By Jonas Clark
“We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
That was Coach Jeff Traylor’s response during Monday’s media roundtable when asked his thoughts heading into this weekend’s game against the #15 BYU Cougars in Provo, Utah.
Traylor’s Roadrunners have a tough task ahead and are coming off a difficult loss to Conference USA contender UAB this last weekend that is already impacting this Saturday’s matchup. Before we dive into BYU, let’s look at the rollover:
Rashad Wisdom won’t be available for the first half against BYU as he was ejected in the second half of the UAB game for a targeting call. Per NCAA rules, players ejected in the second half for a targeting call are out for the remainder of that game and the first half of their next contest. Going up against the #1 offense in the FBS, Traylor noted that Rashad’s absence is a huge loss, and the stats show it. The sophomore is tied for 4th in the country with 33 tackles (most among safeties), and tied with a host of others with two interceptions this season, picking up one against UAB to go with his pick-six in the season opener at Texas State.
"My momma always raised me to stay the course. … You always have to prepare as if you are the starter and always be ready."
— UTSA Football 🏈 (@UTSAFTBL) October 6, 2020
Along with Wisdom’s situation, the Roadrunners will also be missing Josh Adkins, after Coach Traylor confirmed that the back-up quarterback broke his collarbone during the first offensive snap against the Blazers. Adkins led the UTSA to a week two win against Middle Tennessee in relief of an injured Frank Harris, throwing for 233 yards and a touchdown in the victory. After the offense struggled to find their rhythm across the first half and into the second in Alabama, Lowell Narcisse Jr. provided a spark that nearly resulted in a comeback. On who will be the quarterback this weekend, Coach Traylor is hoping to have Harris back, though he won’t play him if he’s limping at all on his injured knee. Frank has been listed as QB1 on the depth chart this week, with Lowell as the conditional starter if Frank isn’t 100%.
With the loss to UAB, the Roadrunners additionally lost their perfect record on the season after a 3-0 start, but while perfection would’ve been nice, it isn’t what matters, says Coach. “I tell ‘em all the time – I’m an imperfect coach, coaching imperfect players, therefore there’s going to be an imperfection. How we handle imperfection will determine how our success will be this year.” That notion puts into perspective this weekend’s game against the Cougars.
BYU enters Saturday with the #1 offense in the nation through three games, leading in offensive yards (1,757), offensive touchdowns (19), and yards per game (585.7). Conversely, they have the most stringent defense, having allowed just three touchdowns through three games and 214.3 yard per game. While their schedule so far might not raise eyebrows for other Top 25 schools, BYU has done their damage against UTSA’s contemporaries in Navy and LA Tech.
Leading the offensive attack for the Cougars is their quarterback Zach Wilson. The 6’3”, Junior play-caller has some pretty impressive stats, carrying an 84.5 completion percentage for 949 yards, 6 passing TDs, and 1 interception. When factoring his 5 rushing touchdowns, Wilson has as many incompletions (11) as he does total touchdowns. “He’s the best quarterback we’ve played,” says Coach Traylor, “He’s an NFL quarterback. He’ll get drafted in the third round or less [higher].”
Of course, a quarterback doesn’t make up a whole team, but Coach noted the experience and size up on both sides of the ball for BYU. Like he said, his Roadrunners have their work cut out for them. “Defensively, their D-line, all red-shirt seniors, all over 300lbs – 6’4”, 6’5”. They play a lot of coverage and only rush three, and just wreak havoc” he notes, “Whenever you can rush three and stop the run and stop the pass, it can be a long day for offenses.”
Facing this level of a program makes the mission clear with the odds stacked against them, the focus is clear – “It’s opportunity or adversity,” Traylor says, “and we’re gonna look at this like an opportunity and go up there and just figure out a way to scrap, see if we can hang in there with them, and pull off the shocker.” Of course, the performance at the end of the day will be judged by the team’s execution of their three pillars of Coach Traylor’s culture: physicality on defense, running the ball as a team, and playing good on special teams. Coach isn’t betting against his guys though – “We’re going to do our very best to go up there and win that game.”
UTSA (3-1) will play BYU (3-0) this Saturday at 2:30 pm CST from LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN 2. Be sure to follow @ProjectSpurs on Twitter and check-in during and after the game for recaps and reviews.