UTSA (6-4 overall, 3-4 Conference USA)
vs. Louisiana Tech (5-6, 3-4)
When, where: Saturday, 6:30 p.m., Ruston, La.
Series history: Louisiana Tech leads 4-1
Last meeting: Louisiana Tech 63, UTSA 35, Nov. 12, 2016, Ruston, La.
UTSA’s last game: Defeated Marshall 9-7, Nov. 18, Alamodome
Louisiana Tech’s last game: Defeated UTEP 42-21, Nov. 18, El Paso
Notable: Louisiana Tech is 3-0 against UTSA in Ruston, La.
UTSA had good reason to celebrate last week after squeezing out a 9-7 win over Marshall to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive year. But that was last week.
The Roadrunners moved on quickly and started focusing on some unfinished business they would like to take care of before the curtain falls on their seventh regular season in school history.
Louisiana Tech trounced UTSA 63-35 last Nov. 12 at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La., where the Roadrunners are 0-3.
UTSA drew to within 49-35 with 3:32 left, but the Bulldogs returned the ensuing kickoff for a 45-yard TD and scored again with five seconds left. It wouldn’t be going out on a limb to say the loss has stuck in the Roadrunners’ craw.
“Our guys are enthused, excited about this opportunity to go play this team,” UTSA coach Frank Wilson said this week.
Wilson recalled the final score and made it clear the Roadrunners won't lack for motivation when they take the field Saturday.
“It resonates,” he said. “We’re eager to go play well and put on a better showing. We’re better than we were a year ago when we went there. We’re looking forward to playing a quality team, and to play our best.”
Told by a reporter that some Roadrunners fans thought Louisiana Tech ran up the score, Wilson responded with two words: “We remember.”
UTSA, 6-4 overall and 3-4 in Conference USA, wraps up the regular season with a road game against Louisiana Tech (5-6, 3-4) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Ruston. The Bulldogs need one more victory to reach the six-win threshold for bowl eligibility.
“It will be a hostile environment,” Wilson said. “They’re fighting for a bowl bid, and so we’ll have to do what we did last week, I believe. Start off early. Start off fast. I thought that was the big difference, although it didn’t translate into six or seven points. We got three out of it.
“Just to hold the ball 18 minutes to go 15, 16 plays, and to build the confidence of our team was important to do. I thought we did that last week. I think we’ll have to start off fast and move the ball.
Our defense is more prepared now than ever to be able to stand up to the challenge.”
Brothers Josh Stewart and Kerry Thomas Jr., both wide receivers, will be among 25 UTSA seniors playing their last regular-season game of their careers.
Stewart and Thomas are the Roadrunners’ top two receivers statistically. Josh ranks No. 1 on the team with 37 catches for 496 yards and three touchdowns, and Thomas follows with 32 receptions for 436 yards and four TDs.
“We understand what they did to us last year and we know what’s at stake,” Thomas said. “We want that seventh win.”
Stewart said he expects the Bulldogs to come out strong.
“They have a lot they’re playing for,” he said. “It’s going to be a fight. We have our minds ready for that.”
While UTSA is eligible for a bowl game, it isn’t guaranteed a bid.
“We’re trying to focus on this upcoming week because with a win this week, it’ll better our chances,” Stewart said. “We have to go out there and compete. We don’t have to figure it out. We’ll leave it up to the bowl committee and those people to do their jobs. We just have to come out and fight, and try to get a win.”
Stewart and Thomas have come a long way since they played football on the street when they were kids living in New Orleans.
“We just wanted a ball in our hands,” said Thomas, who is 18 months younger than Stewart. “We’d play football in the middle of the street, no socks on, no shoes on. We were just kids and wanted to play. It’s paying off now that we’ve got the opportunity to showcase our abilities.”
Stewart and Thomas both graduated from A&M Consolidated High School in College Station, where their family settled after getting displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Stewart was going into the eighth grade and Thomas the seventh when they moved to Texas.
Stewart, who turned 23 on Nov. 11, started his college football career at Division II Midwestern State after graduating from high school in 2013. He sat out his freshman season as a redshirt and never played for the Mustangs before he transferred to UTSA in January 2015, walking on to join his brother. But Stewart blew out a knee during an early workout and missed the entire 2015 season.
Although he didn’t play until he was a junior last season, Stewart set the Roadrunners’ single-season record for receiving yardage (682).
Thomas, 21, started his college career at UTSA in 2014 and has left his mark on the program. He holds the program’s records for career (17), single-season (8/2016) and single-game (2) TD receptions.
“I think it’s just a blessing,” Thomas said. “We knew we had the ability all along. Talented guys, God-given ability. Credit to these coaches and this team. They gave us the opportunity to showcase our abilities.
“That’s just what we come out here and do. We work for it, and we’re going to continue to work for it. That’s why I’m proud of him (Stewart). He has a lot of work ethic in him.”
Wilson spoke highly of the brothers and what they’ve meant to UTSA.
“They bring leadership to our team,” he said. “They’ve both been banged up at different times throughout the year, and probably didn’t have the year that they anticipated or the year we anticipated for them. They’re both very talented.
“They’re getting healthy and they’re getting better down the stretch. We’ll need them on Saturday to play well for us. Just very proud of the way they’ve competed, and the way they serve their teammates. They’re brothers to one another, but they’re also brothers to their teammates.”