After their second straight conference win, the UTSA Roadrunners have proven their abilities. This is the first time in the school’s young history that they have started conference play 2-0. After a very shaky start to their 2018 campaign, the team has begun to find their footing and look forward to more victories in the future. They have fixed the mistakes that once made them so vulnerable. However, there are still some areas of concern that must be altered before the end of the season. If they fail to do so, the vigor’s of conference play may prove to be too difficult, leaving them left out of yet another bowl game.
Three Takeaways: UTSA v. Rice
UTSA came out of Houston with a 20-3 victory over the Rice Owls. However, the score does not depict the true story of this game. The play of both the Roadrunners and the Owls could be described as subpar. However, one team made far fewer mistakes which helped lead to a Roadrunner win by the end of the game. There were three key factors that helped secure UTSA’s second conference victory and show that this team may have what it takes to be the king of Conference USA.
In the first three games of the season, it appeared that the defense was weak and full of holes. However, three games later, they look like a completely different unit. They can all be seen working together as if attached by one string. It is incredible to witness the turn around of a group of men that once looked so detached and overpowered by opponents. In the game against Rice, the defense forced a total of four turnovers. Cassius Grady and Teddrick McGhee both got in the passing lane and intercepted passes. Previously, the Roadrunners were struggling to force turnovers and keep opposing offenses off the field. However, this new-found fire has given rise to elite play. The Roadrunners were also able to force three total fumbles, recovering two of them. This tough, hardnosed defense has been a driving force in their current three-game winning streak.
One standout player from Saturday night was C.J. Levine. The senior safety from Port Arthur, Texas was an absolute star for the defense. For the night, he accumulated ten total tackles, eight of them being solo. He helped in keeping wideouts in check by not allowing any easy completions. Shawn Stankavage only threw 15/27 for 158 yards and an interception. This phenomenal performance from the veteran safety made it so that the Owls were held to only a single field goal for the game. Les Maruo was another key defensive piece as he had eight total tackles and six solos. To go along with this, he also registered a sack and was constantly pestering the Rice quarterback.
Kicking and Punting Efficiency
After another game of being perfect on the field, Jared Sackett has proved to be as reliable as anyone else. He contributed to eight of the team’s 20 total points. Sackett was 2/2 on field goals, including one from 44 yards out. His reliability and consistency are key assets for the ‘Runners who often struggle to get the ball in the end zone. On drives where the offense cannot really get anything going, it is reassuring to have someone like Sackett kicking to get a couple of points on the board. He is the type of person every coach wants to have in the locker room and can always count on the young kicker.
Punter Yannis Roustas also had an incredible game for UTSA. He sent eight punts away for a total of 346 yards. He was also able to down three punts inside the twenty-yard line. While the punter and kicker for a team can often be overlooked, their performance must not go unappreciated. Roustas repeatedly pinned the Owls deep in their own territory making it difficult to gain any yards on these possessions.
It has not been a surprise to anyone that the quarterback situation at UTSA is unfavorable, however, this game against Rice proved that the struggles are real. Starting quarterback Cordale Grundy completed six passes out of 18 for an abysmal 33 yards. Having your number one option on the team pass for 33 yards is frightening. The Roadrunners were lucky that the defense overperformed and gave the offense solid field position. Without their help, the outcome could have resulted in a loss to the previous 1-4 Owls. This is very upsetting considering that through five games, Grundy has still not surpassed the 200-yard/game mark in passing. Eventually, this lack of production will catch up to the team exposing their offensive weaknesses. If opponents take the run game out of the equation, then it would be likely that offense would have little to no production.
Grundy must take pride in what he does. He must improve his performance if the Roadrunners want to continue to win games. Otherwise, Frank Wilson will have to investigate other options such as backup D.J. Gillins to add some offensive spark.
Next week, the Roadrunners will be playing host to the visiting Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. The Bulldogs will be looking to prove themselves and their 3-2 record and upset the Roadrunners at home. In order to come out on top, the ‘Runners will need to see better quarterback play and the continued success of the defense and special teams. If one of these areas do not step up, then it’s likely you will see their win streak come to an end.
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