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UTSA earns first conference win over Rice 20-7

The Roadrunners had a dominating defensive day to spark a homecoming victory.

NCAA Football: Rice at Texas-San Antonio John Gutierrez-USA TODAY Sports

Behind the prowess of Roadrunners defensive end Marcus Davenport, UTSA dominated Rice’s offense for four quarters. Davenport racked up a healthy 11 tackles (six solo), 3.5 tackles for loss, and two sacks.

The first of those sacks came on Rice’s opening offensive possession. The Owls were stringing together a promising first drive after recovering a forced fumble from UTSA running back Jalen Rhodes to start the game.

On first and 10 at the Rice 46-yard line, Davenport furiously shot off the corner and forced quarterback Sam Glaesmann to evade about 12 yards deep into the backfield. Glaesmann attempted a pump fake, but it instead caused him to drop the ball when drawing it back. Davenport then pounced and took the ball into the Rice endzone to complete the scoop-and-score on a 34-yard fumble recovery touchdown. It was the first touchdown for Davenport and his second strip-sack for the year.

The first quarter would continue to bode well for the Roadrunners, and after the defensive explosion their offense found some dynamite of their own.

Following Rhodes’ fumble on the Roadrunners’ opening drive, UTSA opted to hand the ball to tailback Tyrell Clay on the next possession’s first three run attempts. With a little over three minutes remaining in the quarter, Clay took a hand off on second and ten that sent him streaking downfield and dancing past some of Rice’s secondary in the process. The 73-yard gain setup UTSA with first and goal from the six.

Clay finished with 153 yards on 11 attempts (13.9 avg) and showed a physicality on the ground that UTSA hasn’t quite seen yet this season.

Unfortunately for UTSA, a false start penalty would draw them back five yards. With fourth and goal from the one, a conservative UTSA coaching staff opted to boot the field goal to give the Roadruners a 10-0 lead.

UTSA’s defense continued to hinder Rice, but Glaesmann managed to get the Owls in the endzone before the half when he hit Aaron Cephus on a 50-yard touchdown pass. The Owls actually stalled on third and 23 on the previous play, but a penalty from UTSA safety Nate Gaines gave Rice an automatic first down at midfield.

Coming out of the half, UTSA sophomore cornerback Clayton Johnson intercepted Glaesmann on the second snap of the half. Glaesmann was pulled immediately afterward and replaced with freshman Miklo Smalls. Johnson would later intercept him as well on Rice’s final possession of the game. Glaesmann finished 3 for 9 with 84 yards, a touchdown and that interception.

UTSA capitalized on the turnover with quarterback Dalton Sturm tossing a 26-yard dime to Brady Jones to extend the lead to 17-7. Sturm was 12 for 21 with 134 yards and a touchdown; he was also UTSA’s second-leading rusher with 14 attempts for 79 yards (5.6 avg). To cap the day off, Sturm tied Eric Soza for the most career passings touchdowns in program history with 46. He’s got at least five games left to surpass the mark.

The rest of the game looked rather abysmal as both teams exchanged punts and turnovers on downs. Rice’s offense was completely stumped and checked out of the game by that point, and UTSA’s offense continued to religiously stick to their slow, draw the clock out gameplan.

An odd moment happened for UTSA’s offense came when they attempted a fake punt in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter. Rather than running a standard play call on fourth and three, punter Yannis Routsas attempted the trick pass. It seemed like an unnecessary and desperate attempt from the Birds.

What’s hard to understand is why UTSA would attempt that fourth down while up two possessions with three minutes left.

Frank Wilson and his staff have stuck to this SEC-style offense to a fault, and the times they do attempt something out of the box, it’s somewhat head-scratching as far the timing is concerned.

All in all UTSA played great defensively, and had solid production from a number of young secondary players, namely Clayton Johnson and Andrew Martel. It’s clear that the injuries to the Roadrunners’ offensive line have caused some woes for their upfront push, and second and third-string guys are being plugged in all over the line.

Rice senior defensive end Brian Womac had a tremendous game against the battered line. A disruptive nine total tackles (7 solo) with four for loss. And if that wasn’t enough, he got to Dalton Sturm for three sacks.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, UTSA had a number of guys go down against Rice as well. Star linebacker Josiah Tauaefa, fullback Halen Steward, cornerback Austin Jupe, offensive tackle Josh Dunlop, offensive guard Stefan Beard, and offensive guard David Anzaldua all went down at some point in the game. Tauaefa is rumored to be out for a few weeks, and Steward may be done for the season for the second year in a row. We should have a better picture this week as guys have time to visit specialists and have the proper tests conducted.

It’ll be interesting to see how Wilson is able to shift the offensive line around to compete into November, but fortunately for UTSA they take on a winless UTEP in the Sun Bowl next week. UTSA is now 4-2 (1-2 C-USA) and still in control of their bowl destiny.

As for Rice, at least they’re not UTEP. The 1-6 (1-2 C-USA) Owls come home to face La Tech in the hopes of pulling an upset and jump-starting the back end of the Owls’ season.