Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Kick Off: 6 pm CT
TV: CW35 (San Antonio)
Stream: CUSA.tv ($7)
Live Stats: Side Arm Sports
Audio: The Bull 93.3 FM
Betting Odds: UTSA -8, O/U 51
Series History: UTSA won the only meeting in the series 52-31 in San Antonio in 2013.
Team Records: UAB (6-3), UTSA (5-3)
When we say the Blazers are back, we don’t just mean physically manifested as an active football roster, although that’s true as well. The Blazers are back back, as in currently tied for second place in Conference USA’s western division. Head Coach Bill Clark had already proven that he’s a special coach after choosing to stick with his team in Birmingham through the program’s ill-timed shut down. His continued success at UAB simply further cements his legacy.
The Blazers have reached bowl eligibility by playing sound football on both sides of the ball. While most programs that rely on a large number of JUCO players often struggle with the mental aspect of the game, Clark and his staff have had UAB ready to roll since day one and the Blazers have just continued to improve throughout the season aside from an overtime loss to lowly Charlotte.
Quarterback A.J. Erdely will remind UTSA fans of their own quarterback. While Erdely is more of a bruising runner at 6’4”, 220 pounds, their play styles and statistics are extremely similar. Erdely sports a lovely 12-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio and is the team’s second leading rusher with 390 yards (sacks removed) and 10 touchdowns.
Erdely is joined in the back field by a strong collection of backs but freshman phenom Spencer Brown stands at the top of the pile. Already squatting over 600 pounds, the freshman is powerful at the line of scrimmage and hard to bring down beyond it. He’s already crushing program records as he’s rushed for 1,049 yards and 10 touchdowns in his freshman campaign.
UAB doesn’t go their passing game too often but when they do juniors Andre Wilson and Collin Lisa receive a majority of the targets. Both are sound route runners with the quickness to make players miss in the secondary. This game will be a homecoming of sorts for Wilson as the Converse Judson product played his high school ball outside of San Antonio before enrolling at Trinity Valley Community College to continue his football career.
Once upon a time UTSA looked like they had a slight chance at running the table in Frank Wilson’s second season in San Antonio. Today their shot at mere bowl eligibility is on life support.
A myriad of issues have plagued the team, from injuries to penalties and sheer bad luck. Ultimately, the team has simply played poorly each week the past two months as they’ve borne little resemblance to the squad that dominated Baylor in the Bears’ own house to start the season.
The struggle all starts up front for the Roadrunners and understandably so. UTSA is down to their third and fourth string at guard and a true freshman is being asked to play considerable minutes at left tackle. Naturally such turmoil in the trenches leads to mental miscues but the Roadrunner simply aren’t getting much push across the board, giving the running backs little space to wiggle through.
Quarterback Dalton Sturm has done all you can ask to hold this offense together but with defenders constantly in his face and receivers failing to find open grass, Sturm’s heroics just haven’t been enough.
For all the heartache on offense, UTSA’s defense has still held up their end of the bargain incredibly well. With little support on the other side of the ball, UTSA has held their opponents to seven, 14, and 14 points in their last three outings. The competition has admittedly been less than stellar but it’s still a ringing endorsement of the Roadrunners’ defensive talent.
The Roadrunners’ reserve linebackers will be harshly tested this week as starting middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa continues to nurse an injured knee back to full health. His replacement, senior Marcos Curry, his proven his ability through the years but will the Roadrunners’ bench be able to contain UAB’s big-bodied running backs when the starters need a spell? It may decide the outcome of this game if UTSA’s offense continues to sputter.
It’s rare for me to do a complete 180° turn on a preseason prediction but UTSA and UAB have been polar opposites of what I thought they would look like today back in week zero. UTSA’s offense has shown zero signs of life recently which makes it tough for me to place much faith in the Roadrunners’ chances to grab victory against a tough and well-coached squad. I think UAB grinds out a gritty win through four quarters as UTSA falls just short of bowl eligibility but shows offensive improvement.
UAB 28 UTSA 24