With its season-opening victory in the books, the UTSA football team now can focus on what Roadrunners fans have been talking about since the game was scheduled three years ago.
Playing highly regarded Big 12 team Oklahoma State.
UTSA rallied for a 21-13 victory against New Mexico in Albuquerque on Saturday night, improving to 3-0 in opening games.
OSU, ranked No. 13 in the Associated Press preseason poll and a favorite to win the Big 12 title, beat Mississippi State 21-3 in its opener Saturday.
The Roadrunners and Cowboys meet at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Alamodome in a nationally televised game.
While continuing to call UTSA's fledgling program a work in progress, Coker said playing a BCS-caliber team like OSU in an indication the Roadrunners have made big strides since playing their first game in 2011.
We've got a lot of work to do, but for a team like Oklahoma State to come here and play in our home says a lot about San Antonio, the dome, the city, our university and the direction we're headed.
They're a very talented team. It's going to be a tremendous challenge for us. We know that. They've got outstanding players. They're big, they're physical.
OSU has played in three Alamo Bowls
While UTSA has played other teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, including Rice and Louisiana Tech, the matchup with OSU represents a major step up in competition for the Roadrunners.
This is the most talented team we've played since I've been here, Coker said. We don't have any weeks (games) off. I want this to be a fun week for our players, our staff and our fans. It's kind of a bowl atmosphere as far as getting a team like Oklahoma State down here. I want our guys to enjoy this experience.
The Cowboys are familiar with San Antonio and the Alamodome, having played in the Alamo Bowl three times since 1997.
OSU also has recruited heavily in Texas since Mike Gundy took over as head coach at his alma mater in 2005. There are 69 players from Texas on the Cowboys' roster this season, more than any other program outside of the Lone Star State.
Seven players on this year's team sophomore middle linebacker Kris Catlin (Madison), senior strong safety Zack Craig (Smithson Valley), freshman safety Tre Flowers (Judson), sophomore wide receiver Austin Hays (Reagan), sophomore outside linebacker Ryan Simmons (Steele), freshman safety Jordan Sterns, freshman defensive tackle Vincent Taylor (Madison) graduated from high schools in the San Antonio area.
UTSA junior defensive tackle Ashaad Mabry originally signed with Oklahoma State as a senior at MacArthur in 2011, but transferred to UTSA two weeks after enrolling at OSU that July.
Coker has ties to OSU and Gundy, serving as the Cowboys' offensive coordinator for seven seasons (1983-89). Gundy played quarterback at OSU in Coker's last four seasons with the Cowboys.
Eric Roark, the Roadrunners' defensive-line coach, was a three-year letterman as a defensive back at OSU in the late 1970s and early '80s.
We have a lot of respect for Coach Coker, Gundy said Monday during the Big 12 coaches' teleconference. I think he's doing a terrific job. I've always enjoyed his friendship and look forward to seeing him Saturday.
Soza, defensive line keyed season-opening victory
Gundy described Coker as a great leader who has great people skills.
Gundy said he was not surprised UTSA beat New Mexico, adding he was impressed with what he's seen of the Roadrunners on film.
We respect everybody we play, Gundy said.
Mabry was among players who received kudos from Coker for their performances against New Mexico.
Senior quarterback Eric Soza tossed an 8-yard touchdown pass to junior running back David Glasco II with three minutes left to cap UTSA's comeback win.
The Lobos jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first half before Glasco scored on a 1-yard run with 3:10 left in the second quarter.
Soza ended UTSA's first possession of the second half with a 38-yard TD strike to junior running back Brandon Armstrong, and junior Sean Ianno converted his second of third extra-point kicks to put the Roadrunners on top 14-13.
Coker likes UTSA's depth in defensive line
Soza completed 21 of 34 passes for 237 yards and the two TDs, and led UTSA rushers with 48 yards.
Mabry and his defensive teammates also had a solid game against New Mexico, holding the Lobos to 277 yards. Senior running back Kasey Carrier finished with only 54 yards and averaged just 2.7 yards per carry. He averaged 122.4 yards a game and 5.8 per carry last year.
We challenged our defensive line, Coker said. Their running back was one of the strengths of their team. Our defensive line did a great job. They really believe in our defensive-line coach, Eric Roark, and he's a good teacher.
We do have depth in the defensive line, which is really good for us. We played a lot of players and kept guys fresh. When you get a chance to play, your morale is a lot better.
Other defensive linemen who were solid in the opener were junior end Cody Rogers, junior tackle Ferrington Macon and junior tackle Richard Burge. Junior end Jason Neill went to the sideline Saturday with a leg injury, and probably will not play against OSU.
Freshman running back Jarveon Williams, a Judson graduate who missed the last part of training camp and the season opener with a knee injury, will be available to play this week, Coker said.
Saturday's game will be the first in a three-game series OSU and UTSA agreed to three years ago. The Roadrunners play OSU in Stillwater in 2014 and 2015.