The Roadrunners maintained their perfect record last week when they defeated the New Mexico State Aggies 35-14. The victory marked the first Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for UTSA and the second road win. Before the match, Head Coach Larry Coker noted the importance of these games as “the next step in building this program.”
Quarterback Eric Soza’s offensive performance commanded the momentous defeat. Soza threw for three touchdowns and 269 total passing yards. Soza also charged 55 yards and claimed his own rushing touchdown, making this the best offensive performance in this young season.
The premiere WAC matchup tested the strength of the contenders. Neither team was able to score in the first quarter battle for field position. The Aggies executed a fake punt that resulted in a 20 yard running play from New Mexico wide receiver Joseph Matthews. The Aggies commanded the lead after Manley completed an eight-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Walls, with 4:34 left in the opening quarter.
The Roadrunners quickly retaliated against the Aggies late-quarter strike. After a pass from Soza, running back Evans Okotcha sprinted 48 yards down the sideline and ushered the Roadrunner ball into the end zone, silencing Aggie efforts with 2:19 remaining on the clock.
In the second quarter, the Roadrunner offense forged through the yards. The puzzled New Mexico defenders dove at Soza’s feet, but couldn’t catch his shoelace as he steamrolled through the pressure to a Runner touchdown.
Two minutes later, Soza subdued the overwhelmed New Mexico defense when he completed the longest touchdown of the game, an 82-yard pass to receiver Kenny Bias.
The second half maintained the aggressive momentum of the first. With 4:39 left in the third quarter, Soza shut down the New Mexico offense with another 15-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Cole Hicks. The Runners led 28-7.
In the final quarter, the Aggies, struggling to close the gap, broke through the Roadrunner defense. Manley threw a 41-yard pass to New Mexico State receiver Austin Franklin for the second, and final, Aggie touchdown of the night. With 11:27 remaining in the UTSA’s first WAC game, Runner offense regained possession and squashed the Aggie’s hope for victory. The Runners offense controlled the ball for 7:32 and the discouraged New Mexico defense caved with each UTSA first down.
Running back Okotcha blasted through the defense for a nine-yard touchdown. The final score, 35-14, announced UTSA’s arrival in the WAC conference.
A disheartened New Mexico State offense took the field with their final, exhausted breath. UTSA’s defense quickly trampled their effort with back-to-back sacks of Manley, courtesy of defensive lineman Franky Anaya, linebacker Steven Kurfhes and defensive lineman Will Ritter.
Safety Nic Johnston and cornerback Erik Brown intercepted Manley’s backfield passes, and foiled the Aggie offense to frustration, although the Roadrunners surrendered 276 passing yards. However, Coker noted that the Aggie’s receiving corps was “the best and most-talented team we have faced since I have been here.”
UTSA will rest for a deserved bye week before they face future Conference-USA opponent the Rice Owls in Houston on Oct. 13. The following week, the Roadrunners will challenge San Jose State in the season Homecoming game at the Alamodome on Oct. 20 at 1 p.m.