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UTSA crushes Southern 51-17 in home opener

UTSA kept their feet on the gas as they dominated Southern University in their long-awaited home opener.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA made a triumphant return home in their first game back at the Alamodome since November of 2016. As head coach Frank Wilson opted to keep his starting offense in the game through the entire first half, spectators saw thirty minutes of perfect football. The dominance UTSA asserted on the Jaguars was jawing; though an FCS-level opponent, it’s seldom that you see a mid-major program like UTSA rout any team in that sort of fashion.

After having their first home contest against Houston canceled due to Hurricane Harvey, UTSA and the Roadrunner Faithful had to endure an additional two weeks of waiting before seeing their newly renovated home stadium.

The Alamodome’s new concourses and video boards had fans eager as it was, but as the Roadrunners gathered at the mouth of the tunnel before taking the field, something bone-chilling occurred: Alamodome operators shutoff every light on the field, effectively rendering the stadium pitch black. The scene mirrored that of a major music concert, with cell phone lights dotted around the bowls as fans awaited their headliner to take the stage. The team swayed in the tunnel as the Alamodome’s new sound system played low, bass-heavy tones similar to that of when Jaws comes swimming into the scene of your favorite shark movie.

And when they took the field, sharks is the best descriptor for how they performed. On every single possession of the first half - seven, to be exact - UTSA scored a touchdown. Southern, on the hand, couldn’t score a single point, leaving the score at the half at 48-0.

The offensive starters played brilliant in what was undoubtedly the unit’s best display since the program’s inception. Quarterback Dalton Sturm set a school record with an 86.4% completion percentage at 19-of-22 for 292 yards. He scored four touchdowns through the air and naturally added another one on the ground. Spreading the ball around, Sturm connected with six different receivers and senior Kerry Thomas led the way with 5 receptions for 75 yards.

Thomas actually began the scoring barrage with a 30-yard touchdown reception from Sturm on the team’s opening drive. Tight end Shaq Williams hauled in two touchdowns from Sturm as well, one of which was a great over-the-shoulder catch on a fade route. It was Williams’ first involvement in the passing game this year. The pass-heavy scheme wasn’t one we’ve seen from Wilson yet, so it was pretty impressive to see it executed that well.

On the ground Jalen Rhodes averaged six yards a carry with 10 touches for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Roadrunner fans saw their first glimpse of powerful true freshman BJ Daniels from Florida. The downhill back had 11 carries for 48 yards of his own.

As for the defense, both the first and second string units were rock solid. Freshmen Morris “MoJo” Joseph and Andrew Martel had six and five tackles each, respectively. Martel also hauled in an interception at the beginning of the third quarter. The two are clearly the future of UTSA’s defense. Linebackers Marcos Curry and La’Kel Bass led the seniors on defense with six and five respective tackles of their own.

All of that great play aside, the game wasn’t all perfect for the Roadrunners. After racking up 10 penalties against Baylor last week UTSA earned themselves another nine against Southern. Frank Wilson was vocally upset about the errors talking to reporters before the half.

Another ugly trend from the Baylor game that reared its head was Matt Guidry receiving punts. Last week Guidry muffed a return that resulted in Baylor scoring its first touchdown. Against Southern, Guidry muffed yet another return that eventually led to a Jaguars field goal. I wouldn’t expect to see him back on special teams next week.

After halftime Wilson put in the entire second-string offense, but unlike the second-string D, freshman quarterback Bryce Rivers and company were just plain bad in their first college game. The unit was only able to score a field goal through the entire half.

The southpaw Rivers was overly excited and sloppy because of it. He was quick to roll out of the pocket at first chance and heaved poor lobs while on the move, resulting in two interceptions - one of which was a pick-6 - and just five completions for 43 yards. To his defense, the second-string line wasn’t quite as good on pass protection as the starters but his play was still sloppy as he was late on throws.

The only good part of UTSA’s second-string offense was aforementioned running back BJ Daniels. All-in-all, the unit needed the exposure as UTSA will graduate some offensive weapons this year. Expect the same unit to get ample time next week against Texas State and look much better. Rivers and the group learned a lot yesterday and will have that much more figured out next week.

Honestly things couldn’t have gone better for the Roadrunners. Having the starters execute seemingly perfect football while having the younger players learn the hard lessons of their first snaps is one helluva Saturday for the program.

Many didn’t anticipate Wilson to run up the score the way he did in that opening half, but clearly the head coach is not going easy on anything he does at the helm.

Coming off of a program-defining win after beating Baylor on the road in Waco, the big question was how will UTSA handle the success? Going back to your home stadium for the opener against a formidable FCS opponent is a very easy game to overlook, but the Roadrunners did zero messing around in their preparation and execution against Southern. This UTSA team is scary good.

Expect something similar to happen when they head up the road next Saturday to face area-rival Texas State.