunners to return to full health is getting their starting quarterback under center again.
After taking a blow to the head against UTEP, the coaching staff held Bogenschutz out against Louisiana Tech. Walk-on Dalton Sturm played pretty well against the Bulldogs but some critical mental mistakes put the Roadrunners in a hole to start the game. The offense runs quicker and more smoothly with Bogenschutz directing it. Getting Bogenschutz back will help the Roadrunners speed the tempo back up to where the coaching staff wants it to be. That increase in tempo should lead to more big plays as UTSA starts to play against defenses with less overall speed.