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Last week I said it felt weird to be so encouraged after a 41-20 loss, this week it feels weird to feel so frustrated with a 52-24 win. The Roadrunners just didn’t look like a championship team against inferior competition. They’re not playing clean football, and they’re leaving a lot of opportunities out on the field. UTSA had several chances to put this game away early, but they couldn’t seem to seize those windows of opportunities, costing the team some very much needed rest time this week.
Additionally, some of the defensive schemes I saw from Jess Loepp left me scratching my head, while the inability to establish the run game against a lower-tier FCS program is frankly shocking and heavily concerning. Jeff Traylor’s teams have had a penchant for playing up or down to their level of competition, so hopefully that was just the case on Saturday and this team can bounce back on a short week to knock off Middle Tennessee on the road.
Let’s start taking a look at some plays that stood out to me against the Tigers last week.
From the second play of the game I knew UTSA was going to have some serious defensive issues. The alignment from Jess Loepp was very peculiar as UTSA lines up with just one inside linebacker inside the tackle box, and two high safeties. I really don’t know what led Loepp to believe this was an appropriate scheme to throw at Texas Southern. The Tigers have not really shown a deep passing game at all this season, and instead have moved the ball up and down the field with lateral passing. Their running backs are more of the power breed and have showed an ability to fight through the line for tough yardage.
None of what UTSA shows here makes sense. Sure enough the Tigers easily break through the line of scrimmage and pick up a big gain after an embarrassing tackle attempt from Clifford Chattman. Jamal Ligon also makes zero attempt to get off of his block. Poor game planning and non-existent physicality combine for a huge chunk yardage play for TSU right off the bat.
What amazing execution from Frank Harris on this play. We’re blessed as fans to be able to watch this guy go out and do his thing each week. This play looked to be a run-pass option with Frank keying on the coverage of Josh Cephus. UTSA sends Josh across the field in pre-snap motion and Frank is watching to see if TSU sits in a zone coverage which should leave Cephus open in space, or if the Tigers send a man across the field with Cephus.
Since TSU is in man, Frank goes with the run option on the play. The TSU defensive end sits on the read option, taking away the give to Brady. Harris is left with no option but to tuck it and run, so thankfully his offensive line does a good job of moving the pile. Note Ahofitu Maka’s big block at center, with Kevin Davis and Frankie Martinez driving the linebacker way out of the play. Brenden Brady even gets in on the blocking action as he picks up a safety off of the read at the mesh point. This gives Frank all the space he needs to operate, and he hurdles a defender as a little bonus on his way to the end zone.
It’s your weekly Trey Moore appreciation post. Weird play call from Texas Southern on third and nine but Moore stuck to his fundamentals and made a big time play. Moore took on a pulling blocker with violence, maintaining backside containment and finishing the tackle. Just can’t get enough of this guy, what a ball player.
Unfortunately Moore’s great play was for naught, as Kevorian Barnes coughed up the ball immediately after UTSA fielded the punt. There are two major issues on this play. First off, Frankie Martinez pretty much whiffed on his block, allowing the defender a free shot at an undersized running back. Aside the missed block, Barnes’ ball security here is pretty bad as he’s softly cradling the ball away from his body despite TSU having several defenders in the area. Quickest way to lose snaps as a young running back.
Really ugly look for UTSA’s linebackers on this touchdown from TSU. Ligon bites hard on the dive option, which was a huge mistake with Trey Moore flying in on the edge which is to be expected in a goal line defense. Trevor Harmanson doesn’t seem to read the play right either, as he’s unable to get across the field to provide any help. Kelechi Nwachuku is stuck between a rock and a hard place with a man coverage assignment on his side of the field which prevented him from selling out to stop the run. Again, just a really bad scheme from UTSA given the scenario, and poor discipline from Ligon to not play his responsibility against the keeper.
Safe to say UTSA has found their return specialist for the next few years. Chris Carpenter flashed a type of speed we haven’t seen on kick returns since the Brett Winnegan era. While Carpenter’s speed was impressive, the blocking here was equally encouraging. Of course Zah Frazier sending the kicker flying is hard to miss, but the right upback (I think Jacorey Hyder? Maybe Camron Cooper?) absolutely demolishes the gunner to set up the return alley.
Best pass rush of the day from the UTSA defense. Nick Booker-Brown goes unblocked and he flies through the backfield to get Andrew Body off of his position. Would like to see Booker-Brown control his movement a bit better here to make some solid contact on the quarterback, but fortunately Donyai Taylor shows great pursuit to work his way around bodies and come in for a sack to finish the play and force a punt.
Boy this run fit from UTSA was truly awful! Brandon Brown tries to play hero ball as he abandons his gap with a pull move to try to make a big play for himself. This move throws his blocker directly into Martavius French who was in a great position to fill the A gap if Brown hadn’t made a selfish play. To make matters worse, Kelechi Nwachuku takes a really poor angle of pursuit on the running back, letting what should have been a short first down run turn into an explosive play.
Another red zone trip for Texas Southern and another keeper for an easy touchdown. The Tigers spread UTSA out, causing the linebacker responsible for the quarterback keeper to be lined up out wide in coverage. More bad scheme/alignment for UTSA.
UTSA calls off-tackle on third and medium but Tye Edwards gets stuffed in the backfield. While I would argue that a power back like Edwards has to break a shoe-string tackle like this, Terrell Haynes really dropped the ball in getting to the second level. Haynes attempts a simple shoulder check of the linebacker but doesn’t make strong enough contact to throw the linebacker off of his blitz and give Edwards time to bounce it outside. Haynes absolute has to get his helmet on the play side against the blitzer, but he fails to move his feet quickly enough to make that happen.
Of all of UTSA’s missed opportunities against Texas Southern, this one has probably stuck with me the most. TSU is outside of field goal range with just 18 seconds remaining in the first half. The Roadrunners get four different chances to land a hard hit on Body and force a sack which probably ends the drive for TSU. Not much of a killer instinct or headhunting going on from the defense on this play, which is something we saw a lot of throughout the game. Allowing Body to throw the ball away kept the drive going, and the Tigers were able to get down into the red zone to add on three very preventable points before the half.
UTSA started the second half with a bang with this 70 yard touchdown toss from Frank Harris to JT Clark. The pass protection held up pretty well with a tight end and running back helping to pick up the man blitz. Harris places the ball well, and Clark flashes all of his physical tools on this touchdown — the focus and hands to pull the ball in, the strength to run right through a tackle, then the speed to break away from the linebacker in pursuit. Beautiful play.
Nick Booker-Brown and Trumane Bell get caught in the same gap on this first down scramble from Andrew Body. I’m not sure if this was a defensive line stunt that was poorly executed, or if one of the players just abandoned their gap to try to get a better pass rush going. Both guys seem to fire into the A gap which is (again) a very poor defensive scheme. Either way, it’s an automatic first down when you give a dual-threat like Body two massive rushing lanes to choose from like this. More sloppy play from the UTSA defense.
This is frankly really embarrassing stuff for the UTSA defense. If you’re going to play with a light tackle box like this you HAVE to be the more physical team on the field. Even with some good backfield penetration from Lamonte McDougle, UTSA is still unable to stuff this third down run. Ronald Triplette and Trey Moore both run to the outside (why?) to leave the C gap WIDE open. Jamal Ligon tries to dance around the offensive linemen instead of delivering a forceful punch and protecting the gap which causes him to get pancaked by an FCS lineman. Then Clifford Chattman sheepishly comes downfield after several stutter steps to get himself absolute truck-sticked against a TEXAS SOUTHERN running back. UTSA should honestly be ashamed of the way they let such an inferior team dictate the physicality of the game. The Roadrunners would have gotten boat raced by a more talented team on Saturday.
One play after being physically humiliated, Chattman then commits an egregious mental mistake that should have led to a TSU touchdown. Before the snap you can see Nicktroy Fortune point to Chattman to tell him to take the high zone against TSU’s trip receivers. Chattman’s eyes instead get drawn to the corner route which Fortune was assigned to. This leads the post route wiiiiide open. Thankfully for UTSA the receiver dropped the sure touchdown. We’ve seen Chattman make this same mistake several times this season, and I’m really worried about what strong passing offenses like WKU can do to this defense if these issues aren’t cleaned up.
I don’t want to harp on Frankie Martinez too much as it’s simply unfair for him to be expected to play as much as he is as a true sophomore walk-on, but I included this play as another reminder of how being down so many offensive tackles makes it incredibly difficult for UTSA to run the football. Martinez just completely whiffs on his block, giving the defensive end a full head of steam to wallop Brenden Brady in the backfield. I feel bad for Frankie that he’s put into these situations. Hopefully the Roadrunners get at least one of their tackles back for conference play this week.
Now THIS is the type of physicality I’m looking to see from Clifford Chattman 🙂 Not a great job by Harmanson to contain the edge, but he at least slows down the back enough to give Chattman time to come down field to assist with the drive-ending tackle. Big play from the defense at a time when they really needed one to start to separate from TSU.
It happened way later than it should have, but UTSA finally starts to dominate the game following Chattman’s big tackle. The pass protection holds up against a three-man rush, giving Frank Harris time to find a wide open Josh Cephus on a skinny post route. TSU pays a huge amount of respect to Frank Harris’s legs on this play, as all three linebackers are hyper focused on Frank potentially scrambling as he steps up into the box. Nice touch on this throw from Frank.
Very ugly whiffed tackle from Chace Davis who clearly has a lot of development ahead of him before he can be depended upon for important snaps. Davis showed some good length when working the line of scrimmage but this lack of situational awareness and poor tackling form won’t earn him much playing time moving forward.
More terrible gap discipline from UTSA, again leaving the C gap wide open. Great play call from Texas Southern, but this should have been snuffed out had UTSA played sound assignment football. Bad gap responsibility turns into a touchdown after the other interior linebacker gets pancaked, and Kelechi Nwachuku just dives at the ground instead of attempting a form tackle.
What a lovely play design from Will Stein to kick off the fourth quarter. UTSA fakes an orbit-motion jet sweep to Zakharl Franklin, while Frank Harris rolls out to his right. The offensive line pulls in masse, while Frank throws it back to Zakhari with over a thousand pounds of blockers in front of him. Easy touchdown.
Jess Loepp dials up a great zone blitz with TSU facing third and long and the defense gets home quickly, with at least three Roadrunners bringing pressure on the play as UTSA shows off their team speed with their second string defense. Avery Morris is in the right place at the right time as Andrew Body rushes his throw to avoid the incoming onslaught of Roadrunners. Morris has been a real success story for the Roadrunners this year as he’s finally developed into a dependable backup linebacker on the interior.
Got to love this impressive back shoulder throw from Eddie Lee Marburger in a pretty tight window. The ball looked really live coming out of Eddie Lee’s hand in his limited playing time. Run the play back again and take a close look at Ben Rios at left tackle. Picture perfect form from the true freshman to get up underneath the defender’s shoulder pads like that. With that kind of technique… Rios can be an absolute stud if he crushes it in the weight room over the next few years.
How freaking good is JT Clark? It feels like he hung in the air for two full seconds here. Pretty nice ball from Eddie Lee as well. These two obviously have a very natural connection together. If Frank moves on next season I would love to see JT come back for another year and play pitch and catch with Eddie Lee for a season before JT goes to the league.
👀 Caden Holt made his presence FELT on the last play of the game. The young man looked like he was shot out of a cannon on this play. It’s rare to see this type of play recognition, speed, and sound tackling from UTSA’s linebacker unit. Hopefully Holt can continue to develop into playing more snaps as this play was very impressive, even if the game was more than decided at this point.
JT Clark – Easy selection with JT breaking the single-game receiving yards record. Just a man amongst boys out there. Can’t believe how often TSU left him in single coverage.
Donyai Taylor – UTSA really missed Dadrian Taylor’s presence on the field against Texas Southern, but his brother Donyai did a pretty good job of holding things down while Dadrian healed up his arm injury.
Chris Carpenter – It finally happened! We’ve been waiting over a decade for the first kick return touchdown in school history, and Carpenter made it happen. What a great start to that young man’s career as a Roadrunner.
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