Sturm shines as UTSA opens sixth season with 26-13 win over Ala. St.

College football

SAN ANTONIO -- UTSA junior Dalton Sturm got the starting nod at quarterback Saturday and delivered a victory in Frank Wilson's debut as the Roadrunners' coach. 

An Alamodome crowd of 22,380 watched Sturm complete 20 of 25 passes, with one interception, for 274 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for a 51-yard TD. 

Wilson was an assistant coach at LSU for six seasons before succeeding Larry Coker at UTSA in mid-January.

The Roadrunners' victory came five years to the day that they beat Northeastern (Okla.) State 31-3 in their inaugural game, which drew a crowd of 57,745 to the Alamodome.  

Fourth quarter, 2:35: Alabama State cuts UTSA's lead to 26-13 on a 36-yard pass with 2:35 left. The two-point conversion pass falls incomplete. 

Sturm's numbers: UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm has been coolly efficient tonight, completing 18 of 23 passes for 259 yards and two touchdowns. He has had one attempt intercepted. Sturm also has a 51-yard scoring run. 

Fourth quarter, 10:07: Dalton Sturm connects with wide receiver Kerry Thomas Jr. for 25-yard TD strike, putting UTSA ahead 26-7 with 10:07 left. Sturm's second TD pass ends an 11-play, 85-yard drive. The Roadrunners' two-point conversion run fails. 

Tonight's attendance: 22,380

After three quarters: UTSA 20, Alabama State 7. UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm has completed 14 of 16 passes, with one interception, for 181 yards and one TD. Through three quarters, he has yet to be sacked. 

Third quarter, 12:00: The Roadrunners extend their lead to 20-7 on a 1-yard run by Jalen Rhodes with three minutes gone in the third period. Portillo missed the PAT. The big play in the six-play, 74-yard drive was a 51-yard pass from Dalton Sturm to tight end Shaq Williams. 

First half recap: UTSA junior Dalton Sturm, who got the starting nod at quarterback, was sharp in the first half. He completed 10 of 11 passes for 82 yards and one TD, and rushed once for a 51-yard TD. Sturm also completed a two-point conversion pass to Greg Campbell Jr. after his scoring run. Sturm started seven games last season after Blake Bogenschutz sustained a career-ending concussion. Jarod Johnson, the other UTSA quarterback, hit just 1 of 5 passes for seven yards. 

Halftime: UTSA 14, Alabama State 7 

Second quarter, 3:44: Quarterback Dalton Sturm puts UTSA back on top with a 51-yard run. Sturm rolled right to pass but tucked the ball and ran when he couldn't find an open receiver. He sprinted down the right sideline untouched. Sturm passes to Greg Campbell Jr. for 2-point conversion. UTSA 14, Alabama State 7, 3:44 left in the first half. 

Second quarter, 10:25: A promising UTSA drive fizzles when wide receiver Marquez McNair fumbles inside the ASU 5 after making a reception and Robert Brown recovers at the 4 for the Hornets.  

After one quarter: Alabama State 7, UTSA 6 

First quarter, 3:39: ASU takes 7-6 lead on 1-yard by Khalid Thomas with 3:39 left in first quarter. PAT kick i good by David Albert. Thomas' TD capped a 13-play, 77-yard drive that started after a fumble by UTSA running back Jarveon Williams. 

First quarter: UTSA takes 6-0 lead on 5-yard pass from Dalton Sturm, who got the starting nod at quarterback, to wide receiver Marquez McNair with only 1:21 elapsed on the clock. The PAT kick failed. The TD came three plays after Andrew Martel recovered a fumble by Destin Porter at the ASU 6 on the opening kickoff. Eric Banks caused the fumble. 

Pregame: Alabama has won the coin toss and elected to receive. UTSA goes into Saturday night's season opener against Alabama State having played 38 consecutive FBS opponents. ASU competes in the FCS, formerly Division I-AA, and is a member of the Southwestern Athletic Conference. . . . Middle Tennessee rolled to a 42-7 win over the Roadrunners in last year's season finale at the Alamodome. UTSA won two of its last three games. 

Spotlight on Wilson as UTSA opens sixth season Saturday night

SAN ANTONIO – First-year UTSA football coach Frank Wilson has gone out of his way in the preseason to deflect attention from himself and credit his staff and players at every turn.

But try as he may, Wilson will find it difficult to avoid the spotlight Saturday when he makes his collegiate head-coaching debut in the Roadrunners’ season opener against Alabama State at the Alamodome. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

So how special will the moment be for Wilson, an assistant coach at LSU for six seasons before taking the UTSA job in mid-January after Larry Coker was fired, when he leads the Roadrunners onto the field for the first time?

“Special enough, when you look at the opportunity that’s been presented to this staff, the opportunity for these players to be able to have a fresh start, and for those seniors to start their senior campaign off in grand vision,” Wilson, 42, said.  

“My individual piece of it is so minute in all of this because you have so many other people that are vested in this, a president and athletic director who took a chance on this new coaching staff, a coaching staff where guys left jobs. They left their jobs and they came here. So it’s so much bigger than myself.”

The last sentence of the preceding paragraph pretty much captures one of Wilson’s strongest qualities as a head coach. He is well grounded and has a reassuring way of keeping things in perspective, not only for himself, but for his players. Time and again, they have praised Wilson for the energy and leadership he’s brought to the program.

“Definitely, one thing I feel that we’ve lacked over the past years is energy, just confidence as a whole team,” senior running back Jarveon Williams said. “I feel like Coach Wilson brings the best of both worlds on that.”

UTSA will open its sixth season determined to get back on track after two losing seasons that cost Coker his job. He was fired Jan. 5 after going 26-32 in the Roadrunners’ first five seasons. UTSA athletic director Lynn Hickey was lauded when she hired Coker, who led Miami to the 2001 BCS national championship, in March 2009 to be the Roadrunners’ first head football coach. 

Personable and happy to be in coaching again after being fired at Miami in 2006, Coker gave UTSA’s start-up program instant credibility. He became the face of Roadrunners football and was an exemplary goodwill ambassador for UTSA.

The Roadrunners won their last five games in 2013 to finish 7-5 and one victory short of the Conference USA title game. But UTSA slipped to 4-8 in 2014 and went 3-9 last year, making them 7-17 over the last two seasons.

Wilson, who was one of the country’s top recruiters during his tenure at LSU, faces the challenge of leading a program at a crossroads. While the Roadrunners have played only 58 games, they aren’t a shiny penny anymore. The novelty of being the only FBS program in the city has worn off. To that extent, the honeymoon is over.

“I think UTSA lost its innocence when Coach Coker was fired,” a former player said this summer. “They’re just like any other college program in the country now.”

If you’re a college football fan in San Antonio, chances are that the last time you paid attention to UTSA was when Wilson was hired. Before that, it was when Coker was fired.

With Wilson making his debut as the Roadrunners’ coach Saturday, San Antonio sports fans will give UTSA football another good look. A victory over Alabama State, which competes in the FCS Southwestern Athletic Conference, would be a good start to getting the Roadrunners back on track and fans back in the Alamodome for the rest of UTSA’s home schedule.

Alabama State finished 6-5 overall and 5-4 in the SWAC East Division last year. The Roadrunners haven’t played an FCS team since beating McNeese State 31-24 on Nov. 17, 2012.

Perhaps it’s fitting that Wilson is making his head-coaching debut against an SWAC team. Born and raised in New Orleans, Wilson has three uncles who played football at SWAC school Grambling and he grew up idolizing legendary coach Eddie Robinson.  

“I thought he walked on water,” Wilson said. “He was iconic in my eyes. You look at what he did at one university, and one of the things that I admire about him, one job, one wife, 50 years. What a beautiful thing. And he did it on a consistent basis and for a long time was the pipeline to the National Football League in developing his players.”

Robinson actually coached at Grambling for 55 seasons, compiling a 408-165-15 record that ranks as one of the best in college football history. Robinson died in 2007 at age 88.

Wilson is one of just 13 African Americans coaching in the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision, which has 128 schools. Other black coaches besides Robinson who inspired him, Wilson said, were the late Dennis Green, Tyrone Willingham and Mike Tomlin.

“When you look at our city as a whole, San Antonio, the state of Texas, it’s a land of opportunity,” Wilson said. “You look at our country as a whole and how far we’ve come, but yet how far we still need to go as a whole.”

UTSA has been picked to finish in the bottom half of the C-USA West Division this season, but the Roadrunners have expressed confidence that they can defy the preseason polls and contend for the West title.

“I don’ think there’s a limit,” senior safety Michael Egwuagu said, when asked how well he thinks the Roadrunners can play this season.

In the end, it all comes back to Wilson and the energy he has brought to the program.  

“Whenever we heard we were getting a new coach and the new coach came in and he did things he said he was going to do, it brought this new atmosphere to UTSA football,” Egwuagu said. “It makes us want to work for a guy and work with a guy like that and buy into what he’s pitching. That’s where we’re at right now. We’re all hands on deck, all in.”

(© 2016 KENS)


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