Date: Saturday, November 12, 2022
Time: 2:30 PM (CT)
Location: Alamodome — San Antonio, Texas
Radio: Ticket 760 AM (UTSA); KXKZ 107.5 FM (La Tech)
Betting Line: UTSA -18; O/U 68*
UTSA (7-2, 5-0 C-USA). Last game: win over UAB 44-38 2OT
LA Tech (3-6, 2-3 C-USA). Last game: win over MTSU 40-24
LA Tech leads series 7-3. Last meeting: UTSA beat LA Tech 45-16
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&C’s apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details
This is UTSA’s last year in Conference USA and the last matchup between the Roadrunners and the La Tech Bulldogs for the foreseeable future. For the first time since 2012 UTSA and LA Tech will not share a conference together; both teams jumped to the WAC and then immediately to C-USA but this time LA Tech will stay behind.
It will be quite the change for both programs. LA Tech easily dominated the series, with a 6-game winning streak, but UTSA has recently taken charge. The Roadrunners dominated the Bulldogs last year in Ruston and are looking to end this conference rivalry with a win.
LA Tech, meanwhile, is still in the midst of a transition from longtime head coach Skip Holtz and are looking to rebound in the revamped C-USA next year. This is last opportunity the Bulldogs will have to defeat the Roadrunners and La Tech no doubt wishes to end this series with a victory.
The Roadrunners are heavily favored to win on Saturday, but that does not mean the Bulldogs are helpless. LA Tech rebounded strong and handily defeated MTSU the week before and will be looking to spoil UTSA’s last season as conference opponents.
Regardless of the outcome, Saturday will be a great opportunity for both teams to make a final statement on a decade-long rivalry.
Even after sustaining a ridiculous number of injuries all year, the Roadrunners continue to succeed and now sit atop the conference standings, with a near-guarantee that they will return to the conference championship.
Much of that success is attributable to quarterback Frank Harris, who’s floor is so high that regardless of his stats week-to-week the Roadrunners will always have a chance to win. Last week he passed for 285 yards and threw four touchdowns with no turnovers. The result was a 44-38 win in double overtime against a defense that had yet to give up a 30-point game.
But what has really sparked the Roadrunners’ offense has been the growth of freshman running back Kevorian Barnes. Despite countless injuries along the offensive line, and now a season-ending injury to star wide receiver De’Corian “JT” Clark, UTSA’s offense has rarely missed a beat. That is due in good part to Barnes, who has stepped up to provide a new scoring threat and give the offense more options than just Harris and his throwing abilities.
Barnes has eclipsed 100 yards twice in the past three games and both times came on the road. He has also scored three times and, critically, has not turned the ball over. He has been a good change-of-pace player behind senior Brendan Brady, who also has succeeded running the ball of late. Between Brady and Barnes, the Roadrunners appear to have a new one-two punch in the running game to sustain them because both players are capable of breaking off a 100-yard game.
The Roadrunners have been less injured on defense, but they still need to adjust after losing safety Rashad Wisdom for the season. UTSA gave up over 550 total yards to UAB and allowed the Blazers to storm back, trailing by 14 points, to send the game to overtime.
That said, the Roadrunners have had solid success stopping or slowing down the opposing offenses’ best ability. They held UAB’s DeWayne McBride in check most of last game and shut down North Texas’s entire running attack the week prior. LA Tech’s offense is not as potent, but UTSA’s opponents this season have frequently put up stronger than anticipated passing or rushing yards when the Roadrunners take the other one away. Hopefully Wisdom’s absence won’t disrupt the bend-don’t-break mentality.
Finally, the Roadrunners continue to show their strength in winning close matchups. UTSA is now 17-6 in one-possession games under head coach Jeff Traylor and have won two of three overtime matchups this season. La Tech will need to establish a sizable lead and maintain it to give themselves the best chance of upsetting the Roadrunners.
LA Tech Bulldogs
Sonny Cumbie is in his first year as head coach for the La Tech Bulldogs. He took over after the Bulldogs parted ways with Skip Holtz, who led La Tech for nine years and won 6 consecutive bowl games. Cumbie will lead LA Tech into a new Conference USA and will be looking to get the Bulldogs back into championship form.
The Bulldogs have the talent to get there, but they will need a little bit of time. La Tech’s season has been mixed and the while the Bulldogs are dangerous, their losses show that the team needs to find a more coherent identity. They lost back-to-back overtimes—to Rice and a rebuilding FIU—and were on a three-game conference losing streak before the bounce back against MTSU. But the victory over MTSU gives optimism for the future.
Senior quarterback Parker McNeil has led the offense well; he has thrown for nearly 2,000 yards, 18 touchdowns, and only 8 interceptions on 60% passing. He leads an offense averaging 32 points and nearly 300 yards passing per game.
In fact, the passing game has made up the bulk of the Bulldogs’ offense; LA Tech only averages 114 yards per game rushing the ball. Sophomore wide receiver Tre Harris leads the team in receptions and yards, at 49 and 803, respectively. The other three passing threats—wide receivers Smoke Harris and Cyrus Allen and tight end Griffin Hebert—have combined for 1,305 total yards and 11 touchdowns.
Where the Bulldogs struggle is defense. LA Tech gave up over 40 points each game during their 3-game conference skid, and while they held MTSU to 24 points, it came from 5 turnovers, a difficult feat to muster in consecutive weeks. Otherwise, the defense has generally been unable to stop opposing offenses from scoring. Against UTSA, the Bulldogs will need to force multiple turnovers and keep the Roadrunners’ offense off the field for a chance to win.
Ultimately, La Tech struggles with consistency, an all-too common issue during a transition year. They have looked competitive but have been unable to keep momentum for all four quarters of play. That should change the longer Cumbie stays around. Until then, the Bulldogs will need to take advantage of the moments they are controlling the game to minimize the damage that will likely come when the other ream is in control.
LA Tech barely lost the last time they played in the Alamodome, but the two programs have gone in different directions since. The Roadrunners are moving into the American with momentum while LA Tech remains in transition. That alone is difficult enough, but the Roadrunners are at home and the Bulldogs have yet to win on the road. The Roadrunners have also shown a strong ability to win close games, so even if LA Tech can be competitive, they will need UTSA to make enough mistakes to give LA Tech a decent lead for a chance to win. And should that happen, UTSA still has the skill players and talent to overcome those mistakes.
UTSA 35, La Tech 23