When UTSA Head Coach Frank Wilson was asked how the Roadrunner offense would change in the midst of starting quarterback Frank Harris being sidelined with a shoulder injury, he insisted that the offensive identity will remain the same with backup Lowell Narcisse at the helm. A puzzling approach as the two bring vastly different skill sets to the field, and thankfully for Roadrunner fans, not an approach he stuck to.
Wilson instead opted to go ground-and-pound and ran the ball 48 times while passing just 14 times. Through the first four weeks of the season, UTSA was averaging 35 pass attempts per game. That scheme was designed for Harris, a sniper of accurate passing. Narcisse bring more to the table with his legs,as he’s really strong in quarterback-designed runs and option plays. UTSA racked up 320 rushing yards on those 48 attempts for a 6.7 yard per carry average.
True freshman Sincere McCormick led the way with 189 yards on 22 carries (8.6 avg) and a touchdown to set a new team record for the Roadrunners in single game rushing yards. Narcisse follow behind with 115 yards on 19 attempts of his own (6.1 avg) and a touchdown as the Miners had no way to stop the UTSA ground game.
A big credit to that was UTSA’s offensive upfront being able to control the line of scrimmage handily. UTEP only managed one sack and four tackles for loss on the day.
It also must be stated the McCormick’s speed is supernatural. The guy is the most talented player on UTSA’s offense and ought to be treated as such by getting more touches than anyone else on the team. Through five games McCormick is well on pace to be a 1,000 yard rusher in his debut season.
The strong rushing effort allowed for Narcisse to complete six of his 14 passes for 46 yards and a passing touchdown. The decreased passing load allows him to retain more control when he does drop back, not being overly tasked with his arm. This sort of offense may not keep up with the upper-echelon scoring teams in C-USA, but it allows UTSA to optimize what they do have on the field. The Roadrunner coaching staff opted to not field any of the other quarterbacks on their bench and they may be sticking to this scheme going forth.
UTEP quarterback Brandon Jones had a good day with 140 yards on 14 for 22 passing and a touchdown. The Miner offense was steadily hanging with the Roadrunners through the length of the game but couldn’t do enough to get out in front of UTSA. UTEP was held to only 30 rushing yards as the Roadrunners’ defense was somewhat menacing upfront, accumulating four sacks, nine tackles for loss and batting down seven passes.
The Miners also only mustered two third down conversions on 12 attempts (UTSA wasn’t much better, going four for 12).
UTEP’s defense remains their biggest issue. Jones and company have proven their ability to get into the endzone and put the team in scoring position through their last two showings against Southern Miss and now UTSA, but it’s simply too easy to move the ball downfield against the Miners for them to remain competitive through four quarters. Also, neither defense was able to force a single turnover. These are still two teams that lack a lot of discipline, with UTSA piling up nine penalties and UTEP earning eight of their own.
However, between all of the negativity surrounding both of these teams through the first four weeks of the season, this was a great overall effort from both. Nobody was taking the 47-point over in this game, but I’d be damned to think these teams could combine for 42. As these two programs continue to work through their very different issues, they both still harbor talent at skill positions that will eventually lead to more wins.
UTSA is unbeaten in El Paso through their team history, and return home to face UAB and start off their two-game homestand next week. It’s going to take several more efforts like this to salvage Frank Wilson’s future as a Roadrunner, if there’s any hope remaining. UTEP travels to the Sunshine State to take on FIU following next week’s bye.