Monday, Dec 2 at 7:59 AM
Not even a shoulder injury could keep UTSA senior quarterback Eric Soza from finishing his last game at the Alamodome on Saturday.
After hurting his left shoulder late in the second quarter and sitting out the Roadrunners' first possession of the second half, Soza returned to spark UTSA to a 30-10 win over Louisiana Tech in the regular-season finale for both teams.
A crowd of 26,549 watched Soza, who transferred to UTSA from Texas State in 2010, cap his college career with a gritty performance that inspired his teammates.
“When you care about something, it’s emotional,” Soza said. “I’m just happy that we came out with the ‘W’. It was a great team effort from the offense, defense and special teams. We took care of business and as a senior it’s a great way to go out. I think it was just a great day, a great day to be a Roadrunner.”
UTSA finished its third season 7-5 overall and 6-2 in C-USA, quite a feat for a team that was picked last in a preseason poll of the league’s head coaches. The Roadrunners finished the season with five consecutive victories, tying a program record.
The Roadrunners went into the game with a chance to win the C-USA West Division, but finished in a two-way tie for second after Rice clinched the West title with a 17-13 win over Tulane.
LA Tech finished 4-8 overall and 3-5 in C-USA.
UTSA coach Larry Coker said he’s still hopeful the Roadrunners will receive a bowl bid, but that’s a long shot – at best.
For now, UTSA will be happy to savor coming ever so close to advancing to the C-USA title game in only its first season in the league.
“It’s been a great run this season,” Coker said. “I read earlier that we had the 11th toughest schedule in the FBS, and that we’d be lucky to win four games. I told our players if you learn anything from this whole thing, it’s not to let people label you.
“You’re African American, you can’t be president or you’re this and you can’t win these games. All these things that you get labeled, but don’t let anybody label you. You go out and be the best that you can be and if we learned anything, I hope that was it.”
Tulane win over Rice would have sent UTSA to title game
The Roadrunners tied North Texas for second in the West Division, but can take satisfaction in knowing they beat the Mean Green (8-4, 6-2).
UTSA would have won the West title if Tulane (7-5, 5-3) had beaten Rice (9-3, 7-1) because they owned the tie-breaker in a multiple tie.
Rice, which is coached by MacArthur High School graduate Davie Bailiff, will play Marshall for the C-USA championship next Saturday. The site will be determined by the teams’ BCS rankings.
“It (Rice’s win) wasn’t a downer because we did win our game and had a good finish, but I would have loved to see the emotion if we had the win and Rice lost,” Coker said. “They might have had to put up a new dressing room in the Alamodome.
“These guys have played pretty hard every week and someone asked me about winning four or five in a row and if I envisioned this or not. You just have to go to work every day and compete every weekend, and our guys never lost heart or lost faith and we ended up with a good finish.”
Questionable for the second half after hurting his left shoulder late in the first half, Soza returned to the field after sitting out the Roadrunners' first possession of the third period.
Soza was injured while trying to tackle LA Tech cornerback Adairius, who intercepted a deflected Soza pass late in the first half and returned it for a 26-yard TD that cut UTSA’s lead to 17-10.
“He had already scored,” Soza said. “I shouldn’t have even done anything, but I just kind of tweaked the shoulder a little bit. It’s nothing. They were telling me I was being a pansy in the locker room, so I had to go back out there.”
Roadrunners held Bulldogs to only 42 rushing yards
Soza completed 17 of 20 passes, with one interception, for 271 yards and one TD, a 31-yard strike to freshman Jarveon Williams on the third play of the game. Soza also rushed for 38 yards on five carries and scored on a 20-yard run.
Evans Okotcha, a senior who started in place of injured tailback David Glasco II for the second consecutive week, led the UTSA ground game with a school-record 26 carries for 105 yards and one TD. He rushed for 104 yards in the Roadrunners’ 21-13 win over North Texas last week.
UTSA outgained LA Tech 475-193 in total offensive yardage, gaining 191 yards on the ground and 284 passing. The Roadrunners held the Bulldogs to only 42 yards on the ground.
“Our defense played extremely well,” Coker said.
Senior linebacker Steven Kurfehs, who has been the heart of the UTSA defense the past three seasons, credited the guys up front for the unit’s success Saturday.
“Going into every game our No. 1 objective is to stop the run,” Kurfehs said. “Give our defensive line credit. Those guys have gotten the job done week in and week out. They’re the reason that we were able to hold them to what we did.”
With UTSA clinging to a 17-10 lead, Soza jump-started the offense with his passing and execution. He promptly completed a 32-yard pass Okotcha on first down, and coolly directed a six-play, 53-yard drive that ended with Okotcha's 1-yard TD. Sean Ianno's extra-point kick put UTSA ahead 24-10 with 6:25 left in the third quarter.
The Roadrunners threatened to score again on their next possession, but saw the drive fizzle when the Bulldogs recovered an Okotcha fumble at the LA Tech 9.
Soza led the Roadrunners on another scoring march the next time they had the ball. Starting at its 25, UTSA moved to the Bulldogs' 28 on a 40-yard pass from Soza to Aaron Grubb on a third-and-3.
The Roadrunners drove to the LA Tech 3, but had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Ianno that increased UTSA's lead to 27-10 with 11:07 remaining.
After forcing a three-and-out, the Roadrunners drove from their 43 to the Bulldogs’ 19 before stalling. Ianno capped the scoring with a 37-yard field goal that increased UTSA’s lead to 30-10 with 5:14 remaining. Ianno kicked another 21-yard field goal that put the Roadrunners ahead 17-3 with 6:57 left in the first half.