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

UTSA football to channel inner David against Goliath on Saturday

Roadrunners set to face No. 23 Tennessee in Knoxville for program’s 150th game
Stephen Saenz
UTSA faces off against Army, 9/15

For the second-straight year, the Roadrunners are starting their football season 1-2. Although unlike last season, the ‘Runners did not end their nonconference schedule playing an inferior Texas Southern team — who UTSA handled 52-24. Now coming off its third loss in the last four contests, UTSA football is days away from playing its highest-quality opponent yet. 

Tennessee, who is currently ranked No. 23 in the AP Top-25 Poll, is coming off an 11-2 season and peaked as high as No. 1 in the rankings last year. The Roadrunners have yet to play a ranked opponent through the first three weeks in 2023, deeming the final matchup of out-of-conference play to be their toughest challenge yet. 

There are several things to consider when watching UTSA on Saturday at Neyland Stadium. The first – and most important – factor is who is suiting up for the Roadrunners come game time. Frank Harris, UTSA’s seventh-year quarterback, is still questionable for the game against the Volunteers after sitting out in last week’s loss against Army. As the leader of the team, Harris’ on-field presence gives the ‘Runners the best chance of pulling off the upset, having gone 24-6 since the 2021 season. Despite this, head coach Jeff Traylor is firm on keeping the veteran quarterback sidelined until he is undoubtedly healthy.

“It’s not changed,” Traylor said on Harris’ status. “It’ll be day to day; we’ll see how he looks. If he is not 100 percent, he will not play.” 

Along with the status of the team’s best offensive player being unknown, the Roadrunner’s best defensive player in Trey Moore is also questionable. The outside linebacker had three sacks in week two’s win over Texas State and was tabbed the AAC Defensive Player of the Week. Moore left Friday’s game with an apparent right ankle injury, which is significant enough for Traylor to set the same tone for Moore’s possibility of playing Saturday the same as Harris. 

“It’ll be the same as Frank,” Traylor said. “If he is not 100 percent, he will not play.”

The cherry on top for unwanted injuries going into Knoxville is UTSA’s best offensive lineman Makai Hart still hurt from the Texas State game. The amount of injured players, and at the positions they’re in, give the Roadrunners every bit of an excuse when playing a superior team. Traylor, though still disappointed with already two losses, still believes the uphill battle is making his team better.

“They’re all excuses,” Traylor said. “When you lose your quarterback, you lose your best offensive lineman, your best wide receiver is not playing, now your best outside linebacker is not playing, it’s just adding up to a lot of things right now. But we are getting better each week.”

Aside from who UTSA could potentially not play, another important factor is who the ‘Runners are playing. Tennessee is no slouch in competition, having beat LSU, Alabama and Clemson all last season and having one of the fastest offenses in the NCAA. The Volunteers are coming off a 29-16 loss to No. 25 Florida, which made Tennessee drop from No. 11 to No. 23. 

As someone who knows football at a high level such as coach Traylor, there is nothing worse than playing a more talented team after they experienced a disappointing game the week prior.

“You never want to play a team after a loss,” Traylor said. “It’ll be a rough environment against a good football team. What would be different about 2023, right? The schedule just lines up perfect every week.” 

Of course, Traylor’s line about the scheduling is pure sarcasm, as the Roadrunners face some tough scheduling breaks both this season and last season, on top of compiling major injuries. Opening up the 2023 season on the road against Houston — an in-state rival in the Big 12 Conference — then following up against another fellow in-state rival in Texas State and then turning around to replace Army is a gut punch for the injury-riddled ‘Runners. 

Now going against one of the biggest powers in the South Eastern Conference, Traylor still expects his team to stack up against the No. 23 Volunteers.

“You’re blocking guys who are just way superior athletically. They’re longer, they’re faster, they’re bigger. We got to be creative this week,” Traylor said. “You’re playing a far superior opponent as far as their talent. But our guys will compete. They always do.”

Despite being 0-11 against top-25 FBS teams, UTSA has one lucky stat that can spark optimism for Saturday’s matchup: the Roadrunners are 3-0 in the state of Tennessee. The ‘Runners defeated Middle Tennessee in 2016 and in 2022, while also defeating Memphis in a 31-28 comeback victory in 2021. 

With the toughest opponent on UTSA’s schedule just days away, Traylor still has several coaching decisions he must figure out by Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT kickoff. Regardless of who is playing in a Roadrunner’s jersey this weekend, one thing is certain: the Triangle of Toughness must travel for David to pull off the upset against Goliath. 

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About the Contributors
Luke Lawhorn
Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor
Luke (he/him) is an English major at UTSA and is set to graduate in the Spring of 2024. This is his fifth semester at The Paisano and his fourth as the Sports Editor. Along with covering UTSA sports and events, Luke also covers high school sports and local events for the San Antonio Express-News and covers the San Antonio Spurs for The Paisano. He has a huge passion for covering sports and giving his opinion on them. Outside of writing and talking about sports, Luke's hobbies include playing basketball, watching movies and all things outdoors.
Stephen Saenz
Stephen Saenz, Photographer

Stephen is a first-year mechanical engineering major with a minor in business administration. Stephen is from McAllen, TX, but has lived in San Antonio for about 9 years now. This is his first-year shooting for The Paisano, however, Stephen has loved film and photography since he was around 10-11 years old and has actively been pursuing freelance photography for about a year now. While photograph is not his major, Stephen is currently focused on growing his name in the industry by focusing on his photography business, however, if it’s not editing or taking photos, he is either listening to music, watching movies, in a coffee shop or finding a good spot to eat. Stephen is a part of other organizations like Engineers Without Borders and works for a non-profit in San Antonio called Kinetic Kids.

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