(Photo: USA Today)
Texas will have to pick themselves up off the mat quickly following a close loss to Alabama as they prepare to welcome UTSA to Austin on Saturday night. The Roadrunners are coming off a 41-38 overtime win over Army and are coached by former Texas assistant Jeff Traylor. Let's take a look at what to expect from a veteran-laden UTSA squad.
The Roadrunners have 9 senior starters on offense, led by QB Frank Harris. Harris is in his 3rd season as the full-time starter and has already thrown for 696 yards through two games this season. The lefty has tossed 6 touchdowns compared to just 1 interception. He has the luxury of throwing to 3 senior receivers: Zakhari Franklin, Joshua Cephus and De'Corian Clark. The trio has hauled in 50 of Harris' 60 completions on the season, with Franklin leading the way with 20 receptions. All 3 stand above 6'1 and are very reliable targets.
The big question mark for UTSA comes on the offensive line, where they have been dealing with injuries and inconsistent play. Traylor said earlier in the week that they were down 4 offensive tackles at one point last Saturday. Venly Tatafu, who normally plays guard, has slid out to LT and the opposite tackle spot has been held down by Ernesto Almarez, but Almarez has been battling an ankle injury and exited the game against Army early. If Almarez can not go, walk-on Frankie Martinez is likely to get the start. The biggest wildcard is Demetris Allen, who was expected to open the season at LT but has missed the first two games due to an off-field issue. Traylor mentioned Wednesday morning that Allen had returned to practice, but he was unsure how ready he would be for game-action and was unsure if he would play on Saturday.
Arkansas transfer Trelon Smith and Brenden Brady will handle the bulk of the carries, but the Roadrunners have struggled overall to run the ball through their first two games. Harris actually leads the team in rushing with 93 yards.
Similar to the offense, the UTSA has a wealth of experience with 7 senior starters. The secondary is the biggest question mark of the defense but also the most experienced. The Roadrunners struggled mightily against the pass a season ago and it remains to be seen if their secondary play will be any better this year. Safety Rashad Wisdom is their best player and is extremely active.
Up front, nose tackle Brandon Brown is one to watch. Brown leads the team with 1.5 sacks and caused a lot of issues against Army and Houston. Both struggled to run the ball up the middle. Middle linebacker Trevor Harmanson is a solid player and has registered 17 tackles on the season.
Texas has a lot of question marks surrounding the QB position heading into this matchup, which means it is tough to predict what the UTSA defense might look like. The Roadrunners gave up a ton of big plays last week against Army, a trend that carried over from 2021. If Hudson Card is able to give it a go on Saturday, the Longhorns will likely find some success in the downfield passing game.
UTSA will bring a very experienced team to Austin, and they did not win 12 games in 2021 by accident. Jeff Traylor will surely have his team ready to play and will have likely have a few tricks up his sleeve as he looks to pull the upset.
Texas is vulnerable right now coming off the Alabama and dealing with a number of injuries. If the Longhorns play in the trenches like they did last Saturday, it will likely be enough regardless of who the QB is. But if Texas lets their guard down and tries to go through the motions, this will be a close game in the 4th quarter.