Three ways to win and three ways to lose: UA vs UTSA
Then-freshman linebacker Ryan Dunn (25) celebrates after a play during the UA’s 38-13 win against UTSA on Sept. 14, 2013 at Arizona Stadium. The Wildcats take on UTSA this week in a rematch.
Three ways to win
After Arizona’s explosive offensive performance against UNLV on Friday, UA redshirt freshman Anu Solomon must stay consistent for the Wildcats to put up another exemplary performance. On defense, UTSA returns 10 starters and two of the best secondary players in the country.
UTSA safeties Triston Wade and Nic Johnson have combined for 29 turnovers in 68 career games. Yet, Arizona brings not only the number-one ranked offense in the country after one game, but also a number of talented wide receivers.
This will be Solomon’s first collegiate game on the road, so he will have to stay calm and collected. Luckily for Arizona, that is Solomon’s specialty. UA redshirt senior offensive lineman Mickey Baucus said that Solomon “never gets too flustered,” and compared him to former UA quarterback Nick Foles, “because he never got too rattled when the game wasn’t going his way.”
Stepping Up the Running Game
One of the reasons the Wildcats played so extraordinarily on offense was due to their running game. Against UNLV, Arizona had 353 yards on the ground and will have to have another impressive running game performance to beat UTSA.
If UA redshirt senior Terris Jones-Grigsby cannot play in Thursday’s game due to his ankle injury, UA freshman running back Nick Wilson will have to step in, which should not be too difficult. In his first collegiate game, Wilson ran for 104 yards on seven attempts, including an 85-yard touchdown run against UNLV. With those numbers, Arizona will be incredibly difficult to stop.
In last year’s game against UTSA, the Wildcats put up 24 points by the end of the second quarter to a measly six points put up by the Roadrunners. For this game, it will be important for Arizona to get off to a good start on both sides of the ball, just like it did last year.
UTSA is confident after defeating Houston last week and the best way to end its confidence would be a quick lead to terminate its momentum. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez knows what UTSA head coach Larry Coker is capable of if the Roadrunners are still in the game after the first half.
Three ways to lose
After Arizona opened the season with another 58-13 pasting of UNLV and with UTSA being a team with little-to-no name recognition, it’s easy to be overconfident.
Sure, UTSA has had a winning record in two of its first three seasons, but 15 of those games were against lower-level teams like Northeastern State, Bacone, Minot State, Texas A&M-Commerce, Northwestern Oklahoma State and McNeese State.
UTSA head coach Larry Coker said to USA Today before the Houston game that the Cougars may think “we’re just the startup guys from San Antonio who played a piss-ant schedule and did good.”
However, last year, the Roadrunners went 7-5 against an all-Football Bowl Subdivision schedule. Arizona, though it was in the Pac-12 Conference, only won seven games against FBS teams in 2013.
UTSA returned 21 starters and has 37 seniors, the most in the country. The Roadrunners have been working towards this game since 2010.
Remember the Alamodome
Arizona will face a fan base hungry for its first win against a team from one of the Power Five conferences in San Antonio.
Texas, Texas A&M, Houston and Dallas are all at least an hour and 20 minutes away, so UTSA is as big as it gets for the football-mad Texans in San Antonio.
While UTSA is expecting between 32,000 and 34,000 people in the 65,000-seat Alamodome, its stadium is, of course, a dome, and, fans will be louder than in an open stadium.
Arizona fans have unpleasant memories of the Wildcats’ last trip to San Antonio. Oklahoma State pounded Nick Foles and Arizona 36-10 in the 2010 Alamo Bowl.
While redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon enjoyed a record-breaking night in his debut, he is still a freshman, obviously.
Solomon overthrew a handful of receivers early on against the Rebels, including missing a sure touchdown or two. If Solomon struggles early again, the crowd would figuratively jump on the rookie and he could compound his mistakes.
We also don’t know yet what the exchange rate for 475 yards against UNLV is. The Rebels could be terrible again; they went 2-11 in 2012, 2-10 in 2011 and 2-11 in 2010.
Rich Rodriguez said the UA’s second- through fourth-string quarterbacks would have had “pretty good games, too.”
UTSA features the most experienced secondary in the country with 133 starts between them.