Facing a smaller-conference team in just its fourth season as a program should be an easy mark for Arizona, especially since the Wildcats rolled in the first meeting between the teams last season.
But that’s not how they’re looking at Texas-San Antonio.
Not with all those seniors the Roadrunners have. Not when they’re led by a coach who has a national championship on his resume. And not certainly after watching what they - mainly their defensive line - did against Houston last week.
“I told our team right after the (first) game that we’re going to have a tougher opponent on the road,” Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said. “We have a lot of respect for them in how hard they play.”
Arizona beat UTSA 38-13 in Tucson last season.
The rematch may not be so easy.
UTSA has one of the most experienced rosters in college football, with 21 returning starters and more seniors (37) than most programs have in two seasons.
The Roadrunners play hard and physical under coach Larry Coker, who won a national title at Miami. Their defense shut down Houston’s prolific offense in a 27-7 win last week, triggered by a big, hard-nosed group of defensive linemen who have a knack for getting to the quarterback.
“They are as good as anybody we’ve seen on film,” Rodriguez said.
Coker and the Roadrunners are saying the same things after watching Arizona’s offense.
After a stuttering start, the Wildcats turned their opener against UNLV into a laugher, rolling up a school-record 787 yards in a 58-13 win over the Rebels.
“I was really disappointed when I saw them on tape, how good they are,” Coker said with a laugh. “I was hoping they wouldn’t look that good, but they’re pretty good.”
It should be a good matchup all around.
Here are a few more things to look for when Arizona meets UTSA at the Alamodome on Thursday night:
SOLOMON SOARS: Redshirt freshman quarterback Anu Solomon emerged from a four-player battle to earn the start in the opener. He certainly looked like the right choice against UNLV, throwing for a school freshman-record 425 yards and four TDs. “After the first game, he is still learning the system. But it’s exciting to see where that can take us,” Rodriguez said.
QUICK RISE: UTSA has only had a football program since 2011, but has made quick strides. The Roadrunners went 19-15 their first three seasons and have tied a school record with six straight wins - all against FBS schools - after beating Houston last week.
BIG-PLAY WILDCATS: Arizona has been known for its big-play capability since Rodriguez arrived in the desert three years ago, and he put that skill on full display last week against UNLV. The Wildcats had three scores of 60 yards or more and their 787 yards were the most in FBS the first week. “They really do a great job hitting home runs,” Coker said. “They’ll take it the distance. There’s not a lot of dinks and dunks. They’re going to go to the house. They’re good at doing it.”
ROADRUNNER QB: One of the few areas where UTSA isn’t experienced is at quarterback. The Roadrunners entered the season with five combined games between their returning quarterbacks, all by Tucker Carter. The senior had a mostly mistake-free start to the season, throwing for 121 yards on 15-of-24 passing.
ARIZONA’S RUN GAME: Arizona faced a big challenge this season in replacing Ka’Deem Carey, a two-time All-American and the school’s all-time leading rusher. Terris Jones-Grigsby did a solid job in the opener, rushing for 124 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. Freshman Nick Wilson also showed off his explosiveness, racing off to an 85-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.
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