This week, the UTSA Roadrunners once again went up against a power five school. The Roadrunners took their 0-2 record to Manhattan, Kansas, where they were bested by the Kansas State Wildcats. This is UTSA’s worst start since the 2015 season, a year in which they dropped their first four contests. Today, we chronicle UTSA’s defensive struggles and how they must improve through the conference season.
If this is indicative of what one could expect from the season, then the Roadrunner faithful will not have much to look forward to. The team has become consumed by their lack of production on the defensive end and it has shown. UTSA was outplayed and outperformed in all three games this year. In order to turn the season around, the team is going to need more than just hard work. Coach Frank Wilson needs his captains and leaders to light a fire under the team. He must demand more from them if they want to have a fighting chance to reach a bowl game, let alone a winning record.
UTSA’s Defensive Struggles
UTSA gave up 41 points to the Wildcats in their 41-17 loss. This is the third straight game in which the ‘Runners’ have given up five or more touchdowns to their opponents. The offense has not been great, however, in the last two games they have put up numbers that should have kept them in the game. The defense has been the biggest issue so far. They seem so weak in certain spots that making a stop on early down situations has become a large task. It is not one position that is causing the biggest concern, but rather all 11 players. The squad as a whole needs to come together and figure out what they need to do to turn it around. Giving up 120 total points through three games is bad for a defensive coordinator to have to witness.
Poor Secondary Play
After watching the horrendous performance against Kansas State, it is clear that the majority of the defensive problems exists in the secondary. Opposing quarterbacks have torched the defense through the air. Opponents are finding the weakest links on the field and are taking advantage. The secondary is the biggest contributor to UTSA’s losing record. Through three games, the secondary has given up a total of 925 passing yards. That comes out to an average of 308 yards through the air per game. Last week against Baylor, the secondary gave up an atrocious 403 receiving yards. As a team, the Bears averaged 15 yards per catch. Kansas State also beat the secondary twice for long touchdown grabs; one for 42 yards and another for 72 yards. The Roadrunners are repeatedly getting beat down the field by the long ball and it shows.
The secondary has also given up ten touchdowns to opposing offenses. To go along with this, there have been four opposing wideouts who have racked up more than 130 yards receiving against the struggling corners. This was especially prevalent in the Baylor game in which the defense gave up 136 and 133 yards to two different players. Now, one could say that the opposing teams have had better talent than the small division one school. However, the most staggering statistic of all is that they have no interceptions after three games. The average quarterback passer rating comes out to nearly 83. To put this into broader terms, there are only 10 quarterbacks averaging an 83 or better total QBR this year. Meaning, against top talent quarterbacks, the Roadrunners would allow some of the highest QBR’s seen in recent years.
Weak Defensive Front
Now, even though the secondary performance is the biggest issue, it doesn’t stray away from the issues of the defensive front. The defensive line has only contributed two sacks to the team’s overall six. They are not creating any pressure in the pocket. There have been very little plays in which the defense forced a quarterback knockdown or even made them escape the pocket. Each quarterback has been able to pick the defense apart. The quarterbacks are given too much time to survey the field and make their pass. The defensive line needs to get a push on the offensive line and force them into the backfield to apply the necessary pressure.
Quarterbacks tend to make wild throws and force passes in the pocket when they are rushed. The defensive front will then help the corners and safeties out by causing these difficult passes. Losing defensive superstar Marcus Davenport has proved to be an issue for the team. The team misses Davenport’s talent, passion, and his ability to fire up the team.
The linebacking core has not been terrible this entire year. However, they could also use some work. They have also been unable to force many sacks. They have only contributed one to the six that they have. Also, they have not forced any interceptions. The linebackers will force more turnovers if they fill gaps and help cover the tight ends and receivers. Through three games, the linebackers have also been unable to force any fumbles. The defensive line and secondary have recovered some fumbles. However, the linebackers have yet to make a real impact on the games thus far. Getting all facets of the defense involved will be the only way to improve their overall play. When all 11 players are on the same page, the defensive side of the ball will see substantial results.
The Roadrunners will be going up against the Texas State Bobcats next week in San Antonio. This rivalry will be the first real test that the ‘Runners will face in Conference USA. The defense must use this game to prepare for conference play if they expect to see any positive production from the team. The defense has its work cut out for them. One could expect to see changes made to either positional players or the defensive play calls in the coming weeks. One thing is for certain though, if the defense does not improve, this young team should not expect to see more than a handful of wins this season.