BYU

Know the Foe: UTSA

A week after defeating Louisiana Tech 45-14, the BYU Cougars welcome the UTSA Roadrunners into LaVell Edwards Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 10. The Roadrunners boast a 3-1 record — with victories coming against Texas State, Stephen F. Austin and Middle Tennessee. This will be the first time the Cougars face UTSA, and only the second time the Roadrunners have traveled to Utah — they lost to the Southern Utah Thunderbirds in 2011.

Here is everything Cougar fans will need to know about the Roadrunners prior to kickoff.

Roadrunner History

UTSA is one of the youngest Division I football programs in the country — celebrating their 10th season in 2020. The Roadrunners have competed as members of Conference USA since 2013, after spending one year as an FCS Independent and one in the Western Athletic Conference. The team is 48-62 all-time and has appeared in one bowl game, the 2016 New Mexico Bowl, which they lost.

This is their first season under new head coach, Jeff Traylor, who promised to bring an up-tempo offense to San Antonio. The Roadrunners also have a new defensive coordinator, Tyrone Nix, who has converted their defensive scheme from a 4-2-5 to a 3-3-5 defense.

Offense

Sophomore running back Sincere McCormick made the freshman All-American team last season after rushing for 983 yards and eight touchdowns. He is off to an even more impressive start this year, with 527 yards and four touchdowns across the team’s first four games. McCormick will likely get the vast majority of touches from the running back position, as both of UTSA’s other RBs have combined for only 14 carries so far this year.

Although junior quarterback Lowell Narcisse started seven games last year for the Roadrunners, junior Frank Harris won the starting job in fall camp. Harris — who missed much of last season due to an injury — suffered a knee sprain two weeks ago against Middle Tennessee and is questionable to play against BYU. Traylor said he will make a game-time decision about who to start, with Narcisse ready to step in if Harris is “not 100 percent.”

Either way, the Roadrunners will be in competent hands at the quarterback position. Narcisse was initially recruited by LSU and redshirted there before transferring to UTSA. Harris has 508 passing yards and three touchdowns so far this season, in addition to adding 162 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.

According to J.J. Perez of InsideRunnerSports.com, the offensive line will be key to success for the Roadrunners. Despite a dominant running game, UTSA has struggled in pass protection so far this season, making whoever ends up playing quarterback vulnerable to the vaunted three-man rush employed by BYU.

UTSA averages 417 yards per game in 2020 while putting 31.3 points per game. They will need a lot more than that in order to remain competitive against the Cougars, though, and will be in trouble if BYU forces them to abandon their running game by jumping out to an early lead.

Defense

At #15, BYU will be the second-highest ranked team that UTSA has ever faced. BYU’s offense is without doubt the most prolific the Roadrunners have seen this season — averaging 49.3 points per game. The Roadrunners defense has already been prone to giving up points this year, they allowed 48 against Texas State and 35 against Middle Tennessee.

UTSA still has a lot of experience on defense, with a front seven made up almost entirely of juniors and seniors. Defensive tackle Jaylon Haynes has made an impressive leap in his senior season — his three sacks this year equal his sack numbers through his first three seasons.

The Roadrunner secondary has shown an ability disrupt the passing game with seven interceptions in 2020. Cornerback Corey Mayfield Jr. and safety Rashad Wisdom each have a pair of interceptions. Wisdom — who also leads the Roadrunners in total tackles (33) — will be unavailable during the first half after he was suspended for a targeting penalty last week.

As with last season, the Roadrunners’ defense will continue to prove to be their weak link. UTSA is giving up an average of 449 yards per game to opposing offenses this year. Their positive turnover margin (+5) has allowed them to stay competitive so far, but they will be hard-pressed to limit Zach Wilson and the Cougar offense.

Verdict

It seems that there is little doubt about who will win on Saturday (ESPN’s Football Power Index gives the Cougars a 97.6 percent chance of winning,) the only question that remains is what the margin will be. With the national hype surrounding BYU — despite their weak strength of schedule — style points will be important for the Cougars if they want to remain in the conversation about national awards and New Year’s Six bowl games.

UTSA is not taking their opponent lightly and would view a closer than expected game as a win for their program on a national stage against a highly ranked team. Still, only five of their last 29 wins have come against teams with a winning record — let alone a team the caliber of BYU.

Game Information

BYU vs. UTSA
Date: Saturday, Oct. 10, 2020
Time: 1:30 p.m. MT
Location: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
Weather: Sunny, 70℉
Where to Watch: ESPN2, WatchESPN
Where to Listen: KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM
Spread: BYU -34.5
Over/Under: 63.0

Written by Bridger Beal-Cvetko

Bridger is a student at Utah Valley University where he studies journalism and mass communication. He is the sports editor of the on-campus newspaper, The Review. Bridger is a life-long Cougar fan and college football enthusiast.


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