Kevin Zimmerman: UTSA's victory against Houston in Week 1 may have seemed surprising to many across the nation, but was it such an upset to someone who follows Conference USA?
Jared Kalmus: UTSA stomping Houston was definitely a surprise to every honest man and woman I've spoken with. The Cougars beat up on UTSA 59-28 in the Alamodome last season behind the arm of a true freshman. While Roadrunner fans had good reason to be optimistic with so much experience returning to the program this year, Houston returned the majority of their 2013 squad as well. Houston was picked to win the American Athletic Conference by several national writers and had a top-ten wide receiver on the field in Deontay Greenberry. There might have been a few believers out there that had UTSA pegged to pull the upset but I severely doubt anyone could honestly say they predicted a 27-7 thrashing.
KZ: How much did the turnover margin affect the Houston game, and how did the turnovers occur?
JK: I think the main reason the turnover differential was so huge in determining the outcome of the game was that it really helped UTSA to keep things vanilla and conservative on offense. The Roadrunners were breaking in a new starting QB on the road so naturally the coaches wanted to keep the offense as slow and simple as possible to help Tucker Carter ease into his new role. Working with a short field meant UTSA could keep the ball on the ground and jump out to an early lead. Not having to play from behind likely settled Carter's nerves as he significantly improved in his passing accuracy in the second half.
UTSA collected a total of six turnovers-- two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. One turnover was a gift as a rattled John O'Korn failed to collect the snap from Houston's center, causing the ball to bounce off his helmet and straight into UTSA linebacker Jens Jeters' arm. The four interceptions mostly came through UTSA's hounding pressure on the quarterback. Lead by defensive end Jason Neill, UTSA totaled four sacks on O'Korn and an astonishing 22 quarterback hits. O'Korn was rushing to get the ball out of his hand and floated up some passes that hung in the air long enough for Crosby Adams, Bennett Okotcha, Triston Wade, and Mauricio Sanchez to come down with interceptions. While Houston broke in three new starters along the offensive line, Arizona returns three veterans. It will be interesting to see how good the Roadrunner defensive line really is as they face a seasoned unit for the first time this season.
KZ: Maybe more generally, describe the defense and what the Wildcats should expect. What will the UTSA defense do when it's not forcing turnovers?
JK: Everything starts up front for the Roadrunners. Defensive line coach Eric Roark has done an unbelievable job of developing his talent in the trenches as the Roadrunners go about five deep at both defensive end and defensive tackle with little drop off between starters and the rest of the pack. Roark has instilled terrific technical ability and discipline along his players, as noted by Coach Rodriguez this week. The defense usually lines up in a 4-2-5 look but have started to shift to three man fronts on third down frequently. Sources have reported that UTSA is planning to play a ton of nickel defense this week due to Arizona's ridiculously talented wide receivers. Jens Jeters and Drew Douglas are quick and dependable at the linebacker positions and cornerback Bennett Okotcha and free safety Triston Wade lead the charge in the secondary.
KZ: What does the UTSA offense look like this year?
JK: That's still an unanswered question. UTSA has a very salty offensive line with good size and experience so offensive coordinator Kevin Brown will likely lean on that unit to generate enough space for consistent, short pick ups on the ground. Between David Glasco, Jarveon Williams, and Brandon Armstrong, UTSA has a lot of great options in the backfield: Glasco is a big-body grinder type, Jarveon is a strong and explosive powder keg, and Armstrong is a shifty third down back that also sees snaps at slot receiver. Although the talent levels aren't close at all, UTSA also rotates a stable of receivers like Arizona does. Kam Jones is the guy to look out for as he is a threat to score any time he touches the ball. Tight ends Cole Hubble and David Morgan weren't targeted often last Friday but both are good route runners with great hands. UTSA has relied on horizontal passing and option plays historically but starting quarterback Tucker Carter is much more of a traditional pocket passer than former Roadrunner Eric Soza was. I expect UTSA to run the ball out of the spread with occasional play action and screen plays tossed in.
KZ: Who are some key offensive players that will need to make an impact against Arizona?
JK: 1. Tucker Carter, QB - Carter will need to connect with receivers down field to prevent Arizona's defense from loading up the box and stifling the Roadrunner rushing attack. Carter struggled with his accuracy at Houston but seemed to find his groove as the game progressed. The 6'3" redshirt senior has a strong arm so we'll see if he'll be able to take steps toward properly utilizing it in week two.
2. David Glasco, RB - UTSA will seek to control the ball and the clock to combat Arizona's break-neck pace. Glasco will need to be good for four yards per carry and hold on to the ball to give the Roadrunners a shot in this game.
3. Brandon Freeman, WR - Freeman is UTSA's best deep threat. The elusive senior missed the Houston game due to a suspension but is back in the depth chart against Arizona. Freeman will need to find some space in the secondary to keep the Wildcat defense honest against the pass. Look for UTSA to send Freeman deep on double moves when matched up with Jarvis McCall.
KZ: In your Q&A session, I called it a cautious 31-20 Arizona win. What would your projection be for the final score?
JK: I'm actually calling for the upset special this week. Excuse the run-on sentence but a veteran squad loaded with confidence coming back to San Antonio for their first home game against a P5 program lead by a freshman on national television after a short turnaround... I think this could be a perfect storm for UTSA's first P5 victory. From what I've seen of Anu Solomon, he seems like a very special player with great composure but I'm inclined to think that a raucous road crowd and relentless defensive line could cause him to commit some critical mistakes. If UTSA manages to hold on to the ball and chew up the clock, I like the Roadrunners to win by a score. You can call me a homer, but there's a reason why Vegas is only favoring Arizona by seven points. Either way, I think we can both agree that this game is going to be much more interesting than either of us could have imagined when the game was originally scheduled in 2010.