TX-San Antonio (0-0) at New Mexico (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 31, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: University Stadium (39,224) -- Albuquerque, New Mexico. Television: None. Home Record: UTSA 0-0, UNM 0-0. Away Record: UTSA 0-0, UNM 0-0. Neutral Record: UTSA 0-0, UNM 0-0. Conference Record: UTSA 0-0, UNM 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: Two of the rising programs in the FBS will square off in their season opener as the Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners tangle with the New Mexico Lobos at University Stadium.
This will be the first meeting in history between these schools on the football field.
Larry Coker made an interesting choice when he decided to return to coaching in 2011. The former Miami-Florida coach who already had a BCS national championship ring in his collection decided to become the inaugural coach of the UTSA program. The Roadrunners went 4-6 as an FCS Independent in 2011, but put together a strong campaign to finish 8-4 in their first full year as a member of the FBS. Coker's quest for another winning record will be tougher considering only three of the victories came over FBS programs and there aren't any FCS foes on the slate for 2013.
Former Notre Dame head coach Bob Davie made his debut with the Lobos in 2012, taking over a team that had finished 1-11 in three consecutive seasons. New Mexico overcame a 1-2 start by winning three of its next four games, but lost six in a row to arrive at a 4-9 finish. Davie went 35-25 including an 0-3 mark in bowl games over five seasons with the Fighting Irish from 1997-2001.
UTSA outplayed its opposition on both sides of the ball in its first season as an FBS program with averages of 390.2 total yards of offense and 31.2 points per game. The ground attack was especially productive, racking up 159.2 yards per outing. David Glaso and Evans Okotcha finished first and second on the team with 537 and 450 yards, respectively. Their ability to pick up ground is partially due to the work of guard Scott Inskeep, who is a preseason All-C-USA pick and a member of the Lombardi Award watch list.
Soza was an adequate passer as well, completing 166-of-282 pass attempts for 2,085 yards with 20 touchdowns to only three interceptions. He threw two- thirds of his picks in the regular-season ending win over Texas State and produced 14 total touchdowns over the final four games. Okotcha, who holds the program record with 16 end zone trips, was the team's leading receiver in 2012 with 349 yards on 24 receptions.
UTSA never really established a consistent rotation which led to 18 different players recording at least one catch with 12 of them making a catch for a touchdown.
The Roadrunners were understandably a much better team against their inferior competition in 2012. They held their first four opponents to an average of 247.8 yards per contest, but allowed 445.8 yards per game over the course of their final eight games. USTA gave up 301 rushing yards in a single game to Rice, but the majority of its troubles on the defensive side of the ball stemmed from a poor pass defense. It gave up more than 320 passing yards in each of the final five games of 2012.
Senior linebacker Steven Jurfehs showed he can be a playmaker last season by amassing 71 total tackles, 5.5 for loss, a team-high 4.5 sacks and a fumble return for a touchdown. The defensive backfield will be one of UTSA's strong points, as Nic Johnston, Cody Berry and Triston Wade will all be returning to their starting roles. Wade and Johnston are the top two leading tackles among returners, respectively.
UTSA's defense may have another tough time stopping the run as it attempts to slow down Kasey Carrier, who ran for a school-record 1,469 yards and scored 15 touchdowns on his 255 carries over the course of 12 appearances last season. The senior was the 12th leading rusher in the country, while contributing to an attack that ranked fifth in the nation with 301.3 yards per game. Sophomore quarterback Cole Gautsche showed he has mobility, finishing second to Carrier on the squad with 760 yards and seven touchdowns. Fellow sophomore Jhurell Pressley is also a valuable asset in the run heavy offense.
The heavy emphasis on the run left UNM with a non-existent passing games. The Lobos attempted only 154 passes on the year compared to their opposition's total of 417. Gautsche went 13-of-31 for 222 yards with two touchdowns and the same number of interceptions.
UNM was one of the weakest defensive units in the nation last season, surrendering 444.2 yards and 30.2 points per contest. It did perform better against the run than the pass and forced 19 total turnovers. Davie's defense may be among the worst in the FBS once again as he returns only three starters.
Linebacker Dallas Bollema comes back for another year after he led the program in total tackles (89) and tied for the lead with three interceptions. Defensive end Jacori Green is another key player after recording eight tackles for loss and five sacks in 2012.
UTSA's offense proved it was ready for the FBS level last season and has all of the important pieces back in place. The Roadrunners are a much more balanced and experienced team which will help them overcome UNM's home field advantage.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: TX-San Antonio 35, New Mexico 31
08/28 10:42:41 ET