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UTSA has a week to step back and gather their breath after a high-octane shoot out against the now-heartbroken Bobcats. The Roadrunners played at a pace never seen before in the program, and it certainly took a lot out of wind out of the guys.
Nonetheless, they preserved, secured the win, and are ready for their first home game of the year. UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor will have the privilege of facing his alma mater in the first game he calls under the Alamodome roof, a pleasure that Larry Coker also enjoyed in 2011. Let’s hope Jeff enjoys the same level of success against his alma mater that Larry did.
Last week UTSA saw eight players sit out due to Covid-19 testing protocols, as well as a few non-Covid health scratches. All of those players are expected to be out this week as well. While the players held out due to contact tracing last week return to practice today, they won’t play this weekend due to that lack of practice.
UTSA will also be without starting middle linebacker Tyler Mahnke. While Mahnke struggled against Texas State, he leaves behind two true freshman on the depth chart in the wake of his hand injury. Jamal Ligon will step into the starting role, with Avery Morris backing him up. Ligon looked promising last week, but he’ll be tested against two solid running backs in the Lumberjacks’ backfield.
Speaking of challenges, I’m looking forward to seeing how Tariq Woolen and Corey Mayfield Jr. handle SFA standout wide receiver Xavier Gipson. A Freshman All-American last season, Gipson had a huge game against UTEP in week one. Woolen and Mayfield should match up well with Gipson athletically, but his ability to cut out of his breaks and find open space is what makes him so effective.
On the offensive side of the ball, UTSA will need to keep up the breakneck tempo that they showed against Texas State. Not necessarily because they’ll need it to wear down the Lumberjacks, but because the Roadrunners need the conditioning. UTSA really wore down in the second half last week, a display of extreme fatigue that nearly led to their demise. The Roadrunners will need to get whipped into shape if they’re to continue running 90 plays a game on offense through the duration of the season.
One matchup that should be fun to watch will be the battle of the goliaths in the middle of the field. UTSA center Ahofitu Maka was excellent against Texas State last week and now he’ll be tasked with matching his 320 pound frame with that of SFA nose tackle Carl Williams’ 360 pound frame. The sumo match in the A gap will be poetry in motion as Williams has the natural talent to develop into an NFL caliber player.
Since UTSA didn’t vertically stretch the field much against Texas State’s talented secondary, it’s critical that the Roadrunners take some shots deep downfield so that Frank Harris can bolster his chemistry and timing with his wideouts. The Roadrunners kept the playbook to a minimum last week, so another week of practice should provide Barry Lunney’s offense with time to implement a few designed deep shots.
Success for the Roadrunners likely won’t be measured in the spread of the final score, but rather the number of snaps UTSA is able to spread out across the roster. Given the strange and unpredictable nature of the 2020 season, it’s imperative that the Roadrunners have 30+ guys ready to go on both sides of the ball.
UTSA needs to make sure whoever the back up quarterback is gets some snaps in (preferably with the 1’s), and the freshmen get a few good licks in against a Division I opponent.
It’s extremely likely that UTSA wins comfortably, even covering the 14.5 point spread, but the Roadrunners shouldn’t sleep on the Lumberjacks. SFA Head Coach Colby Carthel is a terrific coach and will get the most out of his limited roster. While the Lumberjacks have practically no depth to speak of, they have several Power 5 transfers that can easily compete at this level. It wouldn’t surprise me to see SFA have a couple of really impressive drives on Saturday, but the Roadrunners’ tempo and depth should allow them to overcome any early game rust.
Prediction: SFA 10 UTSA 34
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