The Roadrunners extended their winning streak to three games with a second road victory over the Georgia State Panthers, 38-14, on Saturday, Sept 15. Last season the Runners couldn’t win one game on the road but things have certainly changed.
“This is the best game we’ve played as an offense, defense and special teams all year,” said head coach Larry Coker.
Coker wanted a more potent running attack this season. This game was a testament to UTSA’s improved ground attack. Running back Evans Okotcha set a UTSA record by scoring three touchdowns in the game. Okotcha finished with three touchdowns and 49 yards at the end of the game.
“Probably the hardest yards I’ve ever earned in my life,” Okotcha said. “Our offensive line rose to the occasion, and it was good challenge that we as a team overcame.”
UTSA drew first blood when kicker Sean Ianno booted a 26-yard field goal with 10:22 in regulation. However ,UTSA’s lead was short lived. Panthers’ quarterback Ben McLane fired a pass to receiver Albert Wilson for an 84-yard touchdown. Georgia State took a 7-3 lead with 9:51 left in the first quarter. After that score, UTSA’s defense stepped up and shut down the Panthers for the rest of the first half.
“Our defense has worked very hard this year. I love watching our defense this year because I have faith that they are going to get the job done,” UTSA center Nate Leonard said.
On the kickoff, wide receiver Kenny Harrison bolted through the initial wave of Panthers defenders for a school record 84-yard return. Harrison was also named the Western Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week. The Runners capitalized on Harrison’s run, when Okotcha leaped over his offensive line for his first touchdown with after a five- yard run to give the Runners a 10-7 advantage at the 8:01 mark.
The Runners’ offensive momentum kept on rolling, and quarterback Eric Soza threw a five-yard touchdown strike to wide receiver Aaron Grub, extending UTSA’s lead 17-7 with 1:49 left in the first quarter. The Runners increased their lead with one more score when Okotcha rumbled for a one-yard touchdown, and UTSA went into halftime with a 24-7 lead.
The Roadrunners defense quickly made a statement in the second half when corner back Erik Brown forced a fumble from Panthers running back Donald Russell. The Roadrunners did not waste the recoverd fumble, and ended a seven-play drive when Soza delievered a 20-yard touchdown pass to Roadrunners receiver Marcellus Mack at the 10:14 mark.
On the next possession, Georgia State’s offensive momentum was stopped by UTSA safety Brian King’s interception with 7:13 left in the third quarter. Again, the Roadrunners capitalized this turnover as Okotcha powered his way through the Panthers’ defense for a one-yard touchdown run. With Okotcha third touchdown run of the day UTSA further separated themselves from the home team Panthers 38-7.
Georgia State’s offense finally showed signs of life late in the third quarter. Quarterback Ronnie Bell completed a 25-yard touchdown pass to receiver Albert Wilson and the Roadrunners lead was decreased to only 38-14 with 2:44 left in the third quarter.
There was no scoring from either side in the fourth quarter, as the Runners looked content with their 38-14 lead. The defense didn’t show any mercy for the Panthers’ offense, as corner back Crosby Adams intercepted a Bell pass with 6:00 left in regulation. The Runners ran out plenty of time with the clock and walked out of Atlanta with the longest winning streak in program history at 3-0.
The most noticeable improvement, along with the ground attack for the Runners, is the offensive line. It was a weakness for this team, and many thought it would expose the Roadrunners this season. This game put to rest many of the anxieties about this group of men.
“They work hard, and you can tell that the off season work isn’t going unnoticed. I contribute our offensive success because of them, they are the driving force to this offense,” Soza said.
After their second road victory, the Roadrunners are very excited to come home and play in front the home crowd.
“I hope our fans realize how much of an impact they have on the game. They are a part of the game,” said Leonard.
The Roadrunners will host Northwestern Oklahoma State (0-3) Saturday, Sept. 22, the last game before UTSA will start conference competition. Rather than looking too far ahead Coker remains to keep his men ready for Saturday’s game. One interesting way to keep his players focused on football was to hold practice in rare San Antonio rain this past weekend.
“We have to keep our guys hungry. I think 3-0 is good but after Saturday we have to be 1-0. You do have to keep them on edge,” Coker said.
Kickoff against the Northwestern Oklahoma State Rangers is scheduled of 1 p.m. for the Roadrunners’ at the Alamodome.