One week after experiencing euphoria, the Roadrunners’ infant football program was brought back down to earth in a surprising, heartbreaking way.
The fall came in the form of a 24-21 loss to the McMurry War Hawks on the Alamodome turf.
“It was a very emotional game. The crowd was into it. We were in it. We were pumped up. When we were down we responded,” Roadrunner defensive end Marlon Smith said. “We responded pretty well through most of the game.”
The Roadrunners got to experience many firsts in their second game. The team faced its first ever deficit when the War Hawks connected on a 31-yard field goal attempt that gave the War Hawks a 3-0 lead with 13:08 left in the opening quarter.
“As good as it was last week, it is just as disappointing this week. Our players played hard, and it is pretty simple,” UTSA Head Coach Larry Coker said. “We gave up big plays on a passing game, which you can’t do because you aren’t going to win.”
The Roadrunners got the ball down 3-0 and drove to the War Hawks 31-yard line where the Roadrunners would be forced to attempt a 48-yard field goal. It flew wide right of the upright, costing the Roadrunners a chance at a tie.
That missed field goal would be the Roadrunners’ only opportunity to score in the first quarter. Before the Roadrunners could get the ball in the second quarter, the War Hawks had built a 10-0 cushion.
Roadrunner quarterback Eric Soza did his best to lead the team down the field toward the end of the 2nd quarter, but his pass on 1st down and 10 from the War Hawk 31 became the first ever interception thrown by UTSA. That interception ruined any chance the Roadrunners had of scoring before the half and sent the Roadrunners into the locker room experiencing another first: a halftime deficit.
“It’s a total disappointment because we gave ourselves plenty of opportunities to win the football game, and we just didn’t get it done,” Coker said.
The 3rd quarter began a little better for the Roadrunners as Soza marched the team down the field and came away with a touchdown to running back CheRod Simpson for 22 yards, making the score 10-7 War Hawks with 11:29 left in the third.
The Roadrunners would get another first toward the end of the quarter when defensive back Darrien Starling came down with the first interception ever caught by a Roadrunner. That interception led to a Roadrunner touchdown that gave them a 14-10 lead heading into the final frame.
“I saw the ball in the air, and I attacked the football,” Starling said. “I got my hands on it, and he got his hands on it, but at the last second, as we were coming down, I pulled it out.”
The final quarter would be the most action packed of any the Roadrunners have played so far. The Roadrunners would lose the lead on a blocked punt that the War Hawks carried into the endzone to go up 17-14. Then the Roadrunners regained the lead with 3:02 left in the game when running back David Glasco found pay-dirt on a seven-yard run that made it 21-17 UTSA.
The War Hawks took the ball and on a 4th down and 5-to-go, with the game in the balance, The Roadrunners’ Smith seemed to have gotten to War Hawk quarterback, Jake Mullin. Except for one thing, the quarterback had thrown the ball, and the War Hawks had gotten a first down.
“I thought I had the sack. I looked down and he didn’t have the ball, and I turned around and the dude is running up field,” Smith said. “It’s very frustrating. I can’t explain it or put it into words. To be that close to ending the ball game, and they got one on us.”
The War Hawks then drove the dagger through the hearts of the Roadrunner faithful in attendance when Mullin found Delfonte Diamond over the middle and Diamond coasted into the endzone to give McMurry the 24-21 lead with 0:19 seconds left.
Soza did his best to lead the first comeback drive, but the Roadrunners came up just short, and the days of Roadrunner football being ‘still undefeated’ came to an end.
“It didn’t go our way on the last drive, but the defense played hard the whole game,” Soza said. “As an offense, we didn’t convert on what we needed to do, but the defense kept us in the game.”
The defense did its best to win, but the War Hawks beat the Roadrunners secondary multiple times on the deep pass. Mullin completed 29 passes on 45 attempts while racking up 372 yards in the air. The Roadrunners did a good job of stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback, but when Mullin had time to throw, he was connecting with receivers.
Soza was equally slinging the ball around the yard. On 28 attempts, Soza completed 15 for 255 yards. Soza’s aerial performance also included two touchdowns.
The Roadrunners (1-1) will hit the road this weekend to face Southern Utah in Cedar City, Utah. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. central time. McMurry (1-1) will travel to face Mary Hardin-Baylor.