MinerRush: What UTSA team do you expect to show up on Saturday?
Jared Kalmus: I think we'll see a team similar to the one that showed up in Ruston last weekend: A lot of talent, a lot of fight, but very poor execution. It's always hard to win with a freshman quarterback but it is increasingly difficult to do so with an underperforming offensive line. UTSA's salty defensive front will keep UTSA within striking range, this game will just come down to whether or not the Roadrunners can score enough points to secure a win. The Roadrunners have committed several dumb, unnecessary penalties in the last few weeks so I'm hoping that mental weakness won't reappear on Saturday.
MR; How different will UTSA second level on defense be without Nic Johnston?
JK: UTSA has adjusted well to the loss of Johnston on defense. While the hard-hitting safety provided a clear spark in his limited playing time against Louisiana Tech last week, young athletes like Chase Dahlquist and Michael Egwuagu have done a great job filling in for the senior leader as he battles against injuries to his leg. Dahlquist brings a similar downhill authority that Johnston provides while Egwuagu is terrific in space and helps take away intermediate passing routes from the offense. Johnston will certainly be missed but UTSA has a couple of great athletes to help pad the loss.
MR: How has the UTSA fan base handled a less than stellar start with the higher than high expectations coming into the season?
JK: Haha. For a fan base that is really experiencing true adversity for the first time it's been a mess. This was supposed to be the year for UTSA. This senior recruiting class was brought in on a dream of bowl eligibility and conference championship contention in their senior year. We're watching those dreams slip away with each week as the Roadrunners continue to struggle. The fan base is at each others' necks as some feel that certain players and coaches are being unfairly targeted while others feel that the coaches' loyalty to the senior class is leading to an ironic bitter ending for the original class of dreamers. Needless to say, it's been an entertaining few weeks on the message boards.
MR: UTSA's defense has played great at home what is they key in keeping that success going this week?
JK: The key is keeping #29 from breaking open. UTSA's defensive front has been stellar all year but allowing Jones to pick up easy yards could allow the defense to slide away from the strength and confidence that they've shown throughout the season. The Roadrunners will want to force Showers to advance the ball through the air and avoid pocket pressure. Ensuring that Ian Hamilton can't snag balls over UTSA's short secondary will be key. The Runners have struggled with big body possession type receivers since the inception of the program.
MR: What should we expect out of Austin Robinson and the offense?
JK: Wish I could tell you. Robinson has mostly looked great for a freshman but he's also had a few series that left you wondering if he remembered to put his contacts in before the game or not. Robinson has rushed for 90 yards in his last two games, including a 53 yard touchdown scamper against Louisiana Tech. The kid definitely has some wheels but he's still progressing as a passer and as a game manager. UTEP would be wise to keep a defender in the box to make sure Robinson can't slip through the defense for easy pick ups.
Given UTEP's trouble with defending the run I think UTSA will seek to thrive on the ground by working David Glasco, Jarveon Williams and Brandon Armstrong repeatedly. Williams in particular has looked electric this season. Any hole the UTEP defense allows could turn into a touchdown seam thanks to Williams' speed and power. UTSA's offensive line will need to redeem themselves with a huge performance to spring the running back.
MR: Have the offensive line struggles been surprising to you?
JK: Oh absolutely. I think if you Google hard enough you'll find some evidence of me saying that the offensive line should be UTSA's strongest offensive asset this season. In all honesty, this offensive line should be the best in the conference. For an offensive line of five returning starters and four seniors to be so bad is startling and concerning. UTSA has already allowed more sacks in 2014 than they did throughout the entirety of the 2013 season... and there are still five games to play. I really have no answer as to how this happened but this unit needs to resolve itself if UTSA wants to entertain any idea of playing in a bowl game.
MR: UTSA wins if..
JK: Its offense can run for four or more yards per carry while keeping turnovers below three. The defense will do enough to prevent UTEP from blowing it open. Austin Robinson and the offense just need to find a way to put together a few touchdowns and sustain drives. Getting the rushing attack clicking early and often will do wonders for a young quarterback.
MR: Prediction time
JK: UTSA continues to underwhelm with an ugly performance but pulls it out 27-24.
Huge thanks to Jared for his always solid UTSA analysis, also check him out on our podcast from Wednesday.