Time: 6:00 pm CST
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
Stream: CUSA.tv and Campus Insiders
Radio: 92.5 FM/93.3 FM (San Antonio)
Betting Line: UTSA -10, O/U 54.5
Live Stats: SideArm Sports
Series History: UTSA won the first meeting 30-27 in overtime in Charlotte last season.
These are the games UTSA has been dreaming of. Presented with a win or go home scenario in their final game of the season, UTSA is closer than they’ve ever been to post-season play. While Charlotte’s bowl hopes were cruelly dashed last week against Middle Tennessee, this week provides the 49ers with an opportunity to play spoiler and force the Roadrunners to taste the same bitter dose of crushed dreams that Charlotte was made to swallow against MTSU.
I watched two 49ers game this season— their disastrous 70-14 season opener against Louisville and their heart-breaking loss to Middle Tennessee last week. I’m not convinced I saw the same team take the field in those two games. Last week I saw a competent offense featuring a quarterback that can make big plays after the pocket breaks down. I saw a speedy defense that was ball-swarming and advantageous in capitalizing on offensive mistakes. Even though Charlotte won’t be bowling this season, it’s clear to me that head coach Brad Lambert finally has the 49ers on the right track with (at long last) a quarterback he can build around.
That play-making quarterback I referred to is sophomore Hassan Klugh. The 6’3” Concord, N.C. product was mostly unrecruited out of high school, landing at North Carolina A&T to start his college career. After starting three games, he transferred to Charlotte and worked his way into a starting role midway through his first season of eligibility this year, beating out former Miami signal caller Kevin Olsen.
With a long stride and natural field vision, Klugh is dangerous when he leaves the pocket but not just with his legs. Klugh has strong chemistry with his wide outs and they’ll break off of their routes for easy completions once the play breaks down. UTSA will need to be very disciplined in their pursuit and coverage to prevent those home run plays.
Klugh is playing strong football right now but running backs Kalif Phillips and Robert Washington keep the offense chugging. The two are strangely similar— Phillips stands at 5’10”, 221 pounds while Washington checks in at 5’10”, 220 pounds. Phillips, the senior, averages 5 yards per carry while Washington, the freshman, averages 5.1 yards per carry.
Charlotte isn’t loaded with weapons out wide but their top three targets are averaging over 12 yards per catch. 5’9” senior slot receiver Austin Duke has capstoned his career at Charlotte with 688 receiving yards while wideouts T.L. Ford II and Workpeh Kofa have hauled in a combined 731 yards.
The Roadrunners will need to focus on game planning around Charlotte’s fantastic defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. The 6’3” lineman has burly strength and good burst off the line of scrimmage. He’s used those tools to accumulate 13 tackles for loss on the season. Brad Lambert has not been able to find a suitable pass rushing complement to Ogunjobi as the 49ers have managed just ten sacks through eleven games.
With 69.5 tackles to his name, Nice Cook has indeed had a nice senior season so far. While he doesn’t pop off the stat sheet in “havoc” plays, he does provide a stabling presence in the middle of the defense. Cook is followed in tackles by 6’2”, 192 pound freshman Ben DeLuca (50).
After laboring through an incredibly tough three game road trip (MTSU, LA Tech, Texas A&M) the Roadrunners might let a tear slip after entering the friendly confines of the Alamodome for the first time in three weeks. The Roadrunners salvaged their bowl hopes with an upset win over Middle Tennessee but the rest of the road trip failed to break in UTSA’s favor as starting quarterback Dalton Sturm was removed from the game against LA Tech and Texas A&M due to passing accuracy issues.
Head coach Frank Wilson has admitted that Sturm will “probably” start against Charlotte and I think that’s the right call. Sturm has been remarkably better at home than on the road and senior backup Jared Johnson has only played passingly in his opportunities this season. Wilson needs Sturm to play lights out next season and benching him in his last game of his junior season likely won’t help his progression much.
The Roadrunners are hoping the quarterback position won’t need to carry too heavy of a load against Charlotte. Running back Jalen Rhodes is set to return from a collarbone injury as well as center Juan Perez. The additions should help get UTSA’s run game back on track, especially if stand out utility lineman Austin Pratt can return from injury.
Besides the post-season implications, this game will also mark the final game in the Alamodome for UTSA’s all-time leading rusher Jarveon Williams and four year starting safety Michael Egwuagu. Expect huge games from two UTSA legends as they wrap up their playing time in San Antonio in front of friends and family.
UTSA made a major investment in their football program when they brought Frank Wilson into the fold as head coach. Games like these determine whether or not the increased spending is justified. If Wilson is able to guide the Roadrunners to victory then UTSA’s over $300,000 increase in coaching salary expenditure will more than pay for itself in bowl revenue alone. With the Roadrunners mostly healed up, I think they’ll be able to parlay an impressive defensive performance against Texas A&M into a resounding victory to secure a bowl bid in front of a rocking Alamodome crowd.
Charlotte 17 UTSA 35