Thursday Night Lights: Wildcats vs Roadrunners
Arizona football faces one of the nation’s youngest programs but oldest teams, UTSA, in San Antonio today at 5 p.m. Arizona time on Fox Sports 1.
UTSA has won 20 of its first 35 games and its current six-game win streak against Football Bowl Subdivision teams is the third longest in the country, behind only Florida State and Michigan State.
The Roadrunners feature 37 seniors and return 21 starters from 2013, both tops in the FBS.
USA Today called UTSA “college football’s best startup.” The Roadrunners over the Wildcats is a trendy upset pick nationally.
UTSA opened the season with a 27-7 upset against Houston on Friday.
Then-sophomore offensive lineman Cayman Bundage (61) lifts up then-freshman wide receiver Samajie Grant (10) after scoring a touchdown during the UA's 38-13 win against UTSA on Sept. 14, 2013 at Arizona Stadium. Arizona matches up with UTSA again this year, but this time away from Arizona Stadium.
“They just completely shut them down and got off blocks,” Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez said. “Houston couldn’t block them. They broke on a ball well and tackled on an open field extremely well.”
UTSA avenged its 59-28 loss to Houston in San Antonio last year and spoiled the opening game of the Cougar’s TDECU Stadium.
“San Antonio had a good plan and they followed that plan,” Rodriguez said.
Where to watch:
Channel: Fox Sports 1
Time: 5 p.m. MST
Where: Alamodome Stadium, San Antonio, Texas
UTSA jumped out to a 27-0 lead. The Roadrunners gave up 208 yards, including -26 rushing, and forced eight three-and-outs in the Cougars’ first nine drives.
UTSA senior linebacker Jens Jeters was named Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. He had five tackles, recovered a fumble and forced a fumble.
“It’s amazing where we are,” UTSA head coach Larry Coker said to The Paisano. “Three years ago, we barely had a team. Now we are playing division one football and winning. There are definitely more big ones to come.”
Coker won the national coach of the year award twice and the 2001 national championship at Miami.
Arizona beat UTSA 38-13 last year in Tucson.
Started from the bottom
In four years, UTSA has gone from an expansion team to a full-fledged FBS team.
In its first season of games, UTSA went 4-6 as a Football Champion Subdivision independent, then 8-4 as a Western Athletic Conference team and then 7-5 against only FBS teams as a Conference USA team. However, this is the first year it can play in a bowl as a new program.
The 2010 season was actually UTSA’s first, but it didn’t play any games. The team features 18 players from the practice season among its seniors.
As the Roadrunners were getting started, UTEP donated 100 sets of pads to UTSA, and University of Texas proper gave the Roadrunners 100 pieces of equipment.
Orange is the new black
Founded in 1969, UTSA is a relatively new school.
In 1977, students voted for roadrunners over armadillos, and they wear the color orange because it is the official hue of the University of Texas system. Thursday is an “orange out” for fans and UTSA fans will wear orange jerseys and pants.
UTSA’s notable alumni include Clayton E. Killinger, senior vice president and controller of Valero Energy Corporation; Jeffrey W. Clark, vice chairman of operations and technology at Dell; and Michelle Beadle of ESPN.
While the school is called University of Texas at San Antonio, it prefers to only be called UTSA or the Roadrunners.
Thursday’s game is UTSA’s first-ever home night game.
—Follow James Kelley @jameskelley520