Following last week's near upset of Arizona on the road, Larry Coker's UTSA program will play host to Bill Synder's Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday morning. With the game set to be nationally-televised on Fox Sports 1, Kansas State will become just the third Power 5 program to face UTSA in the Alamodome.
While beating a Big 12 program will never be an easy task for a Conference USA squad, UTSA seems to be in a great spot to pull off the improbable on Saturday.
Starting Wildcat quarterback Jesse Ertz played just two snaps against first-week opponent South Dakota before suffering a serious knee injury that will force him to sit out the rest of the season. The Wildcats' pain would only compound after all-conference safety Dante Barnett left the game in the second half with an undisclosed shoulder injury.
After Barnett went down he was replaced by redshirt freshman Kendall Adams. Adams joins sophomore free safety Kaleb Prewett in the Wildcat secondary, giving Kansas State just one previous start between both safety positions.
Junior Joe Hubener stepped in for Ertz following Ertz's injury and performed reasonably well. The former walk-on has an imposing frame at 6'5" but peculiarly enough, he has never started a football game as a quarterback. Not in college, not in high school, not at any level.
While Hubener has never started for Kansas State, he did appear in seven games in 2014, where he would complete 9 of 17 passing attempts for 235 yards. Hubener also rushed for 142 yards and three touchdowns as a sophomore.
Hubener has an interesting skill set but his inexperience at the position has to be concerning for Kansas State, as is the challenge of leading an offense in a raucous environment on the road. I've heard differing opinions about how close the offseason quarterback battle was between Hubener and Ertz, but the coaching staff clearly felt most comfortable with Ertz as they named him the week one starter.
Even if Hubener is only a little bit less skilled than Ertz it could make a huge difference for UTSA's defense. The only big plays that UTSA's defense gave up against Arizona came on busted coverage in the secondary. Anu Solomon was quick to identify those miscues and take advantage of them with accurate throws. Will Joe Hubener be able to spot out similar mistakes as quickly if they were to occur?
Kansas State and UTSA both entered the season with many questions that needed to be answered as both teams returned very few starters.
UTSA took huge steps in answering most of the questions surrounding the team this offseason with their 2015 debut. Blake Bogenschutz proved that he was worthy of the hype lauded on him by his teammates and coaches as the young quarterback broke two school records against Arizona. UTSA's rebuilt offensive line also impressed as they allowed zero sacks and opened up huge holes in the run game.
The Wildcats answered some of their own questions as well-- Justin Silmon was explosive with the ball and Kansas State's young defense played well enough to secure a shutout of an FCS opponent. Unfortunately for the Wildcats, those answers have only been muddled with even further questions following the injuries sustained by Ertz and Barnett.
Bill Snyder is an absolute mastermind of a coach and he will assuredly find a way to keep his team competitive throughout the season. But with circumstance piled up and a surging UTSA program chomping at the bit for their first major conference win, the Roadrunners might just be able to knock off the Wildcats before Snyder can guide this team out of uncertainty.