SAN ANTONIO — As the UTSA Roadrunners prepare to take the gridiron and kick off the 2022 season against the University of Houston Saturday afternoon, KENS 5's Vinnie Vinzetta reflects on the key moments in the program's journey up to this point.
Sept. 3, 2011: UTSA 31, Northeastern State 3
I was not there.
Bummer. Wish I’d been in the Alamodome that day, but that was life in the weekend sports chair at the time.
The first-ever game in program history. It gave me goosebumps taking the video feeds back at the station. That day was the birth of the program. It was emotional to watch the team run out of the tunnel for the first time, and to do it with 56,000-plus fans in the stands made for quite the remarkable program kickoff.
The Roadrunners beat little ol' Northeastern State, 31-3. Alabama would have beaten them 300 to nothing, but none of that hardly mattered. The day was the beginning of something special.
Sept. 7, 2013: OSU 56, UTSA 35
I was there.
For the first half. I missed the second half, and that was the important part. I had watched the third and fourth quarters on television, but was still able to understand what was happening from broadcast afar.
The score was 35-7 at the half. The final score was 56-35; that included UTSA outscoring OSU 28-0 in the final frame.
Now, keep in the mind the Cowboys were clearly playing down their depth chart at that point, fielding nothing but backups. But for that cast of Roadrunners almost 10 years ago, it proved something that I’ll submit had a lasting effect with the culture: It proved they could compete with a Big 12 program.
People noticed. Recruits noticed. I’ll never underestimate what that game has meant all these years later.
August 29, 2014: UTSA 24, Houston 7
I was not there.
I would have liked to have been. The Roadrunners opened their season at the University of Houston (also the opponent they'll face this weekend). The Cougars were not in a good place back then, and UTSA had a monster defensive line.
I just remember them stuffing UH running play after running play. It was amazing. The Cougars literally couldn’t get anything going on offense. And you know what was really funny about that? The Cougars opened their brand-new stadium that night. TDECU Stadium was christened with a not-so-memorable outing for home team, which would end up losing 24-7. #BirdsUp
Nov. 20, 2021: UTSA 34, UAB 31
I can’t remember if I was there.
Isn’t that weird? I remember the plays, but I can’t remember if I was watching on television or from the Alamdome press box. Let’s just say, for your sake, reader, that I was there.
The UAB rush attack had done whatever they wanted all day long. They rushed for 220 yards as a team. The Blazers had fourth-and-1 with a little more than one minute of game clock remaining. They were on the wrong side of the 50, yes, but again, UAB hadn’t really been stopped all day.
They had a 4-point lead and opted to punt, and the rest is history. I’m sure you remember the drive, the end result being that Frank Harris-to-Oscar Cardenas tipped pass that he secured on third-and-goal with three seconds left.
What a moment! I was shocked that Alabama-Birmingham didn’t go for that fourth-and-short. It would have been kneel-downs and running out the clock had they converted, but I can understand punting and putting it in the hands of your defense with very little time left. Who doesn't like a dramatic finish?
The Roadrunners would have one more regular season game left at North Texas, which didn’t go well. But the win over the Blazers clinched the west division and locked up their spot in the following week’s Conference USA Championship game.
Dec. 3, 2021: UTSA 49, Western Kentucky 41
I was there. I was definitely there.
What a night! I was fully vaccinated and boosted, but I was convinced that was the night I would end up positive with COVID-19, if I’m being honest. UTSA had a double-digit lead with six minutes and change left in the game. Western Kentucky was gonna have to do something really special to tie the score. I don’t think the game was as close as the final score indicated, but college football is never short on drama.
49-41 was the final score. And the most dramatic part of the night was local law enforcement and Alamodome crowd-control folks quickly realizing they weren’t stopping anybody. The moment had been 10 years in the making, and they were coming out of those stands.
And not just students; it seemed like everybody hit the turf for the celebration. We were packed in like sardines for the trophy presentation, literally fifteen deep to the protective gate railing (and that estimate is probably on the conservative side). I was convinced I was gonna catch you-know-what. Luckily I didn’t.
It was an amazing scene, but one I hope is better-policed if the Roadrunners battle their way to the same end result this year.
Sept. 3, 2022: UTSA vs. Houston
And that brings us to Saturday.
UTSA's most anticipated regular-season opener ever, minus the first one. You get it the picture: The No. 24 University of Houston Cougars have high expectations this year, and are the favorites.
But UTSA has been building to this moment for many years, and it is now here. The crowd is expected to be big. Not as big as the first game in program history, but big enough to prove that what Larry Coker, Frank Wilson and now Jeff Traylor have built over the years has spurred anticipation. We’re all looking forward to see what happens.
Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m.