Looking for positives in a 28-point loss is kind of like trying to find something good in a test paper you get back dripping with red ink.
But UTSA coach Larry Coker was resolute Monday while reflecting on San Jose State's 52-24 rout of the Roadrunners in a WAC game Saturday at the Alamodome.
Coker was upbeat despite facing the prospect of seeing his team play its second consecutive game without starting quarterback Eric Soza, who sustained a hip injury in the first half of the Roadrunners' 34-14 loss to Rice on Oct. 13.
Soza returned later in the second quarter against the Owls and played the entire second half, but he watched Saturday's Homecoming game from the sideline in street clothes.
UTSA's lackluster first half -- the Roadrunners trailed 28-0 in the first quarter and 38-10 at halftime -- Soza's injury, the play of backup quarterback Ryan Polite, and the team's six turnovers were the main topics of discussion at Coker's weekly session with the media Monday.
"As one great coach said, 'You have to avoid losing to give yourself a chance to win,' and we didn't do that on Saturday," Coker said. "With the turnovers we had, there was no way we could have beaten anybody on Saturday.
"Fundamentally, we need to correct those things. Give San Jose State credit. They are the best team we have played so far."
That opinion probably will change after UTSA, 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, takes on highly regarded Utah State (6-2, 2-0) at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Alamodome.
"From what I have seen on Utah State, they look like a top-25 team," Coker said.
Soza's status is 'day to day'
UTSA, which has lost two consecutive games after starting the season 5-0, trailed San Jose State 31-0 before running back Evans Okotcha took a screen pass from Polite and turned it into a 69-yard TD with 11:01 left in the half.
But the Spartans (5-2, 1-1) stunned the Roadrunners when Tyler Ervin scored on a 92-yard kickoff return 14 seconds later.
UTSA lost five of six fumbles and had a pass intercepted, and the Spartans capitalized on four of the turnovers for 24 points.
"We've got to do things right to make it a dogfight," Coker said."If we turn it over, the dogfight's over,"
Coker said Soza, a junior who had started every game since UTSA kicked off its inaugural season last year, has a fracture in in his right hip and his status is listed as "day to day."
"He's not ruled out for Saturday, but we'll know more as the week progresses," Coker said. "He walks just fine, but then again, the running and the concern about contact, that's the major issue."
On Saturday after the game, Coker said Soza probably wouldn't play against Utah State and could be sidelined for the rest of the season.
Polite passed for school-record 302 yards in first start
The Roadrunners had their usual day off Monday, but Soza practiced with the team Sunday.
"It was a guarded practice," Coker said. "We didn't have pads yesterday. We were out in shorts, but he ran around pretty well. He wants to get out there. He hasn't missed anything ever in his career, so this is very, very hard on him. It's certainly hard on the coach also."
Soza was unavailable for comment Monday.
Polite completed only 2 of 6 passes for 7 yards in the first quarter, but went on to throw for two TDs and a school-record 302 yards in his first collegiate start. He hit 20 of 32 attempts and was intercepted once.
"He made some unbelievable throws, but he missed some of the easy stuff," Coker said. "I believe he was rushing himself a bit and trying to get his eyes upfield rather than focusing on the play. I think he played pretty well and he wasn't the reason we lost the game."
Utah State rolled past San Jose State 49-27 on Oct. 13 before routing New Mexico State 41-7 Sunday. UTSA beat New Mexico State 35-14 in its WAC opener.
Utah State's two defeats have been by a combined five points -- 16-14 at Wisconsin and 6-3 at Brigham Young.
Coker: Utah State has balanced offense
"They are very physical up front and they run the ball well," Coker said of the Aggies. "One of their running backs (Kerwy Williams) is an NFL-type player. We can't worry too much about them and forget about us.
"We have to play better and only try to control what we can control. We need to protect the ball and not turn over the ball, and we need to play well on special teams. They are a very good team and those mistakes we made last Saturday cannot be made this Saturday."
Williams has rushed for 795 yards on 131 carries for seven TDs this season.
"They are balanced with the run and the pass," Coker said. "Their running back will be the best we will have seen so far. Their quarterback is athletic and can move around."
Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton has completed 170 of 254 passes for 2,015 yards and 16 TDs, and has been picked off four times.
Coker also talked up the Utah State defense.
"They are big and the thing they do well is they have a stemming front, which means they will line up and slide and won't hold still to get you hit them," he said. "They are the best defensive team we will have played to this point of the season."