HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The University of Texas San Antonio is playing just its third year of football. More than 56,000 fans packed the Alamo Dome on Sept. 3, 2011 to watch the Roadrunners play their inaugural game, a 31-3 win over Northeastern (La.) State.
The Roadrunners didn’t think small when they sought to their first head coach. Larry Coker, who won the 2001 national championship at Miami, made national waves when he took on the challenge of building a program from scratch. As Thundering Herd coach Doc Holliday pointed out, Coker has built the program using homegrown talent.
“San Antonio is the seventh largest city in America and I didn’t realize they have 34 players from San Antonio alone. I’ve got great respect for Larry Coker and what he’s been able to do recruiting players to that school,” said Holliday.
Coker has had success with a relatively young team. On offense 10 of the 11 starters are juniors or younger. In fact, UTSA has one of the youngest teams in the country.
Coker has devised an offense that defensive coordinators don’t see very often if at all. It combines the best of the parameter running game of the old wishbone offense and the downfield threat of the spread passing game.
“They’ve got kind of a wishbone philosophy with how they run the ball on the parameter and also they’re able to throw the football at the same time,” said Holliday.
One thing the Marshall defenders will have to be ready for is being chop blocked on the edge. Holliday says it is something he reluctantly worked on in practice.
“If you don’t do it in practice you can’t expect to get it done on game day,” acknowledged Holliday.
When the Roadrunners attack the edge, tailback David Glasco II is a threat to make a big play. Glasco scored a pair of touchdowns in the season opener against New Mexico and has crossed the goal line at least once in each of the last three weeks.
“About 60-70 percent of their yards come from perimeter runs. That being the case the guys up front aren’t making a lot of plays, it’s secondary guys. Those guys are going to have to tackle, get off blocks and make sure they don’t get chopped,” emphasized Holliday.
Defensively, Marshall wants to establish an edge on defense and not let the ball get to the sideline. UTSA will try to circle the defense and get around Marshall using the speed sweeps and option runs.
But the UTSA offense revolves around quarterback Eric Soza. He’s third in C-USA averaging 268.4 yards passing per game, just behind The Herd’s Rakeem Cato.
“He can beat you with his feet, he can also throw it. They’ve moved the ball against good football teams,” says Holliday.
UTSA is second in the league to The Herd in total offense, averaging 431 yards per game.
“He’s a great quarterback,” admitted defensive lineman James Rouse. “He likes the quick game a lot and if his reads are open he’ll take off and run with it.”
One of Soza’s most dangerous weapons is wideout Kam Jones. He opened the season with 103 all-purpose yards against New Mexico and followed that up with 203 all-purpose yards against 13th ranked Oklahoma State.
Jones is far from the only option for Eric Soza. Of his 122 completions this season, Soza has thrown the ball to 18 receivers, fourth-highest in FBS.
Up front, UTSA is young but effective. The Roadrunners were one of 13 FBS schools that did not have a senior starting along the front five on opening day. Junior center Nate Leonard is the elder statesmen of the group. He has started 27 consecutive games. In fact, he has started every single game in the program’s history. Junior guard Scott Inskeep was a preseason all-conference selection and named to the Lombardi Award Watch List.
Opposing coaches know one of the best ways to keep Marshall’s offense in check is to keep it off the field. UTSA has had 13 scoring drives this season of 75 yards or longer and the average scoring drive last nearly four minutes and takes 8.6 plays. The Roadrunners also get the most out of each drive. In 18 trips into the redzone, the UTSA offense has come away with 13 touchdowns and two field goals.