Every now and then, UTSA football coach Larry Coker reminds the fans and media that the Roadrunners are still a work in progress.
Indeed, UTSA's football "history" consists of 16 games since it kicked off its inaugural season last year.
Rice drove home Coker's point resoundingly Saturday, rolling to a methodical 34-14 victory against the Roadrunners in a nonconference game at Rice Stadium in Houston.
The Owls piled up 301 yards rushing, including 214 in the second half, and held UTSA to a season-low 239 yards of total offense in handing the Roadrunners their first loss of the season.
UTSA, 5-1 overall and 1-0 in the Western Athletic Conference, will play its first game at the Alamodome in nearly a month when it hosts San Jose State (4-2, 0-1) in a WAC matchup at 1 p.m. Saturday.
The Roadrunners haven't played on their home field since thrashing Northwestern Oklahoma State 56-3 on Sept. 22. They opened WAC play with a 35-14 victory at New Mexico State a week later and had an open date before meeting Rice.
"It's been a long time since we've played at home," Coker said Monday at his weekly session with the media. "That bye week helped us heal up a bit, but it hurt us a little because we were playing with a good rhythm going into that week. All that aside, it's going to be feel good back in the dome and I think we will have a big crowd with it being Homecoming.
San Jose State coming off 49-27 loss to Utah State
Coached by MacArthur High School graduate David Bailiff, Rice gashed the Roadrunners for 483 yards of total offense, a season-high for a UTSA opponent. The Owls' 301-yard rushing output also set a record for a UTSA opponent.
"We couldn't run the ball and we couldn't stop the run," Coker said. "Those are the two big things that stand out. They were really physical. We did not block them very well and they blocked us. Last year we were not strong enough and we had to get in the weight room in the offseason.
"Now we did that and it shows, but we are not quite there yet. We really have to raise our level to compete at that next level. Up front, it's a battle every play. Rice did a good job of being physical up front."
Coker said he was heartened by his team's attitude when it returned to practice Sunday.
"I didn't really know how it was going to be, but I can honestly say it was the best Sunday we have had since I have been here," Coker said. "The guys went out and were positive. They practiced fast and that's what we were looking for. For us to have an opportunity to win on Saturday, we have to put the work in and have a great week of practice. And that starts with the first one on Sunday."
San Jose State had won four in a row before falling to Utah State 49-27 on Saturday. The Spartans trailed only 28-20 at halftime before Utah State pulled away in the final two quarters.
San Jose State raised eyebrows in its season opener when it gave nationally ranked Stanford all it could handle before losing 20-17. The Spartans held the Cardinal to 280 yards of total offense.
UTSA faces tough stretch in WAC play
Quarterback David Fales completed 38 of 50 passes for 467 yards and three touchdowns, but was sacked a staggering 13 times in the loss to Utah State.
"He is a little more mobile than the New Mexico State quarterback was," Coker said of Fales. "He has a bunch of really good receivers. They run a version of the spread and really push the ball downfield. We have to put pressure on the quarterback and make him feel uncomfortable."
Saturday's game starts a tough stretch in WAC play for UTSA, which hosts Utah State (5-2, 1-0) on Oct. 27 and plays at Louisiana Tech (5-1) on the road the following week. Louisiana Tech's only loss came last weekend in a 59-57 thriller against Texas A&M.
"We knew our tougher games were going to be at the end of our schedule, and that's why it was critical to win those first five," Coker said. "I am really pleased with the progress we have made. We are a lot different than a year ago. We are a better team and better program. We also have a lot of room to grow and we know that."
Quarterback Eric Soza hurt his right hip in the Rice game, but returned to finish the game. Although still a little sore Monday, Soza said he will be ready to play against San Jose State.
"I think everyone on the team kind of got banged up a little bit, but we're all better," Soza said. "We are just getting back to work. I can't wait to play on Saturday."