UTSA shut out of bowl season despite winning six games
The glum expression on UTSA football coach Frank Wilson's face said it all Sunday afternoon.
Meeting with the media about two hours after the session was scheduled, Wilson confirmed what most already knew: There would be no bowl for UTSA this season even though it met the threshold of six victories.
"The official word is that we've been left out of a bowl this year," Wilson said. "So, unfortunately, we will not get an opportunity, although qualifying for the number of wins did not do enough, I guess, to put ourselves in a position earn a bowl bid.
Wilson confirmed that UTSA was in the mix for the New Mexico Bowl, Armed Forces Bowl and Frisco Bowl, but in the end, the Roadrunners were passed over.
"We were fighting, we were competing," Wilson said, referring to UTSA's lobbying effort. "As of yesterday, I felt confident that we had a chance. Everything was totally unofficial and speculation. But just talking back and forth with our powers that be, our administrators along with our conference office, I thought we had chances to be in some bowls that were vying for us."
UTSA finished 6-5 overall and 3-5 in Conference USA's West Division this season. The Roadrunners played in their first bowl last year, Wilson's first season at UTSA. They finished 6-7 after losing to New Mexico 23-20 in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.
UTSA became just the third Football Bowl Subdivision school in the modern era to play in a bowl game as early as its sixth season, joining South Alabama (2014) and Georgia State (2015).
The Roadrunners started this season 3-0, but lost their two next games by a combined five points. UTSA became bowl eligible with a 9-7 victory against Marshall in its next-to-last regular-season game, kicking a field goal with two seconds left.
The Roadrunners finished the season with a 20-6 road loss to Louisiana Tech last week, gaining only a season-low 201 yards and failing to score a touchdown for the second consecutive game. Wilson fired offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo the next day.
UTSA finished 98th among 130 FBS schools in total offense with an average of 387 yards – 184.5 rushing and 202.8 passing. The Roadrunners were 103rd in scoring (23.5), and No. 56 and No. 94, respectively, in rushing and passing.
UTSA’s season opener against Houston, scheduled for Sept. 2 at the Alamodome, was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. The Roadrunners got to five victories in their seventh game, but two consecutive losses left them 5-4 heading into the last two weeks of the season.
"It's unfortunate," Wilson said. "We had a team meeting at 2 o'clock. I told our team that, unfortunately, I didn't have information for them right now. When you're a shoo-in like we were a year ago, we knew probably about noon before we announced it to the team at 2. I felt we would know about that time."
Wilson sent his players home at about 3 p.m., and UTSA continued to lobby for a bowl invitation that never came.
"We immediately have to reflect on this and use it as a tremendous teachable moment," Wilson said. "What it feels (like) is not good. It was very difficult to stand before them and not even render an answer to them of where we were going. But, you know, at one point we had an opportunity where our destiny was in our own hands.
"We didn't do the things necessary for confirmation. We qualified but we didn't confirm. We're sitting at five wins with four games remaining. You would think that we would be able to do. I would bet my life that we would have. But we didn't do it and so we put our destiny in somebody else's possession and that was the result."
UTSA was the only C-USA team with at least six victories that did not receive a bowl bid. Nine conference-record nine C-USA schools will play in bowl games this year.
"The good thing is that they went back and forth and they really struggled with trying to find a place, a home for all 10 of our teams," Wilson said. "And then even then, having to leave three total teams out, it was still difficult for them. It took a little longer for tht decision to be made.
"We were patient. We were eager and were competing to still try see all the reasons why UTSA, and our ability to travel well to play an exciting brand of football with a defense that was dominant and an offense that's optimistic as we move forward (was not invited to a bowl). But we fell short."
Seventy-eight teams received bids to play in 39 bowls. Buffalo (6-6) and Western Michigan (6-6) were the other bowl-eligible teams that did not receive invitations.