Start Time: Saturday, September 3rd - 6:00 pm CST
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
TV: KMYS - CW35
Radio: Ticket 760
Live Stats: GoUTSA
Betting Line: UTSA -28.5
Series Record: First meeting, although UTSA knocked Alabama State out of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament in 2011
Not all off seasons are created equal. Between the hiring of a promising young head coach, the addition of key transfers from Power Five conferences, and the acquisition of a top-ranked recruiting class, this off season has been a particularly fun one for UTSA fans.
The party really kicks off this weekend as Frank Wilson formally introduces himself to the city of San Antonio this Saturday in his first game as a head coach. Wilson’s opponent, Alabama State of the Southwestern Athletic Conference, will be UTSA’s first FCS foe since 2012 and first home opener since 2011.
Alabama State Outlook
Your average FCS cupcake this is not. The Hornets won six games last season despite NCAA sanctions and are led by a very talented and successful head coach. Brian Jenkins is in his second season at the helm for Alabama State and has the program on the right track. Jenkins made a name for himself at Bethune Cookman, amassing a 46-14 record before accepting the job at Alabama State.
Thanks to the almighty glory of YouTube, I was able to watch two Alabama State games from their 2015 season. While the Hornets are neither flashy nor abundantly athletic, they are very disciplined and efficient.
Interestingly enough, the Hornets’ offense closely resembles the UTSA offense of days gone by. If the Alabama State offense of 2016 is similar to that of 2015 then expect a lot of sideways plays and very few deep shots down the field. The Hornets have not announced a starter at quarterback so it’s anyone’s guess what the offense will actually look like once they take their first snap. Alabama State does have a very key strength to lean on through any early season struggles as its offensive line and outstanding center Kerry Williams are experienced and dependable.
The man to watch on defense is linebacker/safety hybrid Kourtney Berry. The 6’0” redshirt senior is effective in space and has been the cornerstone of the Hornets’ defense for several years. Seeking to match their opponents at the line of scrimmage, Alabama State floats between different defensive fronts. I saw them mainly sit in a 4-2-5 defense against Texas Southern’s spread offense while Arkansas Pine Bluff’s 12 personnel demanded a five man front. UTSA’s quarterbacks should get a good mental workout in their first game of the season as the Hornets constantly shift their alignments.
It’s a whole new ballgame for the Roadrunners. A completely new coaching staff has ripped out the old playbook, moving to what most expect to be a much more pro style attack. UTSA will shed its “bend but don’t break” defensive mantra for additional rushers and an increased focus on creating turnovers.
As of Wednesday evening, a starting quarterback has not been announced and it’s likely that both returning starter Dalton Sturm and graduate transfer Jared Johnson see playing time. While the two teams will be waging battle against one another, the two UTSA quarterbacks will also likely be competing for the rights to start against Colorado State in week two.
UTSA returns a good amount of talent but this game will serve as an introduction to several new-coming starters. LSU graduate transfers Jevonte Domond, Ronnie Fiest, and Jordan Moore have all earned starting duties while redshirt freshmen Baylen Baker and Josiah Tauaefu have worked their way into the starting lineup over experienced upperclassmen. Junior college transfer Marquez McNair also earned starting duties at slot receiver, bringing quickness and explosiveness to the passing game.
This is a tricky one to predict as there are so many questions marks on both sides of the match up. The Roadrunners are breaking in an entire new program and will be amped up for their first game under uber-motivator Frank Wilson. I think some early rust and mental mistakes will slow UTSA down, preventing this from being a total blow out.
Roadrunner fans expecting a cake walk might want to pump the breaks as head coach Brian Jenkins toppled C-USA foe Florida International TWICE when he was at Bethune-Cookman. The guy knows how to win a game despite having inferior talent to work with. That being said, I think UTSA comes out of the gate with guns blazing to start the second half, eventually building a comfortable cushion to coast through the fourth quarter and tinker with different personnel packages in preparation for the remainder of the schedule.
UTSA 31 Alabama State 14