“It was a game that our defense totally dominated from the start to the finish. Offensively we just couldn’t get out of our own way.”
That was the analysis from UTSA head football coach Jeff Traylor to the media on Saturday night after his Roadrunners defeated the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders 27-13. The victory starts UTSA (3-0, 1-0) off undefeated through three games for the second time in two seasons under Traylor.
“You know you’ve got a mature team when you’re 3-0, you’re 1-0 in conference, and it’s not a very happy locker room,” Traylor further remarked. “That’s when you know we’re not about winning and losing, there’s a standard that we expect to play to and as a group, all three parts did not live up to the standard.”
Big Standards for UTSA Football
Coach Traylor understands that it’s hard to win games in college football regardless, and they’ll celebrate the victory. He and his players, however, have high expectations for the football program. They won’t get too high about an incomplete effort.
To understand what a complete effort is, one needs to look no further than the culture that Traylor has instilled, the Triangle of Toughness. The standard is to score points and limit turnovers on offense, to stop the other team from scoring points and to generate turnovers on defense, and to execute efficiently on special teams. A complete triangle results in a complete game, which likely results in a win.
“I would say that our defense lived up to that standard,” Traylor said after the game, “but the other two-thirds we were not there tonight, and we’ve got a lot of things to clean up.
What Went Wrong
It’s easy to focus on what the Roadrunners did well against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (1-2, 0-1). As Coach Traylor mentioned, the defensive effort stands out on the stat sheet, highlighted by just 25 rushing yards accumulated by MTSU through four quarters, an average of 0.3 yards per carry.
UTSA’s defense forced two turnovers, generated five sacks, and didn’t allow a score until the final four minutes of the game when the second-string defense was already in. When the offense couldn’t get anything going, the defense was able to create stops.
Awful sequence of events there.
Brenden Brady's touchdown was called back for holding on the offensive line.
Frank Harris sacked for two-yard loss on 1st & 25.
Harris throws an interception that goes 56 yards the other way to set up MTSU. pic.twitter.com/GzjxpvWfu8
— Jonas Clark (@jarkclonas) September 18, 2021
“Tonight [on offense] we were like my golf game,” Traylor reflected after the game, “a good shot here and a bogey there.” Despite 452 yards of offense, 277 passing and 175 rushing, and two touchdowns, the offense was very inconsistent and prone to mistakes. One first-half possession exemplifies Traylor’s remarks.
Driving in the red zone, quarterback Frank Harris found running back Brenden Brady on the right side of the field on a short pass for a touchdown. The celebration in the Alamodome was short-lived as the play was called back for a facemask penalty against an offensive lineman. Instead of a score, the Roadrunners were now facing 1st & 25.
Harris was sacked on the next snap, setting up 2nd & 27. On second-down, Harris was picked off by MTSU cornerback Quincy Riley. Riley ran it 56 yards in the opposite direction, setting up a red-zone opportunity for the Blue Raiders.
Mistakes happen, but the standard for UTSA is that they don’t lead to more mistakes. That not is what happened in a number of instances like the one mentioned here. UTSA had some major penalties called against them throughout the game. The seven yellow flags resulted in 60 punitive yards.
Up Next: 9/25 – UTSA @ Memphis (3-0)
The high standards from inside UTSA’s team exist to guide the team in their quest for a shot at the Conference USA championship game. Championship teams have higher expectations, and early in this season, even higher expectations are potentially on the horizon.
UTSA’s next opponent is the Memphis Tigers of the AAC, a team that is also undefeated. Memphis could even be ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll by the time the teams start practicing this week. The Roadrunners themselves could start collecting some votes to reach the Top 25, thus raising the bar. Surely a victory over Memphis next weekend could add some certainty to that.
The Tigers are coming off an upset victory over the Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-1) this weekend, and have an impressive offense. In nearly every statistical category the Bulldogs won the game except for the final score. Memphis’ defense gives up a lot of yards, and to that point, scores as well. Their offense, however, has helped them to win games. This poses a great matchup with UTSA who has great offensive potential but has benefitted from smothering performances on the defense.