UAB (4-1, 1-1) vs. UTSA (2-3, 1-1)
When, where: Saturday, 5 p.m., Alamodome
Series history: UAB leads 2-1
Last meeting: UAB 52, UTSA 3, Nov. 3, 2018, Birmingham
UAB last week: Defeated Rice 35-20, Birmingham
UTSA last week: Defeated UTEP 26-16, El Paso
SAN ANTONIO – Legendary Texas football coach Darrell Royal was asked in the early 1970s what he thought about the NCAA’s decision to make freshmen eligible to play.
Royal, who had a knack for saying the right thing at the right time, nailed it with his reply. “If a dog is going to bite you,” Royal said, “he’ll do it as a pup.”
UTSA freshman tailback Sincere McCormick has been taking big bites out of defenses since he was a 15-year-old freshman at Judson High School.
"We're not surprised," Roadrunners coach Frank Wilson said. "We expected it from him. We'll let his growth process continue as we go along."
As he approaches the midway point of his first collegiate season, McCormick is on pace to crack the 1,000-yard mark with seven games left on UTSA's schedule. He was outstanding in last week's 26-16 road victory against UTEP, running for 189 yards and a touchdown on 22 carries.
McCormick's rushing total broke the Roadrunners' single-game record of 186 yards, set by Jarveon Williams in 2015 against Charlotte. Williams also graduated from Judson.
UTSA, 2-3 overall and 1-1 in Conference USA, will rely on McCormick heavily again Saturday when it plays defending Conference USA champion UAB (4-1, 1-1) at the Alamodome. Kickoff for UTSA's 100th game is at 5 p.m.
McCormick averaged 8.6 yards per carry against UTEP, fueling a running game that piled up 320 yards. His only touchdown, a 51-yard run, put the Roadrunners up 26-10 with 4:02 left.
McCormick won't be allowed to speak to the media until next season because Wilson prohibits freshmen from talking to reporters.
UTSA recruited McCormick heavily long before his senior season at Judson. The Roadrunners' efforts paid off when McCormick signed with UTSA last December and enrolled at the school in January.
"He's a guy we identified early on," Wilson said. "He started early when most high school guys are still in high school, and not getting here until June or July. He started this process early on, went through an entire spring, went through an entire summer, a fall camp.
"He had a readiness and expectation of what to do on the field and how to conduct his business off the field. So, maturity beyond his years because he's been exposed to it earlier than most freshmen."
McCormick, 5-foot-9 and 200 pounds, played like an upperclassman last week. His rushing total is the most by any C-USA player this season, and his average of 6.6 yards per carry ranks second in the conference.
Wilson said McCormick has "all the intangibles that you look for at the running back position" when he was asked about McCormick's strengths.
McCormick is "a guy who's instinctive, a guy who is tough, a guy who has vision, great feet, that understands how to be patient, how to accelerate, and when he gets to the second level and beyond, have enough speed to go the distance," Wilson said. "And that they're all not 30, 40-yard gains.
"That to lower my pads and run between the tackles with knee drive, to pick up the tough three, four, five yards at times is OK as well. Those are things that young guys usually struggle with because they believe every play is a home run. They start becoming east-and-west runners riding sideways opposed to north and south where you can split two defenders."
UTSA broke out of a three-game skid with its victory last week in El Paso, where it is 4-0 since kicking off its first season in 2011. The Roadrunners routed Incarnate Word 35-7 in their opener, but were outscored 139-30 in losses to Baylor (63-14), Army (31-13) and North Texas (45-3).
Sophomore Lowell Narcisse will make his second start at quarterback in place of Frank Harris, who has been sidelined with an unspecified injury since taking only two snaps against North Texas.
Harris, a left-hander, was holding his right arm when he went to the sideline. Wilson declined to comment when asked about Harris' injury this week.
Narcisse rushed for 115 yards and one TD on 19 carries and passed for another score last week.
"He's doing well," Wilson said. "He's going day by day. Each day is a better day for him. The more he's exposed to it, the more reps he gets, the better he becomes."
Narcisse exudes a quiet confidence that has earned him the respect of his teammates.
"I am getting a better feel for the guys," Narcisse said. "Just getting a better understanding of looking at my tips and reminders of what to expect in certain things. Just the small things you constantly see and become muscle memory."
UTSA is 43-56 in the 99 games it has played since kicking off its first season in 2011, The Roadrunners are 25-24 at the Alamodome.
Wilson, who is in his fourth season at UTSA, was asked about the 100-game milestone.
"Here's the number: One," Wilson said. "We need just one. The 100th game is important for our university, for our program. But I've got to be honest with you. We want just one.
"We celebrate the number every day and the number is one. We need this one, this week, against the defending conference champions and it's the most precious number for us."