Flush with confidence after jumping out to a 3-0 start and winning two games on the road, UTSA will be heavily favored when it takes the field against winless Division II Northwestern Oklahoma State on Saturday at the Alamodome.
And therein lies the challenge for the Roadrunners, who dominated Georgia State in a 38-14 victory Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The matchup against Northwestern Oklahoma has all the makings of a "trap game" for UTSA, which could be caught looking ahead to next week's Western Athletic Conference opener at New Mexico State.
"That's the most dangerous thing," Roadrunners coach Larry Coker said Monday at his weekly roundtable session with the media. "We start feeling too good about ourselves, and we try to stress against that. It is truly one game at a time. We tell our guys that we can beat anybody and anybody can beat us."
Saturday's game, scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff, has been designated Hispanic Heritage Day by UTSA.
Northwestern Oklahoma is coming off a 63-21 loss to Truman State (Mo.). The Rangers were routed by Ouachita Baptist (Ark.) 55-3 in their season opener and fell to Colorado State-Pueblo 41-24 a week later.
"They are going to throw the ball 50 times a game and they are primarily a spread team," Coker said. "I believe one game they ran 100 plays, so it's going to be interesting because we have given up big plays in the passing game."
Harrison named WAC Special Teams Player of the Week
UTSA was crisp on both sides of the ball against Georgia State (0-3), outgaining the Jaguars 442-307 in total offensive yardage and trailing only once. The Roadrunners churned out 224 yards on the ground and junior running back Evans Okotcha scored a school-record three touchdowns.
Junior quarterback Eric Soza was also outstanding, completing 17 of 24 passes with no interceptions for 206 yards and two TDs.
"He gives us mobility and lets us run the option plays we want to run," Coker said of Soza. "Georgia State didn't play the option game well, and that was something that opened things up for us."
Sophomore Kenny Harrison also played a key role in the victory with a school-record, 84-yard kickoff return after Georgia State went ahead 7-3 in the first quarter.
"That was a huge play," Coker said.
Okotcha scored a 5-yard TD four plays later to give UTSA the lead for good.
"I think that was probably the game-changing play in the game," Okotcha said. "I think that swung the momentum. We had just scored and they scored on an 84-yard touchdown (pass). We could have easily folded at that moment, just because of the way things happened.
"Momentum was on their side, and Kenny goes a long way on that kick return. I think that was probably the biggest play of the game."
Harrison, who returned three kickoffs for 111 yards, was named WAC Special Teams Player of the week.
Coker: 'We have to keep our guys hungry'
Besides Soza and Harrison, Coker also cited Okotcha, junior cornerback Erik Brown (one interception), junior offensive linemen Cody Harris and Josh Walker and junior tight end Jeremiah Moeller for their outstanding play against Georgia State.
While a 3-0 start is impressive by any standard, the combined record of the teams the Roadrunners have defeated is 1-8.
South Alabama, which lost a 33-31 heartbreaker to UTSA in their season opener, beat Nicholla State 9-3 a week later but fell to 1-2 with a 31-7 loss to North Carolina State on Saturday.
Texas A&M-Commerce dropped to 0-3 after losing to Midwestern State 65-14 in a matchup of Division II teams last Thursday night. The Roadrunners beat A&M-Commerce 27-16 Sept. 8 at the Alamodome, but was held to three points in the second half after leading 24-3.
Ever wary of his players getting caught up in their fast start, Coker put them through a workout in the rain Sunday.
"I told the guys, 'Let's play to our standard,' and I think that this past Saturday we made a step toward our standard," Coker said. "I want all the success and I am probably worse than the fans in that I want it overnight. I keep telling myself we are a year into it, and what we did this past Saturday was better than what we did all last year. But it's a process."
"We have to keep our guys hungry and 3-0 is good, but after Saturday we have to be 0-0. I think that's one of the best things they do at Alabama. There is no sense of being relaxed. Everyone is on edge, and that's one of the best things Coach (Nick) Saban does."
Northwestern Oklahoma has been outscored 159-48
UTSA went 4-6 in its inaugural season last year, playing as an independent in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA). The Roadrunners are making the transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A, as a member of the WAC this season.
Although Northwestern Oklahoma is winless and has been outscored 159-48, the Roadrunners said they won't take the Rangers lightly.
"We've got to keep the pedal to the floor," Walker said. "We can't let up at all because we can't be disappointed like we were last year. I think it's personal for us, pretty much this season, to make a statement for UTSA."
Walker said the memory of last year's 24-21 loss to Division III McMurry, following the Roadrunners' 31-3 rout of Northeastern Oklahoma in their first game, keeps him and his teammates humble.
"We'll never forget it," Walker said.
Soza expressed confidence UTSA won't be caught peeking ahead to its WAC opener.
"We've got to work hard this week and prove some of the skeptics wrong," Soza said. "Hearing about the trap game or anything like that, I want to put those things to rest."