Larry Coker has been in the college football coaching business since 1979; fast forward to September 21, 2013 and his experience, and aggressive but fundamental style wore down the Miners for a 32-13 win.
SEAN KUGLER ON LOSS:
"We didn't sustain drives. We weren't efficient running the ball like we wanted to be. Defensively, in the second half, I really like how are players responded. They really gave us, offensively, good field position that we didn't cash in on, and to become a good team we got to cash in those situations and unfortunately we didn't . My hat's off to Coach Coker and their staff. They did an outstanding job, they beat us fair and square tonight and well get right back to working tomorrow to get ready for Colorado State."
The game plan was simple for UTSA, and they showed it on their first offensive possession which ended when Brandon Armstrong took an option pitch and went 29 yards to the house.
Offensive Coordinator Kevin Brown used creativity, getting a lot of hands touches while shuffling the young Miner secondary around with motion and mis-directions. That opened up big plays in the second level.
On defense, the Roadrunners would bring in an extra safety to double as a linebacker. That, in effect, put seven guys in the box and slowed the Miners' run game. That which averaged 285 yards a game coming in, was held to just 99.
Though the Miners would give up an easy touchdown on that first UTSA possession, Autrey Golden would answer with an electric 100 yard kickoff return on the ensuing kick, which also made some Miner history. He became the first player in program history with three kickoff returns of 96 yards, and also moved into the top-10 all time in kick return yards for a career.
UTSA COACH LARRY COKER:
"Defense really played hard and played well. We got a really good defensive front. They did a nice job tonight. Really proud of our entire football team. UTEP, give them credit they played hard. Really proud of them (UTSA), they have done everything we have asked them to do and really bought in. "
The Miner defense came out playing well early and would shut down UTSA for the rest of 1st quarter as Showers led a 16 play 53 yard drive that gave the Miners their only lead of the game at 10-7.
But, in the second quarter the defense was again exposed by the big play, starting with a Kam Jones end around TD run of 28 yards. On that play, two Miner defenders collided on the mis-direction call, showing this Miner defense is struggling to adjust to Scott Stoker's scheme and is showing growing pains within the young secondary.
SEAN KUGLER ON DEFENSE:
"We're just trying to work on fundamentals and get better. We do have some young cats back there. That will never be an excuse for us, we just have to get better. The young guys gotta grow up on the job. There was some missed tackles, there was some yards after contact, but again I like the way the defense responded in the 2nd half. I thought they really tightened it up. Moving forward, playing with that type of energy we did in the 2nd half, I think our defense can make some strides."
The Miners would give up 303 yards of balanced offense in the first half, capped off by a 2 play 70 yard drive that took only 41 seconds to end the half. The Miners gave up drives of 70, 62, 80, 75 on four Roadrunner scores, and went into the halftime break down 25-10.
The offense was flat out horrible. For only the third time in 65 C-USA games there were no offensive TD's scored by the Miners. They only totaled 218 yards of offense on the night, and the 200 mark wasn't hit until late in the 4th quarter with the Miners desperately throwing to cut the Roadrunner lead.
SEAN KUGLER ON OFFENSE :
"When you don't make big plays and it kills drives, and you don't run the ball efficiently enough to sustain long drives, the end result is what happened tonight."
Conservative draw and screen calls early on third down situations hurt the big play ability later in the game, as the offense could not find a rhythm to keep drives going. The Miners became predictable trying to run in between the tackles, and were only able to complete a pass over 20 yards once.
The absence of Nathan Jeffery, who was a decoy as he dressed and warmed up but did not play a snap, clearly hurt the Miners' chances of making plays in the run game against Drew Douglas and Bennett Okotcha. Those two led the Runners in tackles.
Credit is also due to that big nasty UTSA D-Line. They didn't allow the Miner O-Line to establish a push, as the Runners back seven did a great job of containing gaps behinds them and not letting Aaron Jones or any other Miner running back get outside and break loose.
The Miners played way better in the second half on defense, but the stats will overshadow the facts. The Miners did not make any major adjustments it seemed in personnel and scheme, but UTEP was able to pin UTSA and won the field position battle.They just could not make plays on offense to make the game close.
"I wouldn't necessarily think its a step back.We didn't do what we normally do, we didn't do our job today. Defense played a heck of a game. They gave us plenty of opportunities to score and there's no reason we shouldn't have. We were just off."
Outside of Leslie and Ian Hamilton, who both had rough nights, there just isn't another game changing or consistent target that has emerged. And, with decently sound defense the Miners offense became predictable. Still though,they had their chances as evident with the dropped and overthrown passes to the same main targets.
Despite two big penalties on third down, Anthony Puente finally emerged and had a solid game. He took full blame for the costly penalties, and was simply just trying to make a play.
"We just have to move on to the next week, have to have a short term memory. Wins and losses happen and you cant dwell on it. Tomorrow is a new day and we'll starting working on Colorado State."
Overall I thought the C-USA officials were terrible for both sides. A clear holding early in the first on Jordan Leslie by Bennett Okotcha was not flagged, and another clear holding on a Autrey Golden's 25 yard burst was let go. Though it didn't cost the game at all, it was definitely bad and worth noting going forward.
This week's game ball goes to Soza. I predicted that Showers would have the better game and be the difference, but Soza's coaches put him in better situations, and his veteran and cerebral decision making showed why he could be an all-conference candidate.
Next up is a road trip to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State. Another loss like this there will put the Miners in an early hole and have people looking towards basketball. UTSA broke a Miner streak of 4 straight C-USA home opener wins, and let C-USA and the rest of the state know they have arrived as a threat.