When UTSA introduced Larry Coker as its first head football coach at a news conference on March 6, 2009, athletic director Lynn Hickey joked that about the only thing the Roadrunners’ fledgling program had to show for itself before that memorable day was one, solitary helmet.
Hickey wasn’t kidding. UTSA didn’t even have equipment, much less coaches and players, before Coker returned to coaching after a two-year hiatus.
Still, the Roadrunners already had something more important than helmets, shoulder pads and uniforms in their favor then.
They had the vision and leadership of Hickey and school president Ricardo Romo, who got UTSA students to buy into raising their fees not once, but twice, to raise funds to build a football program.
Thirty-two months after Coker was hired, UTSA’s highly anticipated inaugural season ended as it started – with a resounding victory at the Alamodome.
Quarterback Eric Soza threw two touchdown passes and four different players ran for a TD each, powering the Roadrunners to a 49-7 rout of Minot (N.D.) State on Saturday before a crowd of 32,369.
UTSA, which moves into the Western Athletic Conference next year, finished 4-6.
“I will never forget this year, never,” said safety Mark Waters, one of only two seniors on the
Roadrunners’ first team. “Not until I die will I ever forget this year.”
Six UTSA players disciplined for violating team rules
Six players, including defensive leader Steven Kurfehs and two other starters, were not allowed to suit up for the season finale because they violated team rules, Coker said. Coker declined to comment on the specifics of the violations
Kurfehs, a linebacker who had missed UTSA’s last 2½ games with a knee injury, practiced this week and was scheduled to start Saturday.
Redshirt freshman Chris Johnson and freshman Tevin Williams, both running backs, missed their second consecutive game for violating team rules.
The three other players who did not suit up were senior offensive lineman Mike Sanchez, junior defensive end Marlon Smith and freshman linebacker Blake Terry. Sanchez was going to start in his last game and Smith started throughout the season.
“It was very unfortunate, but I had to do it,” Coker said. “We’ve got to do things the right way from the start. We’re not going to be here three years from now and trying to get things going in the right way. We’re going to build it and build it the right way from the start.
“We have some policies that we expect you to follow, and if you don’t follow them, you don’t play. I really can’t go into specifics, other than to say that it was a policy violation that we couldn’t ignore.”
UTSA sets attendance record
On a brighter note, UTSA broke the NCAA record for a start-up program’s average home attendance.
The Roadrunners drew a total of 213,126 fans in six games for an average of 35,521. That broke the previous record of 33,038, set by South Florida in 1997.
UTSA opened the season with a 31-3 thrashing of Northeastern (Okla.) State at the Alamodome, breaking college football’s single-game attendance record for a modern-day start-up program with a crowd of 56,743.
Fittingly, Coker thanked the fans before leaving the field after Saturday’s game. He also addressed the Roadrunners’ support in his postgame remarks to the media.
“I just can’t say enough about our players and the coaching staff, but more so about our student body and our fan base,” Coker said. “As I told the student body, ‘This is your team.’ We’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish this year.
‘We’re a long way away and we know that, but we made some big strides. We have a barometer from this year about where we are and where we need to go.”
Saturday’s game against Minot State (2-8) was never close after defensive end Jason Neill returned an interception for a 67-yard TD with only 2:59 elapsed on the clock.
The Roadrunners extended their lead to 21-0 in the first quarter on a 77-yard run by Evans Okotcha and 22-yard run by Kam Jones. Okotcha’s TD was the longest play from scrimmage for the UTSA offense this season.
UTSA’s Armstrong led all rushers with 105 yards
Minot cut UTSA’s lead to 21-7 on a 2-yard run by Tyson Schatz with 8:53 left in the first half, but the Beavers couldn’t muster any momentum in the final two quarters.
Soza threw TD passes of 33 yards to Brandon Freeman and 14 yards to Josiah Monroe in the third quarter, extending the Roadrunners’ lead to 35-7.
David Glasco II’s 2-yard TD run made it 42-7 with 9:04 remaining, and Nate Shaw scored the last TD of the season on a 5-yard run with 22 seconds left.
Sean Ianno converted seven extra-point kicks for the Roadrunners, who piled up 467 yards of total offense and held the Beavers to 267. UTSA finished with a season-high 289 yards rushing and 178 passing.
Running back Brandon Armstrong didn’t score, but he led all rushers with 105 yards on 10 carries. Soza completed 18 of 27 passes for 178 yards and was intercepted once.
Soza described UTSA’s first season as “a fun rollercoaster” from start to finish.
“I wish we could play 10 more games, but that’s the deal with college football,” he said. “This year, we knew when our last game was, and we tried to play to the best of our abilities."