Time: 11:00 am CT
Location: Kyle Field, College Station, Texas
TV: ESPN U
Radio: Ticket 760
Views from College Station: Good Bull Hunting
Betting Line: Texas A&M - 27, O/U 58.5
Live Stats: SideArm Sports
Series History: This is the first meeting between the two programs. They will reconvene in 2019.
At its core, American football is a game of respect. Eleven men line up against eleven men, conceding gridiron leverage and spacing to opponents deemed less of a threat than others in order to better defend dangerous talent. The two or three players left without the utmost attention must force their opponents to pay for their lack of respect until all eleven are guarded with reverence.
This visceral struggle for dignity will occur at an even higher level for UTSA this week as they face an in-state Power Five program for the first time in their exceedingly brief history. Regardless of the final digits displayed on Kyle Field’s 47-foot high by 163-foot wide Daktronics 13HD LED video board, the hatchling Roadrunners will scrap and battle for any semblance of respect against an opponent that will surly bestow “t.u.s.a” with even less decorum than the Roadrunners’ mothership in Austin.
Texas A&M Outlook
It’s not truly a season of Aggie football without the inevitable crushing despair of yet another late-season letdown. The Aggies shocked the college football universe by reaching a top four ranking in the initial College Football Playoffs ranking. Almost as if on cue, A&M reverted back to their old ways with a perplexing loss to a Mississippi State team that couldn’t hold off a middling Sunbelt team in Week One.
With San Antonio native Trevor Knight lost for the season, the Aggies turned to former walk-on Jake Hubenak to carry the torch under center. While the pro-style passer performed decently enough against Ole Miss, A&M’s defense took a Franchione-ian turn, allowing 23 points in the fourth quarter as the Rebels staged a massive comeback under the direction of freshman Shea Patterson who was making his first collegiate start.
Lacking in depth at the quarterback position and nursing injuries all over the field, the Aggies are in poor shape right now. And it won’t make much of a difference.
At least six-deep in bona fide NFL draft talent, the Aggies boast by far the most imposing defensive line UTSA has ever faced. Even if head coach Kevin Sumlin and defensive coordinator John Chavis wisely decide to rest future top-five draft pick Myles Garrett then Zaycoven Henderson and Daeshon Hall will happily pick up the slack. With injuries piling up for the Roadrunners at the center position, the thought of 320 pound cannonball Daylon Mack (former situational running back at Gladewater HS) lining up as a nose tackle should be appropriately terrifying.
Don’t take too much solace in Knight’s departure from the offense either. While offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone has had to shift the Aggies’ offense from a zone-read heavy scheme to more a pocket-passing spread, the roster is loaded with explosive talent. One could even argue that Hubenak’s accurate arm is a better fit for the Aggies over Knight’s premium on running ability.
Hubenak has an embarrassment of riches to pass to as the Aggies enjoy the service of four wide receivers that would start at any college football program in the country. 6’4” wide outs Joshua Reynolds and Ricky Seals-Jones provide a vertical element to the passing game while Christian Kirk and Speedy Noil have the quickness to punish slow-moving defenses. And please don’t punt the ball to Kirk. The 5’11”, 200 pound sophomore has returned three out of ten punts he’s fielded for touchdowns.
Frank Wilson’s young team was afforded a chance to win a division championship last week against Louisiana Tech in Ruston. Biletnikoff semi-finalist Carlos Henderson returned the game-opening kickoff for a touchdown and the Bulldogs never looked back. The Roadrunners were in over their head, playing sloppy football and succumbing to the personal fouls that are easy to come by in high-stakes games. While the Roadrunners have proven that they have learned how to compete under Wilson’s guidance they’re still a ways away from being capable of pulling off upset wins when program-defining results are on the line.
This game is one that Roadrunners have had circled on their calendar for quite some time. Most of the Roadrunner community hails from San Antonio, South Texas, and Houston, all falling under Maroon and White spheres of influence. For most folks the game provides an opportunity to throw around some playful jabs with friends and take in the immersive atmosphere of Kyle Field.
That won’t be the case for UTSA’s leading wide receivers Josh Stewart and Kerry Thomas. The brothers literally grew up in the shadow of Kyle Field where the booming noise of the stadium was clearly audible from their front yard. Neither were offered scholarships by A&M but they’ll seek to make the program regret that slight by making their presence felt on the field.
As if the Roadrunners weren’t being served a big enough challenge against the Aggies, they’ll be without the heartbeat of their defense for the first half of the game. Freshman star middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa will be serving a suspension following his ejection for targeting against Louisiana Tech. The silver lining? His replacement Ronnie Feist is an LSU transfer that should have a high degree of familiarity with A&M even though Feist mostly played on the offensive side of the ball for the Tigers last season.
Let’s be honest, the most important thing the Roadrunners need to do on the field against A&M is to just escape with their health in tact as they face Charlotte next week in their final shot at bowl eligibility. I’m hopeful that the Roadrunners can go blow-for-blow against the Aggies but the odds of them escaping with an upset are minuscule at best. The worst part of it all is that ESPN relegated the game to a packed 11 am lineup that will have few eyeballs glued to ESPNU.
An early Roadrunner lead gets evaporated through the first quarter as Jake Hubenak enjoys a career game— UTSA 22 A&M 45