Roadrunners race to 45-25 upset of Middle Tennessee on road

SAN ANTONIO – The UTSA Roadrunners gave head coach Frank Wilson a birthday gift Saturday he'll remember for years to come, upsetting Middle Tennessee 45-25 in a Conference USA game at Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

UTSA, which was a 20-point underdog, improved to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in C-USA play. MT dropped to 6-3 and 3-2. Saturday's victory pulled the Roadrunners to within one game of C-USA West Division leader Louisiana Tech (7-3, 5-1) heading into their clash next Saturday in Ruston, La. The win also moved UTSA within one victory of becoming bowl eligible, and avenged a 42-7 loss to the Blue Raiders in last year's season finale for the Roadrunners. 

Wilson, who was hired in mid-January to succeed fired coach Larry Coker, turned 43 Saturday. He was an assistant coach at LSU for six seasons before landing his first college head-coaching job. 

"I'm very pleased with the outcome of the game," Wilson said Saturday. "We started fast, which has been our tendency lately. I thought we did that offensively as well as defensively. It helps that we were able to to create some turnovers. That was our second week in a row forcing four turnovers, which was tremendous for our football team." 

The Blue Raiders were dealt a blow when quarterback Brent Stockstill, one of the top passers in the country, left the game with a right-shoulder injury with about four minutes left in the first quarter. Stockstill completed 8 of 11 passes for 98 yards and a TD before going to the bench for the remainder of the game.

Backup John Urzua completed 14 of 27 passes for 161 yards and a TD, but had three attempts intercepted and was sacked three times.

"We have to give them credit," said MT coach Rick Stockstill, the father of the quarterback. "They whooped us today. In the first half, they scored on the first four out of five possessions. We couldn't stop them. We didn't do good on defense. It was almost to where we had to score on every possession. "

"The defense couldn't get off the field. We weren't very good on third down on either side of the ball. It wasn't a pretty sight. We're disappointed to lose key players, but we can't make those excuses."

UTSA was in control throughout most of the game, leading 14-7 after one quarter and 28-10 at the half. The Roadrunners were ahead 42-17 heading into the final period. Junior quarterback Dalton Sturm scored UTSA's last TD on a 1-yard run with 52 seconds left in the third quarter. Victor Falcon's 38-yard field goal with 4:10 left capped the scoring for the Roadrunners.

UTSA's defense wreaked havoc on the Blue Raiders, intercepting three passes, recovering a fumble and recording six tackles for loss, including five sacks. MT had allowed a total of only five sacks in its previous eight games. The Roadrunners' margin of victory could have been larger, but they scored only seven points off the four takeaways. 

Junior linebacker La'Kel Bass led UTSA's defensive effort with nine tackles, two sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Senior safety Michael Egwuagu made his sixth career interception and had eight tackles.

Senior running back Jarveon Williams set the pace for the Roadrunners' offense, rushing for 109 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. The teams were about even in total offensive yardage, with UTSA outgaining MT 378-369. The Roadrunners churned out 270 yards on the ground, and held the Blue Raiders to only 110 rushing yards.

Sturm completed 9 of 19 passes, with one interception, for 108 yards. The Roadrunners didn't allow a sack after giving up five in last week's 31-17 win over North Texas.

MT went into the game averaging 538.5 yards in total offense – 188.6 rushing and 349.9 passing. The Blue Raiders were ranked No. 9 among FBS teams in total offense and No. 11 in passing offense.

Stockstill, a redshirt sophomore, had completed 223 of 351 passes (63.5 percent), with five interceptions, for 2,689 yards and 26 TDs. Stockstill ranked No. 8 among FBS quarterbacks in passing yardage and was tied for sixth in TD passes.

"Obviously, we didn't play very well," Brent Stockstill said. "We didn't play very well as an offense and I don't think we played very well anywhere across the board. They really just kicked our tail, I guess you could say. You'll have those games. They were better than us today, but we'll bounce back and get better moving forward."

The Roadrunners held Blue Raiders running back I'Tavius Mathers to 93 yards on 15 carries and kept him out of the end zone. He entered the game as the eighth-leading rusher in the FBS with 1,066 yards and 12 TDs.

UTSA GAMEDAY: Roadrunners face mighty task against Middle Tennessee

UTSA (4-4, 3-2 C-USA) vs. Middle Tennessee (6-2, 3-1 C-USA)
Kickoff: 1:30 p.m., Saturday, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Last meeting: Middle Tennessee 42, UTSA 7, Nov. 28, 2015, Alamodome
Series record: Middle Tennessee leads 1-0
Notable: UTSA coach Frank Wilson turns 43 Saturday.

SAN ANTONIO – UTSA was down this road just two weeks ago, needing a victory to push its overall record to over .500 this late in the season for the first time since 2013.

The Roadrunners were a play away from doing that in a five-overtime thriller against UTEP on Oct. 22, but they couldn’t put the Miners away and lost the longest game in C-USA history 52-49.

UTSA bounced back with a 31-17 victory against North Texas last week at the Alamodome, climbing to 4-4 overall and 3-2 in C-USA play.

After playing at home the past two weeks, the Roadrunners will be on the road for the next three Saturdays. After facing Middle Tennessee today and Louisiana Tech on Nov. 12 in C-USA games, UTSA goes up against Texas A&M in College Station on Nov. 19. The Roadrunners end the regular season against Charlotte on Nov. 26 at the Alamodome.

UTSA coach Frank Wilson described MT as the “most complete team” the Roadrunners have faced this season. “They’re good all over the place,” he said.

UTSA is a 20-point underdog against the Blue Raiders, who rolled to a 42-7 win over the Roadrunners in their regular-season finale last year at the Alamodome. The game turned out to be the last at UTSA for Larry Coker, who was fired Jan. 5 after going 26-32 in the Roadrunners’ first five seasons.

Wilson, who turns 43 on Saturday, was hired in mid-January to succeed Coker. The Roadrunners have been up and down this season, but getting back on track last week after the gut-wrenching loss to UTEP was critical considering the road grind they face.

Wilson was asked this week if he had seen any film of MT’s rout of UTSA in their first meeting last year.

“I started to and then I just stopped it,” Wilson said.

The Blue Raiders outgained the Roadrunners 456-292 in total offense and scored 21 points off three turnovers, including a 34-yard interception return by safety Alex Dale that gave MT a 35-0 lead with nine seconds left in the third quarter.

MT returns 40 lettermen, including Dale and 13 other starters, from the 2015 team that finished 7-6 and lost in the Bahamas Bowl.

“Defensively, just the way they’re sound in what they do,” Wilson said, when asked what jumped out at him when he saw film on this season’s Blue Raiders squad. “They’re a 4-3 (defensive alignment) team. They’re big, physical athletic guys that are experienced. Fifth-year players, four-year players.

“The thing that stands out most is just their maturity, their poise. You see those guys get aligned, and get where they need to be, and although at times they’ve given up yardage or points, you have to earn it. Their secondary is extremely talented.”

Wilson also had good things to say about the MT offense, which is averaging a whopping 538.5 yards – 188.6 rushing and 349.9 passing. The Blue Raiders rank No. 9 among FBS teams in total offensive yardage and No. 11 in passing offense.

Quarterback Brent Stockstill, a redshirt sophomore, has completed 223 of 351 passes (63.5 percent), with five interceptions, for 2,689 yards and 26 TDs. Stockstill, the son of MT head coach Rick Stockstill, ranks No. 8 among FBS quarterbacks in passing yardage and is tied for sixth in TD passes.

Senior running back I’Tavius Mathers ranks No. 6 nationally with 1,066 yards on 157 carries (6.8 average) and 12 TDs. The Blue Raiders also have an outstanding receiver, Richie James, who is on the Biletnikoff Award Watch List. James is No. 8 among FBS receivers with 68 catches for 1,032 yards and eight TDs this season.  

MT, which has scored at least 30 points in every game this season, is the only FBS team that has a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver.

“Offensively, they’re a very good unit,” Wilson said. “They’re very well balanced in the passing game as well as the running game. I think their quarterback has a quick release. He’s extremely accurate. He’s athletic. They’re a perimeter-run predominant team, with the ability to make vertical cuts after they stretch a defense one way or the other. Their offensive line is experienced and is a good group as well.”

North Texas outgained UTSA 409-318 in total offensive yardage last week, but the Roadrunners’ defense had four takeaways – two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. UTSA capitalized on two of the turnovers for 10 points.

The Roadrunners haven’t been over .500 overall this late in the season since they beat North Texas 21-13 on Nov. 23, 2013. They beat Louisiana Tech for their fifth consecutive victory the following week, finishing the season 7-5.  

MT has won two in a row after losing to Western Kentucky 44-43 in a C-USA game, beating Missouri 51-45 on Oct. 22 and Florida International 42-35 last week. The Blue Raiders also lost at Vanderbilt 47-24 in their second game of the season.

(© 2016 KENS)


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