UTSA (5-4, 4-2 C-USA) vs. Louisiana Tech (7-3, 5-1 C-USA)
Kickoff: 2:30 p.m., Saturday, Ruston, La.
Last meeting: Louisiana Tech 34, UTSA 31, Oct. 10, 2015, Alamodome
Series record: Louisiana Tech leads 3-1
Notable: UTSA hasn’t won three in a row since it ended the 2013 season with a five-game winning streak.
SAN ANTONIO – Heavy underdogs again this week, the UTSA Roadrunners won’t lack for motivation when they take on Louisiana Tech on Saturday at Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La.
A victory would move UTSA into a first-place tie with the Bulldogs, who are 21-point favorites and celebrating their homecoming weekend, in the Conference USA West Division race.
On the other hand, Louisiana Tech would clinch at least a tie for the division title with a win over the Roadrunners. The two teams will have one conference game remaining after Saturday.
“Our saying we talk about every week – the next game being the most important game – we acknowledge that,” UTSA coach Frank Wilson said. “What we’re not going to do is run from reality. Reality is this team sits atop us. Positioning ourselves to win this game gives us opportunity that’s a part of our yearly goal, and that’s to compete for a conference championship. We recognize that.”
The Roadrunners haven’t been in the title hunt this late in the season since 2013, when they fell one win shy of winning the West and playing in the C-USA title game. UTSA won its last five games that year, finishing 7-5 overall and 6-2 in league play.
Wilson said the Roadrunners had a little extra bounce in their step at practice this week.
“They’re big boys, they’re young men,” he said. “They know what’s at stake. Our preparation needs to be that as such. The reality is all we have to do is what we’ve been doing. We don’t have to magically do something different. We need to take care of us. If UTSA is as good as UTSA can be, we like our chances.”
The Roadrunners were certainly good enough last week, when they rolled to a 45-25 road victory over Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders went into the game as 20-point favorites, but they couldn’t keep up with UTSA after losing highly regarded quarterback Brent Stockstill to a right-shoulder injury with about four minutes left in the first quarter.
The Roadrunners’ defense wreaked havoc on MT, intercepting three passes, recovering a fumble and recording six tackles for loss, including five sacks. It marked the second consecutive week UTSA had four takeaways.
The teams were about even in total offensive yardage, with the Roadrunners finishing with a 378-369 edge. But UTSA churned out 270 yards on the ground, and held MT to only 110 rushing yards. The Blue Raiders went into the game averaging 538.5 yards in total offense – 188.6 rushing and 349.9 passing. MT was ranked No. 9 among FBS teams in total offense and No. 11 in passing offense.
Senior Jarveon Williams fueled the Roadrunners’ offense, which ran the ball 59 times. Williams rushed for 109 yards and three TDs on 21 carries.
“It felt good,” offensive lineman Stefan Beard said, when asked what it was like to impose their will on the Blue Raiders’ defense with their running game. “Our offensive line is coming together. It’s mainly just experience and all of us getting the hang of playing with each other and knowing what we’ve got to do. It feels good when it all works out the way it did.”
UTSA will face another high-powered offense this week. Louisiana Tech averages 547.5 yards – 183.8 rushing and 363.7 passing. Quarterback Ryan Higgins has completed 226 of 344 passes, with four interceptions, for 3,167 yards and 30 TDs. The Bulldogs have two outstanding receivers, Trent Taylor (98-1,318-9) and Carlos Henderson (59-1,168-15).
Henderson had eight receptions for 133 yards and four TDs, and ran for another score in last week’s 45-24 win at North Texas.
“The best duo of receivers in the country, probably,” Wilson said. “They’re dynamic. We have our hands full. We recognize it.”
Jarred Craft is the Bulldogs’ top rusher with 925 yards and six TDs.
“When you look in these young men’s eyes and all that they’ve gone through and the opportunity that’s before them now, here’s what I share with them: Everything that happened was supposed to happen. It was supposed to happen just the way it did, whether it was squandering leads early on in the year, whether it was a five-overtime loss.
“All those things that you go through, the adversity, builds the character of the man and it prepares you for moments like this. We own everything that we’ve gone through. We’ve grown from it. We’re better because of it. I just want the very best for this team.”
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