Alright, time for a quick preview of the game from Houston before I head off to Huntsville.
First, some injury news:
SS Lekenwic Haynes will be playing his first game in a UTSA uniform. The Ole Miss transfer missed the first month of the season with a foot injury, but should be good to go today. Even though he’s listed behind Nic Johnston as the backup Dawg safety, I would expect the coaching staff to occasionally play them both at the same time, moving Johnston to Rover.
WR Earon Holmes will be making his long awaited debut today as well. As the tallest wide receiver on the roster (6’4″ – behind only Marlon Smith, David Morgan and a few offensive lineman) he was one of Soza’s favorite targets last fall. He might not be used too much today, but expect some big plays out of Holmes throughout his career at UTSA.
Another WR coming back from injury is Jake Wanamaker, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury. He has also been one of Soza’s go-to receivers, especially in the red zone, scoring touchdowns in both the Spring Game and inaugural game, as well as a team-leading three TDs last fall.
Check out my 2010 scrimmage statistics to see how much of an impact Wanamaker and Holmes had on the passing game last year, as they were the top two in both yards and touchdowns before Kam Jones made the full-time switch to WR.
So with that, let’s jump right into some analysis.
In the first two games of the season, Soza averaged 246 yards/game, while he struggled in the next two contests passing for only 149 yards/game. I think the biggest factor in that drop off was injuries to three of our top four receivers. Wanamaker was out with his ankle injury for both games, while Armstrong and Jones both struggled through their own injuries from the Southern Utah game.
I will hold off on passing any Soza judgement (and possibly getting #SozaSlump trending on Twitter) until I see how he does against an FCS opponent this week, with his receiving corps almost entirely healthy. Throw Holmes back into the mix, along with the other three guys who have been hurt, as well as Brandon Freeman, the one starter who managed to stay healthy, and we’ve got a pretty solid group of wide receivers for Soza to throw to.
The other hot topic this week seems to be how the Sam Houston running game (268 yards/game) will fare against the Roadrunner run defense (allowing only 57 yards/game). The Bearkats are lead by star running back Tim Flanders, who has amassed over 100 yards rushing in each of the team’s three games this season.
But don’t let that 57 yards/game deceive you; this game will be tough for the young defense.
I won’t use the Northeastern State or Bacone games for comparison, since they haven’t played against any other D-I teams, but let’s take a look at how we did in our other two games.
In our lone FCS contest to date, we allowed 118 rushing yards from Southern Utah on 3.47 yards per carry. Through four games, the Thunderbirds have only averaged 94 yards/game and 3.19 yards/carry, which makes UTSA’s stats look a little less impressive.
On to the McMurry game, where UTSA held the War Hawks to just three rushing yards on 20 carries. You might be thinking, how can a 0.15 yard/carry average make our run defense look bad? Well, McMurry only managed 21 rusing yards against Division III Mary Hardin-Baylor. They just don’t have a very good run offense.
With that said, the main thing to take away from the statistics is that the Roadrunners haven’t faced a team that likes to run the ball, and especially none who could rack up 268 yards/game against a D-I schedule. This will be the one game this year that really defines the UTSA run defense, and will be a good measuring stick for what the defensive unit needs to do going forward.
After all the dust settles, UTSA will mostly likely lose this game, but if the offense can click with a healthy group of WRs and the run defense can use its momentum to hold off a potent Sam Houston run game, then the Roadrunners might just make this game interesting.
For those of you who aren’t making the trip to Huntsville, you can watch the game live on goUTSA.com. If it’s anything like the Southern Utah game, it will be completely free, so don’t sign up for the Rowdy Zone service thinking that you need to pay for it, as many of us did (myself included).
If you want to discuss the game while you watch, check out Rowdyville.net or Dan McCarney’s live game chat. If you can’t figure out how to get the video stream working, ask around on either of those and someone should be able to help you out.
Alright, that’s it for today’s preview. See you in Huntsville!