Roadrunner Offense Falls Flat Against Marshall

marshall

Image courtesy of South Texas Showcase

In one of the worst performances I’ve ever seen the UTSA offense put in, UTSA fell to Marshall 34-10 in Huntington last week. The Thundering Herd were able to jump out to a commanding 24-0 lead before halftime on the back of two Eric Soza interceptions off tipped passes. While box score watchers will see 34 points for Marshall and jump to conclusions about the Roadrunner defense, I actually thought they played quite well under the given circumstances. Marshall is the best offense in the conference and were handed beautiful field position by the UTSA offense. The Roadrunner defense lead by Senior LB Steven Kurfehs (10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 sack) held Marshall below their averages in nearly every statistical category, most notably allowing just 2.6 yards per rush. This solid performance is only impressive when you consider how much pressure was on the Roadrunner defense. While the time of possession was equally split, the UTSA offense had several three-and-outs that put a winded defense in a tough spot.

 

It’s hard to pin down why the offense struggled so greatly against Marshall. While the Thundering Herd has a stout defense, UTSA was able to move the ball with ease against better defenses this year. Soza was clearly out of rhythm early. The senior quarterback played his poorest game since SHSU in 2011. While Eric doesn’t strike me as a guy that cares about his statline, 10-26 with three INTs and zero passing TDs will haunt a player as tautly competitive as him. Of course a quarterback can’t win or loss games on his lonesome. The offensive line looked lost from the get-go. Once the Marshall defense showed a Prowl look along the front seven, all hell broke loose. I’ve never seen that unit allows so many free rushers. Soza was punished repeatedly due to the line’s inability to pick up the blitz. The wide receiver unit also struggled with Kam Jones sitting out due to injury. Receivers struggled to create separation, there were several dropped passes,  and Marcellus Mack failed to keep a foot inbound after catching a great over-the-shoulder throw from Soza. It’s a common theme, but with UTSA’s talent level where it is the margin of error for such mental errors is razor thin.

 

Let’s find some silver lining in this loss:

  • A solid defensive line took a step towards greatness as Robert Singletary and Codie Brooks were finally able to play on the line at the same time. Both sacked Rakeem Cato twice and Singletary forced a fumble that Brooks recovered. Both should be cemented as starters. Remember that UTSA will return all of their defensive linemen besides Harris and Ritter next season. Nelson, Lee, and Neill will all becoming off redshirt seasons. This unit is going to be incredible in 2014.
  • Kristian Stern looked greatly improved punting the ball against Marshall. He had a long of 50 yards and pinned the Herd within the 20 twice. Unfortunately a catch interference penalty on Cody Berry negated one of these great punts. An average of 45.5 yards per punt is a huge step forward.
  • Jarveon Williams just keeps getting better. The stud freshman returned kicks in lieu of Kam and brought the ball out past the 30 in his only return.  He also made a fantastic play to catch a tipped ball and convert a late fourth down with a gain of 14. It was a total freak play but it was the type of play that gets made when you put game-breaking talent on the field. Jarveon also delivered a terrific lead block early in the game and lead the team in total yardage. Dear coaching staff, it’s time to take the training wheels off.
  • UTSA did a great job of limiting Marshall’s biggest threats on offense. Tommy Shuler had just 52 yards on five catches and Gator Hoskins had just one catch for six yards.
  • The offense continues to generate big plays. UTSA ranks third in the country in plays of over ten yards from the line of scrimmage. The Roadrunners haven’t exactly racked up their stats against a bunch of scrubs either. Arizona, OSU, and Marshall all displayed great speed. Much credit to OC Kevin Brown for getting the ball to his playmakers in space.

 

Biggest concerns:

  • The Roadrunners are going to have to find a way to limit the penalties. UTSA actually lost more yards to penalties than they gained on the ground. That is a damn good formula for losing a football game.
  • Six games without an interception for the defense. You have to go all the way back to last year’s game at Idaho to find the last interception. That’s 323 days– bewildering and frustrating. I am hopeful that the improved pass rush from Singletary, Brooks, and Mabry will lead to some ducked throws that get picked off but holy crap…
  • Soza has now thrown more interceptions than touchdowns this season. I know all of that isn’t on his shoulders, but how many senior quarterbacks have that type of ratio? Eric needs to stop trying to force his passes.
  • On a related note, UTSA is losing the turnover battle 13-2. That’s probably one of the worst ratios in the nation. I used to think turnovers were skill-controlled but the way UTSA went from a turnover machine to a turd lends credence to the notion that turnovers are equally-distributed in the long run.

Next up for UTSA is a return game against Rice. While Rice is my favorite to win the western division of Conference USA, I really think UTSA has a good chance at winning this game in the Alamodome. If the Roadrunners are able to duplicate their offensive performance from the first three quarters of the Houston game and continue to play sound defense then this game should come down to the last possession. I like the way Rice matches up with UTSA much more than all of the high-flying, quick-tempo squads the Roadrunners have faced this season. Rice manhandled UTSA in the trenches last season so it will be interesting to monitor UTSA’s progress in that area. Rice opens as a three point road favorite. Kickoff is at 3 pm. We’ll be tailgating with the Texas Fatboys and TailgateSA.com again. Be sure to check out Matty’s site later this week for more information!

 

Bonus: My Non-AQ Top Ten ballot for this week

  1. NIU
  2. Fresno St
  3. ECU
  4. Ohio
  5. BYU
  6. Ball St
  7. Marshall
  8. ULL
  9. Tulane
  10. WKU

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