UTSA hosted its sixth annual Fiesta Spring Game on Saturday afternoon to a crowd of 2,500 people at the Alamodome. It was the public's first glimpse at new head coach Frank Wilson's game, and fans got a great showing from athletes and coaches alike.
Marching out of the tunnel Coach Wilson gathered the entire team at midfield. Players circled around the Rowdy logo and Wilson ran his infamous Bird Cage Drill. Immediately fans were on their feet, hooting and hollering. People were ready for some football.
Coach Wilson simulated a real game rather than a scrimmage, with 10-minute quarters utilizing a running clock. Both teams were composed of a mixture of first and second team players, but the Orange team featured more of a first-team offense while the Blue featured the second team. Both defenses were fairly integrated.
Dalton Sturm led the Orange offense alongside running backs Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes. The Blue team featured Jaylon Henderson at the helm with Corbin White and Brett Winnegan running the ball.
After swapping three-and-outs to start the game, the Orange team drove 62 yards downfield and Rhodes scored the first touchdown of the day on a five-yard run. Sturm connected with JaBryce Taylor and Kerry Thomas - his go-to receivers throughout the day - and they showed great catching ability. Taylor led receivers with seven catches for 84 yards.
Later in the second quarter, Tyrell Clay was stripped by Orange linebacker La'Kell Bass and the ball was recovered by fellow linebacker Josiah Tauaefa. The Orange team would later run an elaborate flea-flicker with Sturm connecting to Thomas, and Sturm showcased his scrambling ability to get the team back into the redzone. Rhodes would score again from three yards out to give the Orange a 14-0 halftime lead.
After halftime Wilson set up his two quarterbacks in a duel of over-the-shoulder deep ball passes, in which we saw both Henderson and Sturm make nice sideline passes to the endzone. Winnegan had an impressive grab, and we saw some great cornerback play.
The second half took on a completely different tone. Henderson shook off his first half woes and found some consistency throwing the ball. He started by throwing a 48-yard dime to Aron Taylor down the sideline for a touchdown on the opening possession of the third quarter.
Later in the third, Henderson hit Derrick Dick on a slant for 19 yards to the goal line, setting up the tying score for the Blue team.
On the other end, Sturm fell into inconsistency with his throwing, and gave up a poor interception to Jacolbie Butler early in the fourth quarter. Butler led the Blue defense with four solo tackles including two for a loss.
Henderson capitalized on the turnover with a 25-yard pass to Seth Damrow and a 21-yard pass to Winnegan on the very next play to set up first and goal. Winnegan hammered in the touchdown on fourth down but the extra point was blocked on a special teams rush.
Sturm and the Orange offense were unable to complete a drive downfield in the final minutes.
GOOD: Pass protection has improved; the offensive line kept pressure out of the backfield for the most part of the day, only allowing three sacks. The defense is strong and the schemes are very appealing. There were several corner blitzes and we saw a lot of the three-man fronts along with the 4-2-5. We even saw the defensive line stacked completely to the left in the two, three, and five gaps. The cornerbacks mostly kept things in front of them as the big gains through the air came on some really nice throws and catches.
Both offenses were 100% in the redzone for the day. Frank Wilson kept the offense balanced, as the offense split snaps under center and in the gun.
Kerry Thomas and JaBryce Taylor can catch anything thrown their way as they highlight a great receiving core. Brett Winnegan can cut like some scissors. Both quarterbacks did well on the ground, Henderson has decent wheels himself. The energy is loud and present; the hits were hard and the effort was extremely competitive from both sides.
BAD: Quarterback play was competitive but rather inconsistent. Henderson improved throughout the game after a first half that made it seem like he wasn't quite ready for the speed of the college game. He did a good job of recovering and made some great passes in the second half.
Sturm's play deteriorated a little throughout the game, and he doesn't have a big lead for the starting spot whatsoever. There's still uncertainty over whether or not he can will this team to victory, albeit he has a new offense to learn.
There was only one really good drive. The majority of drives struggled to move the chains. Punting and kicking wasn't impressive and Daniel Portillo's sole field goal attempt was an utter shank.
UGLY: Third down play was absolutely horrendous. The Orange team was two for 11 on the day, including zero out of six in the second half. The Blue team wasn't much better at four for 13.
On an unrelated note, the Alamodome soundtrack was even worse than third down play. Essentially a NOW! That's What I Call Music greatest hits playlist. It was awful.
Dalton Sturm - 19/33, 199 yards, 1 interception
Jaylon Henderson - 12/23, 176 yards, 1 touchdown
JaBryce Taylor - 7 receptions, 84 yards
Kerry Thomas - 5 receptions, 65 yards
Brett Winnegan - 3 receptions, 43 yards
Aron Taylor - 2 receptions, 53 yards
There's a lot of work to do, but the Roadrunners new regime looks promising. The energy is undeniable, and there's a lot of talent on the field with a whole lot more on the way.
Check out highlights from the Bird Cage Drill:
Drive drive drive #BirdCage pic.twitter.com/VpbxoDsk8Q— Adrian B. (@bermudezmedia) April 24, 2016
Stood him straight up. @JaredUTSA was hype. #BirdCage Drill, #BirdsUp #UTSA Spring Game pic.twitter.com/c8FiXBGDRT— Adrian B. (@bermudezmedia) April 24, 2016
Squaring up at midfield pic.twitter.com/peq9oKZGfh— Adrian B. (@bermudezmedia) April 24, 2016