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UTSA’s miracle season has come to an end as the Roadrunners fell to a strong San Diego State squad in the Frisco Bowl. We of course have a ton of season review and end-of-year content planned for you guys, but first let’s break down the Roadrunners’ performance in a game where they were missing many key players.
Brenden Brady wasted little time in reminding the fan base that he’s talented enough to be the starting running back on most G5 teams in America. Brady enjoyed a huge gain on this counter play on the opening drive, setting up UTSA’s first trip to the red zone and their first score on the evening. While Brady had a nice run here, the majority of the credit should go to the offensive line who flat-out dominated San Diego State in the first quarter.
The scheme here is very interesting, as UTSA adds a tight end split block to the counter to give two lead blockers for Brady. Terrell Haynes gets around the line quickly for the kick-out block, while Oscar Cardenas makes it to the second level to stand up the inside linebacker. Makai Hart also has a great block here as he gets up the field swiftly on his down block to create a massive hole for Brady. This play is just another bittersweet reminder of how great UTSA’s starting five offensive linemen were in 2021 when they were fully healthy. Haynes would leave the game after the first quarter and UTSA’s offense never really clicked after that.
The Roadrunners jumped out to a hot start on defense as well thanks to this well-timed third down blitz. Jamal Ligon was able to get to the quarterback untouched thanks to a wide speed rush from Clarence Hicks and an inside gap rush from Asyrus Simon. Since the Aztecs’ running back released for a route, SDSU had no one left at home to pick up the blitz. Ligon got to Lucas Johnson so quickly that Johnson had no chance to find a check down route as Charles Wiley covered the running back in the flat.
San Diego State blitzed UTSA more aggressively than maybe any other opponent this season. It granted them a big fourth and seven stop that looks a lot more important in hindsight than maybe it did at the time. The play call leads to one-on-one matchups for every UTSA receiver, but no one has time to create much separation. With a free blitzer bearing down on him, Frank Harris has to rush a throw out of Franklin which was just off the mark.
What’s most interesting to me about this play is Dan Dishman’s route in the middle of the field. I’ve drawn it out in a frozen frame in the gif. I’m not sure if this is an intentional “climb” route called for Dishman, or if Dishman adjusted the depth of his route when he noticed the middle linebacker playing drop coverage after feinting a blitz. Regardless of if this was the route called or not, the tight end needs to shorten his route to create a check down option for the quarterback in the middle of the field whenever the defense sends an all-out blitz like this. Learning opportunity for the young and promising athlete.
Ken Robinson got absolutely toasted on this second and eight play. I thought it was a bit strange at the time as UTSA has rarely played “bail out” technique with their corners this season. This is a coverage technique where the defender has his hips facing the quarterback instead of squared up with the receiver. This technique is very prone to outside routes, and that’s exactly what SDSU had dialed up on this play.
Unfortunately, even after the receiver cut to the outside on his route, Robinson was so focused on the quarterback that he didn’t even break out to adjust to the route until the ball was in the air. Just overall a kind of weird play that just didn’t look like UTSA football.
San Diego State was very deliberate about using motion to force Antonio Parks to be matched up with SDSU’s top receiver Jordan Matthews. Parks really struggled to be of any effect in pass coverage, as shown on the Aztecs’ first touchdown of the game. Matthews runs a deep out route and Parks is just too slow to follow Matthews out of his break. To make matters worse, Ken Robinson allows himself to get blocked into Parks, freeing Matthews up for a dive into the end zone.
UTSA having a pretty big chunk of contributors out for this game did have the upside of us getting to see some of the future stars of this team get extended run. I loved this big run from BJ Daniels because of the block from Dan Dishman to spring Daniels. Dishman is about 70 pounds short of Leroy Watson, but he doesn’t need to punish defenders the way Leroy did. All Dan needs to do is prevent the defender from making a play. He does exactly that on this run.
Loved to see super senior walk on Myles Benning throw a touchdown block on the goal line in his last game as a Roadrunner.
For as good as Dadrian Taylor has been at UTSA, it’s easy to forget that his younger brother Donyai was much more highly regarded coming out of Shiner High School. Many folks in the Shiner area told me that Donyai was a drastically better athlete than Dadrian, and would have a better career at the next level. Well Donyai, the bar has been set by big brother, and plays like these are what you’ll need to achieve consistently to surpass big bro. Tyler Mahnke comes on a run blitz and does a good job of stifling the running lane. The back has to attempt to cut back to the backside, but Donyai Taylor is explosive in space and catches the back behind the line of scrimmage for what should have been a turnover on downs.
This was a tough touchdown for UTSA to give up as they forced fourth and five and third and ten twice on this drive but still gave up a touchdown. When the pocket collapses SDSU quarterback Lucas Johnson rolls out to extend the play. SDSU’s receivers do a good job of running to open space, while Ken Robinson gets pulled out of his zone by the threat of the QB run and a dump pass to the tight end. Robinson abandoning his zone left a receiver wide open in the back of the end zone.
A bad play by Robinson, but it’s really just a tough position to be in as Johnson had three different options to pick up the touchdown. This is why keeping the quarterback in the pocket is so important. No defender can cover a receiver for more than a couple of seconds, so why the play is extended for this long it’s almost always bad news for the defense. A defensive line stunt ends up backfiring for UTSA as it leaves them without any outside containment when Johnson scrambles.
The two fourth and one attempts that UTSA failed to convert on were extremely brutal in a game where UTSA had little margin for error. I hated the play call on this one — not so much because of the play but rather due to the personnel on the play. Ernesto Almaraz has played some solid snaps for UTSA this year, but with all due respect, that’s not the guy I’d be running behind on fourth and one. Almaraz gets destroyed by the defensive tackle, preventing Terrell Haynes from pulling into the gap to deliver a lead block. Makai Hart gets a hard chip block at the line of scrimmage which slows his release to block the linebacker. All of this combines to make a turnover on downs, eventually giving the Aztecs their first lead in the game.
Unfortunately sometimes the old Frank Harris pops back up. Frank was 100% locked in on JT Clark on this play and never even checked the other side of the field to keep the centerfield free safety honest. There was also a ton of space for Frank to step up in the pocket to either take off and run for the first down or draw some defenders out of their coverage. Rough turnover when down seven in the second half.
Is JT Clark the most talented player to suit up for UTSA on the offensive side of the ball? I think there’s more than an argument to be made. I can’t wait to see what he looks like with another offseason working with Coach Stein.
The trick plays really didn’t work out well for UTSA, but this hook and ladder screen was absolutely beautiful. Fantastic down field blocking from Oscar Cardenas and JT Clark turn a short play into an explosive one.
Exceedingly rare sack allowed by Spencer Burford. The Aztecs used a crazy defensive alignment on this play which I think confused Spencer. SDSU had a nose tackle lined up out wide on a two point stance, while the defensive end stunted into the middle of the line. Burford went to chip the end but wasn’t able to get back to cover the stand-up edge quick enough.
I’ll wrap things up here as I have a family Christmas to get to. I hope you guys have enjoyed our film breakdowns this season! It really warms my heart to hear that these have helped some of you learn the game better. Looking forward to 14 more of them in 2022.
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