How Sweet It Is – Bacone College Recap

Eric Soza shows love after the win. Pic via mysa.com
Sandwiched between two road games against nationally-ranked FCS opponents, 2011’s Homecoming game was an opportunity for UTSA to bolster their confidence before making the three hour trek to Huntsville next week to face a very salty opponent. A 54-7 romp of NAIA opponent Bacone College (hopefully) provided a renewed sense of confidence and swagger for a team that had been severely lacking in composure in several facets of the game the past two weeks. 
Defensive pass coverage and special teams play were improved ten-fold; a monumental step up from weeks Two and Three, even if this showing came against lesser talent. Today’s win proved the answer for a crucial question in UTSA’s first year of football: This team full of inexperienced freshmen showed that they can in fact correct deficiencies in their game, perhaps a response to strong coaching. Bacone only picked up one yard from UTSA’s three punts, and 101 yards on eight (!) kick offs for an average of 12.6 yards per kickoff return. UTSA also blocked a punt near the Warriors’ end zone and recovered a muffed punt to set up the Roadrunners’ first of many touchdowns of the day. Sean Ianno did a magnificent job, going 4 for 4 on field goals (21, 25, 42, 45 yards) and averaging 67.1 yards on kickoffs, resulting in three touchbacks and horrible field position for the Warriors for the duration of the game.
UTSA’s defense terrorized Bacone for four quarters, forcing the Warrriors to punt ten times, netting Bacone a mere 260 yards of offensive production. Coach Neathery’s staff was only one play away from pitching a shutout, as a brain-fart in coverage allowed the Warriors to get on the board with a wide-open 71 yard touchdown pass. If you were to negate that play, Bacone would have only amassed 118 yards through the air in their spread offense, a telling statistic for the UTSA D. Most importantly, Bacone converted only three of their 15 third down attempts. As I’m sure all of our astute readers are well aware, the Roadrunners have had a very tough time containing opposing offenses on third down this season with McMurry and Southern Utah both racking up third and fourth down conversions with ease.
We’re starting to see a sense of stability in the secondary with the addition of Erik Brown at cornerback. Starling and Brown give the defense two guys that they can trust to make plays on the corners. Starling had yet another great performance with four tackles and two pass break ups. Darrien was crashing in on receivers hard, jarring the ball out of the opponents’ hands with strong licks. Starling did make one big mental mistake when he released off of his coverage in an attempt to come down with an interception that he narrowly missed. His coverage assignment ended up catching the ball instead and picked up a first down. That’s a play I’m willing to let fly since it’s an easy six points if Starling can snag the ball. While we’re on the subject of the secondary, Nic Johnston had a monster game with **deep breath** two tackles, one forced fumble, two fumble recoveries, lock-down pass coverage, and an interception that he returned 12 yards up the field. Triston Wade also had somewhat of a breakout game on the heels of his ejection from the Southern Utah game. Wade provided strong coverage and brought down an interception for 29 yards. Triston racked up six tackles (four solo), forced a fumble, had a tackle for a loss of one yard, and broke up a pass. That’s called putting in the WORK right there. Another freshman safety, this time Joseph Lizcano, also threw in a strong contribution by blocking a punt and pulling down a 23 yard sack.
Looking at 54 points on the scoreboard, one would assume that the Roadrunner offense was firing on all cylinders. In reality that was not necessarily the case. While Bush’s offense didn’t have a huge problem moving the ball, there was plenty to be discouraged by. In general, Soza looked frazzled and off-kilter, throwing balls into the turf, rushing throws, hitting receivers on the wrong shoulder, and focusing too much on a sole receiver. Soza was not able to establish his running game, losing a total of 17 yards while gaining 12. I feel like Soza gets in certain zones when he’s playing, either “pick up first downs with my feet if nothing’s open”, “try to create a big play however it comes”, or “work methodically up the field by using check downs and short route audibles”. Once Soza gets into one of these zones he tends to stick to those guns, often to fault. Obviously Soza is going to be at his best when he learns to incorporate all three of his different styles into his repertoire.
Today’s offensive player of the game is without a doubt “Evil Evans” Okotcha. Okotcha needed only eight carries to move the ball 106 yards, willing his way through defenders while toting the rock. The sturdy Roadrunner halfback finished with one touchdown and became UTSA’s first running back to ever surpass 100 rushing yards in a single game.
The receiving corps was very inconsistent in this game. There was many a drop, including three in a row as the Roadrunners were marching towards a touchdown right before half time. Kenny Harrison continued to show his speed and agility, while Brandon Freeman reeled in any pass sent his way. Bush played around with the Wild Runner formation yet again, this time using Kam Jones as the lone upback with a motioned jet sweep.
For the most part, Soza enjoyed great protection in the pocket. While Bacone recorded four sacks, I still felt like the offensive line did a great job. At least two of the sacks came when Soza panicked upon finding none of his receivers open, then attempted to scramble forward only to be met by Warrior defensive linemen. Can’t blame Soza for not trusting in his pocket security given previous performances from the big boys up front. This offensive line is growing steadily. Let’s see how they do against more D1 competition in the next couple of weeks.
All in all, a good win for the Runners. It’s great to get a truly dominative victory under your belt, demoralizing your opponent in the process. The crowd was terrific, coming in at 2,000 higher than the McMurry game. I personally can’t wait to play some D1 talent in the Alamodome.
Oddities: Southern Utah smashed UNLV tonight. Told you guys they were good. UTSA gave Southern Utah a much better game than what they saw out of Mountain West member UNLV.
Southern Alabama lost to Kent State and Georgia State got demolished by Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars. This week’s opponent, Sam Houston State, upset FBS opponent New Mexico in overtime during their homecoming. SHSU’s stud sophomore running back Tim Flanders had five touchdowns. After the game New Mexico’s program pretty much fell to dust. Much more coming on Sammy State later in the week. Be sure to check out our podcast on Tuesday/Wednesday for good times.

About jared

A UTSA alumnus that has been cast away to Austin, Jared enjoys live music and a craft beer. He thinks four verts is the best play in football but loves a QB sneak on fourth and inches. Twitter