Start Time: 9:00 pm CST, Thursday, Sept. 3
Location: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
TV: Pac-12 Networks
Streaming: Pac-12 Live (website, Android, iOS)
Radio: Ticket 760
Series Record: Arizona: 2, UTSA: 0
Live Stats: Link
Betting Line: Arizona -31.5
Views from Tucson: Arizona Desert Swarm (SB Nation)
The Opponent: Ranked #22, Arizona poses a mighty challenge for Larry Coker's young squad. The Wildcats return Anu Solomon who impressed as a freshman starter in 2014. The Wildcats also boast arguably the best linebacker in the country in Scooby Wright III.
In 2014 UTSA hosted Arizona in the Alamodome as part of their 2-for-1 scheduling agreement. A confident UTSA and a rocking crowd nearly brought Arizona to its knees. Quarterback Tucker Carter had an opportunity to seal the upset with a two-minute drill in the fourth quarter but a costly mental mistake on a shovel pass lead to an interception and ultimately a frustrating loss for the Roadrunners.
If last year's game is any indication, be prepared for an impressive showing from Arizona sophomore running back Nick Wilson. In last year's game Wilson accounted for 174 yards on 30 carries. The sophomore is incredibly shifty and is now up to 199 pounds. UTSA's defense will need to gang tackle to ensure that Wilson isn't able to tack on yards after contact like he did in last season's affair.
Arizona runs a 3-3-5 defense which could prove to be problematic for UTSA's inexperienced offensive line. Having three down linemen lends itself well to line twists and exotic blitz design. UTSA center Austin Pratt will be tested in his ability to recognize and call out impending blitzes.
UTSA Outlook: This game will bring a lot of firsts for UTSA. Most notably, offensive coordinator Kevin Brown will unveil his newly-built up tempo offense. The Roadrunners will aim to snap the ball 12 to 15 seconds after each play is whistled dead, a down-right torrential pace when compared to UTSA's sluggish 2014 offense.
Blake Bogenschutz will start his second game at quarterback, officially ushering in the Bogenschutz Era™. "Bogie" earned some experience as a true freshman but was awarded a medical redshirt after breaking his hand in his first start. The redshirt freshman has been unbelievable in practice, by all accounts. The 6'0", 195 pound field general was able to hold off graduate transfer Russell Bellomy of Michigan.
Bogenschutz has a lightning-quick release which can be lethal when paired with his ethereal football IQ. Bogie can read defenses quicker than any quarterback in UTSA's past and does an exceptional job of looking off safeties as he goes through his reads.
During UTSA's open practice I watched Bogie make pin-point accurate throws all evening with seemingly minimal effort. Given his surprising arm strength, Bogie is really the first quarterback UTSA has ever had that can make all the throws necessary to be successful at the Division I level. He's also quick on his feet, as shown by a 24-yard touchdown run against Oklahoma State last season.
While UTSA has some hope at quarterback, the rebuilt offensive line will need to keep him upright.
The starting offensive line will feature three first time starters as the depth chart reads Reed Darragh, Kyle McKinney, Austin Pratt, William Cavanaugh, and Jordan Gray, moving from left to right. Darragh and McKinney have earned rave reviews from the coaching staff this fall but JUCO transfer Austin Pratt remains unproven. He certainly has the size and strength to be successful at this level of competition.
UTSA's defensive line faces similar concerns. Defensive line coach Eric Roark has a strong base to work with-- Marcus Davenport, Jason Neill, and Brian Price all return with experience and production. Once you get past those three there are a lot of question marks.
Reserve defensive ends Romario Napoles and Justyn Eddins have never played a snap for UTSA, nor has redshirt freshman defensive tackle Kevin Strong. Back up defensive tackle Vontrell King-Williams faces conditioning concerns after missing most of fall camp with an unspecified injury.
The secondary also has a lot of new faces, especially at cornerback. Sophomore Aneas Henricks will be making his first start alongside fellow sophomore Nate Gaines. While the experience level is low, the new contributors in the secondary are much taller and quicker than the seniors they replace which will hopefully help prevent big plays for Arizona's talented wide receivers.
Speaking of wide receivers, UTSA's unit should be fun to watch this season. Kenny Bias, Kerry Thomas, and Aaron Grubb are the starters while JUCO transfer JaBryce Taylor has been exceptional throughout fall camp. Slot receiver Greg Campbell has been electric but is not currently listed on the depth chart, perhaps due to missing some time last week due to injury.
And to wrap things up-- here's an under-the-radar concern. UTSA has new place kickers and punters taking over duties this week. I have no clue how those guys are going to look if I'm being honest.
Prediction: Well UTSA is obviously a huge underdog and for good reason. Arizona is faster, stronger, more experienced, and has more depth. That being said, I think this game will be a great warm up for UTSA's no-huddle offense. Arizona's starting cornerbacks are DaVonte' Neal, a converted wide receiver, and Sammy Morrison, a true freshman. Kenny Bias and Kerry Thomas should be able to catch these guys off balance a few times.
UTSA's most difficult task will be containing Arizona's run game. Fortunately for UTSA, Arizona has suffered a few injuries along the offensive line. If Bogenschutz is able to pick up first downs to keep UTSA's defense well-rested then the Roadrunners should be able to keep the game competitive.
UTSA 21, Arizona 34