UTSA climbs back to .500 with 31-17 victory over North Texas

SAN ANTONIO – Beaten in a five-overtime thriller last week, the UTSA Roadrunners bounced back with a 31-17 win against North Texas in a Conference USA game Saturday before a crowd of 19,553 at the Alamodome.

UTSA improved to 4-4 overall and 2-2 in C-USA play, while North Texas dropped to 4-4 and 2-2. 

The Roadrunners will play on the road for three consecutive weeks before closing out the regular season against Charlotte on Nov. 26 at the Alamodome. They face Middle Tennessee next Saturday. 

UTEP beat UTSA 52-49 last week at the Alamodome in the longest game in C-USA history.

North Texas outgained the Roadrunners 409-318 in total offensive yardage, but the Roadrunners' defense had four takeways – two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. UTSA capitalized on two of them for 10 points.

UTSA took a 14-0 halftime lead on Dalton Sturm's touchdown passes of 7 yards to Kerry Thomas Jr. and 21 yards to Josh Stewart, but the Mean Green cut the deficit in half on quarterback Marcus Fine's 80-yard run on the first snap of the third quarter.

A 33-yard field goal by Victor Falcon and 9-yard TD run by Jalen Rhodes put the Roadrunners up 24-7 after three quarters. After Trevor Moore made a 20-yard field goal to cut UTSA's lead to 24-10 with 14:51 left, Rhodes' 19-yard run scoring run put the Roadrunners back on top by three TDs with 9:51 remaining. 

North Texas scored its last TD on a 10-yard pass from Fine to Kenny Buyers with 5:45 left.   

Sturm completed 10 of 19 passes for 142 yards and the two TDs, but he was sacked five times. Rhodes and Jarveon Williams each rushed for 74 yards. 

Linebacker La'Kel Bass, end Marcus Davenport and safety Nate Gaines led the UTSA defense with eight tackles each. 

UTSA GAMEDAY: Roadrunners look to rebound after last week's five-OT loss

North Texas (4-3, 2-1 C-USA) vs. UTSA (3-4, 2-2 C-USA
Kickoff: 6 p.m., Saturday, Alamodome
Last meeting: North Texas 30, UTSA 23, Oct. 31, 2015, Denton
Series record: UTSA leads 2-1

SAN ANTONIO – So how long does it take for a team to bounce back emotionally from the draining experience of a five-overtime loss?

We’ll find out Saturday night when UTSA returns to the Alamodome to face North Texas, its third consecutive in-state opponent, in a Conference USA game.

“It’s tough but we’re all we got,” junior safety Nate Gaines said after a workout this week. “That’s our chant: ‘We’re all we got, we’re all we need.’ As long as we pick each other up, we’ll be fine.”

The Roadrunners appeared to be on the cusp of winning for the third consecutive week last Saturday before UTEP pulled out a 52-49 win in the longest game in C-USA history.

UTSA led by 14 points twice – 14-0 in the first 12 minutes and 28-14 early in the second half – but the Miners tied the game at 28 with two touchdowns in the third quarter. The teams held each other scoreless in the fourth period, setting up a five-overtime thriller that ended with Ryan Metz’s 6-yard TD pass to Warren Redix.   

“I think physically we’re all good,” senior safety Michael Egwuagu said. “It’s just anytime you go into five overtimes with a team it’s going to be tough to recover from it. But, I mean, everybody’s good. We’re all good.”

Egwuagu expressed confidence the Roadrunners will bounce back against North Texas.

“We’re hungry, just because, I think, overall, we sort of felt like we just let one slip, you know?” Egwuagu said. “We came into that game with the mindset of starting fast. Offense started very fast, we started fast. We had a couple of three-and-outs to begin with. We just have to finish, but there’s an extra boost of energy and extra finish that we have to find, and dig deep and get.”

UTSA coach Frank Wilson said that last week’s game was bittersweet for the Roadrunners.

“Sweet because we competed and we played our behinds off, bitter because we didn’t come out with the W,” he said. “We’d like to try to get that done this week.”

North Texas is coming off a 35-18 nonconference win on the road against Army last Saturday afternoon. The Mean Green, who have won two in a row, are tied with Southern Miss for second in the C-USA West Division standings at 2-1. UTSA (2-2) is fourth.

North Texas (4-3) is within two victories of being bowl eligible. The Mean Green are 4-3 for the first time since 2013, the last time they played in a bowl. North Texas is in its first season under 38-year-old Seth Littrell, the youngest head football coach in C-USA.

The Mean Green beat UTSA 30-23 on Halloween last year in Denton, after the Roadrunners won the first two meetings between the schools.

“It’s a huge game,” Wilson said. “It’ll be our last game at home for almost a month, three weeks. We’ll get on the road after that. Just to want to play well against a conference foe of the West (Division), and leave on a good foot before we’re able to get on the road. I think it’ll be a tremendous for our morale how we compete, how we play.

“The reality is they’re a quality team, but I promise you, guys, it’s about us. If we do the things that we’re capable of doing and play up to our ability, we’ll be just fine.”

The Roadrunners have road games against conference opponents Middle Tennessee (Nov. 5) and Louisiana Tech (Nov. 12) before playing at Texas A&M on Nov. 19. UTSA doesn’t play at home again until it wraps up the regular season against Charlotte on Nov. 26.   

The Roadrunners routed Southern Miss 55-32 and edged Rice 14-13 in the two weeks before they lost to UTEP. A victory over the Miners would have put UTSA’s season record over .500 for the first time since the Roadrunners went to 6-5 with a 21-13 win against North Texas on Nov. 23, 2013. UTSA beat Louisiana Tech the next week to finish the season with a five-game winning streak. The Roadrunners are 10-21 since then.

The UTSA offense was a model of balance in piling up 525 yards against UTEP, gaining 278 rushing and 247 passing. Dalton Sturm completed 18 of 34 passes for 214 yards and three touchdowns, two to wide receiver Kerry Thomas Jr. Meanwhile, Jarveon Williams ran for 104 yards on 21 carries.

But in the end, the Miners, who finished with 444 yards, made just enough plays to escape with the win.

“I think they were more emotionally drained than physically, because so much went into it at that time,” said Wilson when asked what kind of physical toll he thought the loss had taken on his players.

Junior running back Jeffrey Wilson led the Mean Green offense in the win over Army with 160 yards, 153 in the second half. Wilson has rushed for 724 yards and 12 TDs in seven games this season and averages 6.7 yards per carry. Freshman quarterback Mason Fine has completed 102 of 183 passes, with two interceptions, for 1,099 yards and four TDs.

Junior defensive back Eric Jenkins led a unit that had seven takeaways – four interceptions and three fumble recoveries – in their win over Army. Jenkins had a pick-6 for the second week in a row, and added another interception and a fumble recovery, both in the final quarter.

Army gained 403 total yards against the Mean Green, 302 rushing and 101 passing.

“They move around. They blitz every play,” Wilson said of the North Texas defense. “It don’t matter if it’s run or pass, they’re coming after you. They do a good job of being active, guys running around being in position to be disruptive, to say the least. Even if it’s not sacks, they’re hurries, hits on the quarterback.

“They’re not the biggest team we’ve faced – they’re not as big as our last opponent – but probably the most athletic and fastest team that we’ve played. Offensively, they want to spread you out. They’ll get in two-back [sets] at times and run the ball when necessary.”

(© 2016 KENS)


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