UTSA (3-1 overall, 0-1 in C-USA) vs. North Texas (3-2, 2-0)
When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m., Apogee Stadium, Denton
Series history: UTSA leads 3-1
Last meeting: UTSA 31, North Texas 17, Oct. 29, 2016, Alamodome
UTSA’s last game: Lost to Southern Miss 31-29, Alamodome, Oct. 7
North Texas’ last game: Beat Southern Miss 43-28, Hattiesburg, Miss., Sept. 30
Notable: UTSA has split its first two conference games in each of the previous five seasons.
Humbled by last week’s 31-29 home loss to Southern Miss in their Conference USA opener, the UTSA Roadrunners face the challenge of having to bounce back against a team that beat the Golden Eagles in its last game.
North Texas, which hosts UTSA on Saturday night, had a bye last week after rallying for a 43-28 road victory against Southern Miss on Sept. 30.
“North Texas is a quality opponent and I think we’re focused,” Roadrunners coach Frank Wilson said. “Coming in, we thought they were a really good team. The film continues to confirm that. They really have no weakness within their team. They’re a well-rounded team in all three phases of the game and have good personnel as well.”
Coming off their bye week last Saturday, the Roadrunners were looking to give UTSA its first 4-0 start since the 2012 team won its first five games. But Southern Miss took control of the game in the third quarter after trailing 13-7 at the half, never relenting while avenging a 55-32 loss to the Roadrunners last year on the same field.
“That just happens in some games,” UTSA senior cornerback Devron Davis said after a workout this week. “We just kind of came out flat. We had that bye week. We hadn’t played a game in over a week.
“I think now that we’re going to be playing a game every week, it’s more attention to detail. It kind of woke us up. It was a humbling experience and I don’t think that will happen again.”
What did the Roadrunners learn from the defeat?
“It just shows that anybody can be beat,” Davis said. “You’re not always on the pedestal. It just humbled us. We’re paying more attention to detail and just ready to play this week. We’re back to what we do best, and that’s being physical and paying attention to detail.”
UTSA will have to play better to keep pace with North Texas, which is 3-2 overall and sits atop the Conference USA West Division with a 2-0 record. Only UTEP (0-2) has a worse record than the Roadrunners in the West.
“To achieve what we want, we have to win these Conference USA West games, with our goals outlined as they are,” Wilson said. “All the more important, it’s heightened because we do have a goal, and we have a plan to try to achieve that goal. To do that, we must get this one, and then the next one and so forth.
“It’s the most important game because it’s the next one. It’s the most important game because it’s Conference USA West. It’s the most important game because they (Mean Green) sit atop of the West right now, and they’re in a position we desire to be in.”
The West Division and East Division champions meet for the C-USA title after the regular season.
UTSA (3-1) edged Southern Miss 469-458 in total offensive yardage, but the Golden Eagles outgained them 246-102 on the ground. The Roadrunners had allowed an average of only 207 yards of total offense in its first three games. UTSA had held its last five opponents to less than 300 yards, and its last two to less than 200.
The Mean Green outgained Southern Miss 540-415, gaining 174 yards rushing and 366 passing.
Getting sterling performances from quarterback Mason Fine, wide receiver Jalen Guyton and running back Jeffery Wilson, North Texas rallied from 14-point deficits twice to beat Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss.
After struggling in the first half, Fine wound up completing 24 of 40 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Jalen Guyton had his way with the Southern Miss secondary, catching 14 passes for 211 yards and one TD, and Wilson rambled for 148 yards and three scores.
“He’s a long receiver,” Davis said of Guyton. “He’s about 6-2, long arms. Steady route runner, pretty decent speed. He’s an overall good receiver from what I’ve seen. The running back, Jeffery, is pretty good. Overall, they’re throwing the ball and putting up numbers. We’re just going to have to bring our ‘A’ game and be assignment sound, and (pay) attention to detail.”
The UTSA offense is led by senior quarterback Dalton Sturm, who has set five school single-game records this season. Sturm completed 27 of 43 passes for a career-high 367 yards to go with three TDs. His 43 attempts were a career high and his 27 completions tied his career best.
Senior linebacker La’Kel Bass (21 tackles), sophomore linebacker Josiah Tauaefa (16) and junior safety C.J. Levine (16) have paced the Roadrunners’ defense. Senior end Marcus Davenport, a Stevens High School graduate, has two sacks and 13 tackles.
Wilson was heartened by the commitment his players demonstrated to correct the mistakes they made against Southern Miss last week.
“We responded, based on the things that we did not do well a week ago,” Wilson said. “We acknowledged them, we owned them. We went out and we corrected those things and then we set forth yet what could be another set of problems. How will we respond to these problems? We do so by practicing and putting our team in those tough situations and responding to them.
“The first time we run it, it may not be fixed. So, we’ve got to do it again, and again, and again until we get it figured it out. We’re making those strides and I like the progress of our team.”