The opening weekend of the college football season sees the UTSA Roadrunners on the road to take on the Arizona State Sun Devils in a rematch from the 2016 thriller at the Alamodome. We caught up with JJ Perez (@theJJPerez) from UTSA Insiders (@UTSAInsiders) to give us the 411 on the matchup and the season ahead for UTSA.
- 1- (1A210) Hey JJ! So before we start, I’ve got to ask you about Marcus Davenport. He was drafted 14th overall by the New Orleans Saints in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. How cool was it to see a local kid getting drafted? San Antonio is beaming with pride.
(JJ) – It was a big moment in UTSA football’s short history. You knew early last year that Davenport was headed to the next level as pro scouts came to almost every one of his games. And while the writing was on the wall, I don’t think anyone could have imagined that he would have been draft in the first round, let alone at #14 overall. The recognition UTSA got because Davenport was immense. But it only wasn’t just UTSA, it was San Antonio overall. A local product from Stevens High School, Marcus is a prime example to aspiring athletes that you can make your dreams come true from right here in San Antonio.
- 2- UTSA did not get invited to a bowl game despite finishing the 2017 season above .500. Did that leave a little salty taste in the mouths of the UTSA players as well as the students?
UTSA got snubbed in 2017, no question. But at the same time, they didn’t themselves any favors losing three of their last four games. So there is a mood of unfinished business in the air surrounding the program. The theme for this year’s squad is to finish. UTSA wants to go to a bowl game and win. Much isn’t expected from the 2018 Roadrunners. The preseason media predicted that UTSA will finish at the bottom of the west division of Conference USA. That will be bulletin board material for the team. Many of the players have said in the preseason that the team has a bad taste in their mouths and have a chip on their shoulder from the bowl snub. It’s also year three under Head Coach Frank Wilson. UTSA and Coach Wilson have a lot to prove in 2018. This should make for an interesting season.
- 3- Another local kid who had some NFL time was former Roadrunners Quarterback DaltonSturm. He went undrafted before inking a deal with the Dallas Cowboys. He was cut recently. Do you think we’ll see more of Sturm in the NFL in the future?
There was a ton of excitement surrounding Dalton Sturm signing with the Dallas Cowboys as an undrafted free agent. For those that don’t know, Dalton’s story is a very special one. An under-recruited multi-sport athlete out of Goliad, Sturm walked on at UTSA where he went from the scout team to 4th string, to starter, and eventually one of the best QBs in Roadrunner history. Before he was awarded scholarship, Dalton worked at a Mexican restaurant near UTSA’s campus.
It really was a feel-good story. So when he signed with the Cowboys it was just another chapter in his special journey. Going in, Sturm had to know it was a long shot. The Cowboys had two QBs on the roster and drafted another. But there’s always opportunities elsewhere and the potential to become a practice squad player. Professional football is a cutthroat business. I heard nothing but positive things about Sturm during Cowboys training camp. But in two preseason games, he didn’t play and was cut after Dallas needed to add personnel in the defensive backfield due to a rash of injuries there. That’s how it goes in the NFL. But I do not think we’ve heard the last from Dalton Sturm. In fact, I’d wager that he’ll be back. Sturm is a gifted athlete. But that’s not his strength. His perseverance is. All Dalton Sturm ever needed was an opportunity.
- 4- This will be the second meeting between Arizona State and UTSA all-time. The Runners have them a run for their money when they met at the Dome in 2016. Who wins this game? What will be the difference?
UTSA had Arizona State on the ropes in 2016 but let it slip away. UTSA wasn’t ready then to finish big games. Fast-forward two seasons and things are a little different. UTSA has as much talent as they’ve ever had. There is quality depth along the offensive and defensive line that could prove to be huge for the Roadrunners. And while there are questions about how consistent UTSA’s offense will be, many believe that the defense has the potential to be one of the best in Conference USA.
Anchored by DT Kevin Strong and LB Josiah Tauaefa, the defense can be special again in 2018. But they will face a stiff challenge right out of the gate. Arizona State has one of the most dangerous receivers in the nation and if there’s one area of the defense UTSA has some questions in its pass coverage. It will be a packed house at Sun Devil Stadium for the primetime debut of the Herm Edwards era. And at the end of the day, it’s still big-time PAC 12 football. The Roadrunners are double-digit underdogs for a reason. But I think UTSA ends up giving Arizona State a run for their money. I like the Roadrunners in a closely contested upset.
- 5- Tell us one thing we should know about Arizona State.
Aside from their offensive prowess, the biggest thing about the Arizona State Sun Devils is the unknown. This is the first year under new coach Herm Edwards, yes that Herm Edwards. He arrived in Tempe and immediately proclaimed that Sun Devils Football would be operated like a professional franchise. So little information that has come out of Tempe in the offseason.
I don’t think anyone really knows what to expect. But I think that happens a lot in season openers, especially when there’s a new coaching staff in place. This is one of the reasons why I like the Roadrunners for an upset. New coaches don’t have everything quite the way they want in the very beginning. This could end up being an advantage for UTSA.
- 2017 Team Results
UTSA Roadrunners – Finished 6-5 overall; 5th in Conference USA West Division; did not qualify for a bowl game.
Arizona Sun Devils – Finished 7-6 overall; 2nd in Pac 12 South Division; lost to North Carolina State in Sun Bowl.
UTSA has never beaten Arizona State and is 0-1 after losing their only meeting in 2016. The Roadrunners have never played in Arizona State.
UTSA fell 32-28 in the lone meeting between the two teams at the Alamodome back in 2016. The Roadrunners forced ASU into several early turnovers and built a 16-point lead before losing a close one in the final quarter.
Keys To Victory
There’s no doubt both teams excel in different areas. UTSA’s strength will be their defense and ASU’s strength is their offense. UTSA senior defensive tackle Kevin Strong will need to anchor the defense early if the Roadrunners will want to spoil Herm Edwards’ coaching debut. Despite ASU being an 18-point favorite and being at home, we think the Roadrunners escape with a victory.
UTSA – 30
ASU – 26