UTSA (0-0) vs. Baylor (0-1)
When, where: Saturday, 7 p.m., McLane Stadium, Waco
Series history: First meeting
Last week: Liberty 48, Baylor 45, Waco; UTSA was idle.
UTSA record in season openers: 5-1
Notable: Baylor senior quarterback Anu Solomon started two games against UTSA when he played at Arizona in 2014 and 2015, helping lead the Wildcats to victories in both meetings.
SAN ANTONIO – If UTSA had any hopes that Baylor would look past the Roadrunners heading into Saturday’s game, they quickly dissipated after Liberty University upset the Bears 48-45 last week. On Baylor’s home field, to boot.
The loss to the Flames, who compete in the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA, spoiled the debut of Matt Rhule as the Bears’ head coach.
UTSA players said this week that they expect to face an angry team Saturday night when they finally open their season against Baylor at McLane Stadium in Waco.
The Roadrunners’ scheduled season opener against Houston last Saturday was initially postponed before it was canceled this week.
“I hope they’re chomping at the bit and ready to go,” UTSA coach Frank Wilson said when asked about his team’s delayed start.
The Roadrunners are under no illusions about the challenge they’ll face Saturday night.
"They got beat so they're frustrated," sophomore linebacker Josiah Tauaefa said after a workout this week. “I can understand that. At the same time, we’ve got to focus on us and not worry how that affected them. We’ve got to remain focused on what we’re doing on our game plan to beat them regardless.”
Senior quarterback Dalton Sturm expressed similar thoughts.
“They got beat last week. We all know that feeling,” Sturm said. “Whenever you lose a game, you come back next week, you’re ready to play. I mean, you just can’t overlook anybody. Definitely, we’re not intimidated by anybody. We’ve just got to go out and play football just like it was any other game and good things will happen.”
Saturday’s meeting will be the first between Baylor and UTSA, which is starting its second season under coach Frank Wilson, who guided the Roadrunners to their first bowl game.
UTSA returns 44 lettermen, including 15 starters, from a team that finished 6-7 overall and 5-3 in Conference USA’s West Division.
Understandably, the Roadrunners are eager to finally kick off their season.
“Absolutely,” Tauaefa said. “Mentally, we’re ready to go right now. We’ve been ready since last Saturday when we were supposed to have a game, but things didn’t work out. It’s bigger than football over there in Houston."
“We’ve remained focused, moved our attention to Baylor right when we found out about the news of the game being canceled. We’ve been working ever since,” Tauaefa said.
Off last Saturday, the Roadrunners had a chance to see the Liberty-Baylor game on TV.
“It was kind of weird sitting there on college game day when usually we’re out there and we’re in a hotel getting ready,” Tauaefa said. “But we’ve just got to treat it (Baylor game) like it’s our opener. The Same way we were going to go out and show what we’ve got against Houston, we’re going to have to do the same against Baylor. It’s the same mindset.”
Asked what he thought of Liberty’s upset of the Bears, Tauaefa said: “That was an awesome game. That just goes to show that big names don’t always mean everything. It’s about how you prepare leading up to the week, and it’s the mindset going into the game. As long as we do our job, then we’ve got a chance.”
Baylor piled up 532 yards of total offense, including 254 on the ground, but Liberty finished with 585 total yards. Flames quarterback Stephen Calvert completed 44 of 60 passes for 447 yards and three touchdowns.
“I was fortunate enough to be able to watch that game on Saturday, get a little jump-start on them,” Sturm said. “He (Calvert) played a great game. He was able to toss around the rock. It’s the first game of the year, so there’s a lot of stuff that you probably won’t see in the second game. A lot of adjustments are being made. You really can’t base anything off that. I’ve just got to go out there and play my game."
Baylor quarterback Anu Solomon, who transferred from Arizona after graduating in December, passed for 278 yards and three TDs and finished with a team-high 97 yards rushing against Liberty.
Solomon started two games against UTSA in 2014 and 2015, helping lead Arizona to victories in both meetings.
“Their quarterback is extremely talented, a gifted young man,” Wilson said. “He can win with his feet as well as with his arm, and even more experienced now.”
Solomon hit 17 of 32 passes for 231 yards and a touchdown in Arizona’s 26-23 win over UTSA in 2014 at the Alamodome and was 22 of 36 for 229 yards and four TDs in a 42-32 victory the next year in Tucson.
“Nine of our guys on defense played against him when he was at Arizona,” Tauaefa said. “I didn’t get a chance to during my redshirt year (2015). It’s a new coach, new quarterback. It’s going to be exciting to execute what the coaches have planned for us.”
Tauaefa said the Roadrunners’ energy was “extremely high” in practice this week.
“We’re kind of tired of playing each other,” he said. “We’ve done a great job, I think, of remaining focused and keeping Baylor in our sights.”