Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Running start: football prevails

Burk Frey

The long-awaited day finally arrived. Football came to the Alamo City in the form of the UTSA Roadrunners.

The Roadrunners scored on their first three drives to build a 21-0 lead and won, 31-3, against the Northeastern State RiverHawks. The result sent the 56,743 fans—a national record for a startup program—home happy.

“We learned a lot about ourselves [today],” Head Coach Larry Coker said. “I think we also learned a little bit about our coaches.”

The Roadrunners also learned that they were not defending the Alamodome alone.

“It was even better than what I pictured. Even during warm ups when we ran by the student section and they exploded, I got chills all over my body,” quarterback Eric Soza said. “It wasn’t because I was nervous but because I was ready to play right then and there an hour before the game.”

Coker added that the atmosphere in the dome was unlike any he had seen before.

“It was just like in the SEC. I’ve never been around anything like that and that’s being honest,” Coker said. “I’ve played for national championships and I’ve never been at any event like today. It wasn’t any false emotion.”

It was a day of firsts for the Roadrunners beginning with the first kickoff return in school history when Kam Jones broke through the pack for 37 yards, giving the Roadrunner offense the ball 55 yards away from the end zone.

“It definitely wasn’t surprising because we all know what Kam Jones can do,” Roadrunner free safety Mark Waters said, when asked about the opening kick return. “He is such a great athlete so we were expecting it.”

The Roadrunners’ first drive began with a four-yard loss by Brandon Armstrong that gave cause for concern to some. But not to Soza, who calmly took the next snap, rushed for 19 yards and brought the Roadrunners into RiverHawk territory for the first time.

It was the beginning of a methodical drive by Soza as he did his best impression of Sam Houston and led his troops down the field before punching it in on a 14-yard touchdown run at the 11:35 mark of the opening frame.

“I am honored to have that next to my name,” Soza said. “But the offensive line and the backs blocked well, and I am just the one getting the glory for it.”

Place kicker Sean Ianno knocked in the first extra point in school history to give the Roadrunners a 7-0 lead early in the afternoon.

Following the Roadrunners’ first kickoff to an opponent, the defense stepped onto the field where Roadrunner safety Nic Johnston set the tone for the afternoon by rocking the world of RiverHawks running back Joel Rockmore with a huge hit, for a loss of five yards.

“It fired us up for a big hit like that on our first defensive play,” Linebacker Steven Kurfehs said. “He told us he was going to go out there and knock some heads off.”

The Roadrunners got the ball back after the RiverHawks failed to get anything going and punted after a three-and-out.

Soza took over with 10:16 left in the quarter and 60 yards separating the Roadrunners from the end zone. Once again, Soza marched his team down the field, carving up territory like Alexander the Great. Soza found the end zone at the end of the drive by finding wide receiver Jake Wanamaker for a six yard touchdown that gave the Roadrunners a 14-0 lead with 6:34 left in the opening quarter.

“I think he was almost flawless for most of the game,” Coker said. “I just wanted him to run the ball and execute the offense. I think Eric just made it all happen.”

The defense was equally flawless the next time they took the field as they forced the RiverHawks into another three-and-out. The Roadrunners fielded the punt and started their next drive from their own 26 yard line.

By the third time he touched the ball, Soza was quite comfortable on the turf of the Alamodome as he orchestrated the longest scoring drive of the day, capping it off with a three-yard touchdown toss to Jones that gave the Roadrunners a 21-0 lead with 1:26 left in the first quarter.

It was the straw that broke the RiverHawks backs and sent the crowd into a euphoria that would last for three quarters.

“We had to communicate more as it was very loud in there.” RiverHawk safety Terrance Leach said. “We just had to do more hand signals and some other things just to get the communication down. It was pretty loud, though.”

Following the first quarter, another first in UTSA history was celebrated when the 2010-2011 men’s basketball team was honored for their conference championship and victory in the first round of the NCAA tournament, which was the first time a Roadrunner sport had won a game in any NCAA tournament.

While the first quarter was full of scoring, there was hardly any in the second. The RiverHawks seemed to figure out a way to stop Soza and the Roadrunner offense, but the Roadrunner defense continued its containment of the RiverHawks offense.

The RiverHawks nearly got on the board when Drew Patton missed a 40-yard field goal attempt with 8:42 left in the half. As the half wore down, the Roadrunners drove to within scoring distance before Soza threw an interception into the end zone that was called back on a penalty, giving the Roadrunners new life with 0:05 left in the half.

The Roadrunners took advantage of the turn of events and Ianno knocked in a 21-yard field goal attempt that gave the Roadrunners a 24-0 lead at the i

As the second half began, the Roadrunner defense came out sluggishly and the RiverHawks offense took advantage as they drove down the field before the Roadrunner D buckled down and held the RiverHawks to a Dylan Beers Field Goal that made the score 24-3 with 10:41 left in the third quarter.

The Roadrunners and RiverHawks would trade possession of the football back and forth for much of the third quarter before the Roadrunner offense got back in the rhythm that had led to 21 first quarter points.

The Roadrunners got back to what worked, which was the arm of Soza, who completed a 63-yard pass to David Morgan that put the Roadrunners in a first and goal from the RiverHawk seven yard line.

Soza threw an incomplete pass that was intended for Jay Kazen on the next play before running back David Glasco II ran it in for the Roadrunners’ final score of the game that provided the difference of 31-3 in favor of the Roadrunners.

The RiverHawks padded their stats in the fourth quarter, but the game had been decided early; the Roadrunners were going to end their first game victoriously.

Among the records that fell on Saturday was the national record for attendance at an opening game for a startup program. The Alamodome attendance of 56,743 broke the previous record of 49,212 set by the University of South Florida against Kentucky Wesleyan in 1997.

“The crowd was awesome today,” Coker said. “The noise level was there, and they responded like an old veteran crowd. This might be an old ‘Cleveland Dogpound’ crowd out there. They were great.”

Whether the Roadrunners’ fan base becomes as well known as the devotees of the Cleveland Browns will remain to be seen. What is known is that the Roadrunners must get ready for McMurry on Sept. 10. The inaugural game is in the books but the inaugural season continues.

“We know that we have to take it one game at a time because Northeastern wasn’t our only opponent and we need to prepare for the next ones,” Waters said. “We knew that we could not be ready for just Sept. 3, we also have to be ready on Sept. 10 and all the others after that.”

The Roadrunners (1-0) will return to the Alamodome Saturday against McMurry. Kickoff will be at 1 p.m. The RiverHawks (1-1) will hit the road and face Nebraska-Kearney on Saturday.

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