The UTSA Roadrunners (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) continue to roll through Conference USA in their quest to repeat as conference champions. They started the season 1-2 but have now won seven straight games and are a perfect 6-0 in conference with Saturday’s win over the La Tech Bulldogs. The victory also guarantees UTSA a trip to the conference title game. Three other teams have two losses—UNT, WKU, and FAU—but the Roadrunners own tie breakers over two of them if all four teams end with the same record.
But perhaps just as important is the fact that UTSA appears to be peaking this late in the season. It has been well documented that the Roadrunners are dealing with significant injuries all season. Even so, the team has been able to overcome those setbacks and now seems to have found their spark heading into the final games. They dominated the Bulldogs in all three phases of play and never gave La Tech a chance to get back into the game, scoring on every offensive drive in the first half. In fact, the Roadrunners only punted once all game and scored touchdowns on 6 of their 9 scoring possessions. UTSA simply took control of the game and never looked back.
Freshman running back Kevorian Barnes had his second straight 100-yard performance, his 3rd in the last 4 games, and scored twice on runs that were over 25 yards. His recent emergence as UTSA’s most explosive back has helped elevate the offense by giving the Roadrunners a new scoring threat. Teams now have to contain Barnes and senior Brendan Brady, who also had 2 touchdowns. Brady and Barnes are a strong change-of-pace duo who can both handle primary rushing duties going forward.
Quarterback Frank Harris continues to excel in the passing game. He broke 3,000 yards on the season, throwing the ball for 216 yards and a touchdown, and is on pace to break his career record of 3,177 yards with two games remaining. Harris was also not limited by the loss of wide receiver De’Corian “JT” Clark; he compensated by targeting Joshua Cephus more while incorporating Senior Tykee Ogle-Kellogg as well. Cephus had seven receptions for 81 yards and a touchdown. Meanwhile, Ogle-Kellogg had 3 receptions for 37 yards and Zakhari Franklin added three receptions for 23 yards.
The defense, however, arguably shined the most against the Bulldogs. They held La Tech to only 259 total yards, forced 5 turnovers, and stopped the Bulldogs on every attempt to convert a 4th down. Three different Roadrunners has interceptions—Clifford Chattman, Dywan Griffin, and Malik Jones—while Trey Moore and Jamal Ligon both recovered fumbles. The team had only one sack and three tackles for loss, but they only allowed LA Tech to score once and shut down the Bulldogs’ offense entirely in the second half. It was easily UTSA’s best defensive performance all season.
For the LA Tech Bulldogs (3-7, 2-4 CUSA) the loss forecloses any chance to become bowl eligible. It is not the ideal situation for LA Tech. The Bulldogs were able to move the ball with relative ease but were beset by mistakes all game. In addition to the 5 turnovers, La Tech could not convert any of their four fourth down attempts, and were less than 50% on third down attempts.
Freshman quarterback Landry Lyddy got his second start of the season. He threw for 138 yards on 26 attempts, a touchdown, and two interceptions. He found wide receiver Smoke Harris for a 32-yard score in the first half, but otherwise could not connect on the long throws. Lyddy should continue to improve throughout his career, with this game serving as a good learning opportunity.
The defense was unable to stop UTSA’s offense, whether it was on the ground or through the air. Coming off a five-turnover game the week prior, the Bulldogs could only manage one fumble against UTSA and could not disrupt Harris or UTSA’s rushing attack. Their rushing defense gave up an average of 6.3 yards per attempt and allowed three different running backs to score. In addition to Barnes and Brady, LA Tech gave up a rushing touchdown to sophomore Justin Rodriguiez in the final seconds of the game. The rushing defense has been an issue all season, and unfortunately La Tech could do little to stop the Roadrunners. La Tech will have to improve on defense going forward to give their team more opportunities to score.
Ultimately, the Bulldogs lacked the ability to compete with UTSA, either offensively or defensively. As UTSA heads off into a new conference, LA Tech will need to regroup if the Bulldogs want to compete in the new Conference USA next year.
UTSA travels to Houston to face Rice at 12:00 PM CT
LA Tech travels to North Carolina to face Charlotte at 2:30 PM CT