UTSA can make history with New Mexico Bowl win

The UTSA Roadrunners look to get rowdy in New Mexico against the Lobos. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports
The UTSA Roadrunners look to get rowdy in New Mexico against the Lobos. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports /

The UTSA Roadrunners will make the first bowl appearance in school history against the New Mexico Lobos in the Gildan New Mexico Bowl.

For the UTSA Roadrunners, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl might as well be for the National Championship. After finishing the regular season 6-6, their invitation to face the New Mexico Lobos is the first in school history and could be the beginning of great things for the program.

How UTSA got here

Since the inaugural season of UTSA football in 2011, this marks the third year they’ve won at least six games. However, the first two times occurred during transition years when they were ineligible for bowls. Therefore, this is the first full-time FBS team in Roadrunners history to win at least six. They’re also the fastest school to go from startup to a bowl game since Georgia State accomplished the feat in its sixth season of play last year. Both schools tied South Alabama, who did it the year before in 2014. No schools have done it quicker than these three.

What’s even more impressive for UTSA is that they were able to accomplish the feat under first-year head coach Frank Wilson. Winning six is hard enough for an NCAA team. It’s further complicated when the man in charge is new to the school and the players. But early in the year, a bowl game didn’t even seem possible for the Roadrunners.

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After kicking off the season with a 28-14 win over Alabama State, the road became treacherous for UTSA. With back-to-back-to-back losses to Colorado State, Arizona State and Old Dominion, a 1-3 record stared them in the face.

However, the Roadrunners persevered and finished 5-3 with quality wins over fellow bowl teams Southern Mississippi, North Texas and Middle Tennessee.

How UTSA could lose

The Lobos are coming off a solid season of their own and will present stiff competition for the Roadrunners. Behind a pair of Texan running backs, their triple option running game averaged an NCAA-best 360.9 yards per game.

Senior Teriyon Gipson and sophomore Tyrone Owens lead the attack and are the focal point of the New Mexico offense. Keying in on those two won’t be enough though, as junior quarterback Lamar Jordan (also a Texas native) can tote the rock as well.

Defending the triple option presents the biggest problem for UTSA in the New Mexico Bowl. It certainly helps that they have the extra preparation time leading up to the game. They’re going to need it. Speed and overall awareness of who has the ball will be the key. If the Roadrunners can adapt and play wise defense, they have a shot. Otherwise, it could be a nightmare.

How UTSA could win

While they haven’t faced a team that features a prominent option game all season, they have fared decently against the run. On the season, the UTSA defense finished in the top half of FBS teams in fewest rushing yards allowed.

Offensively, the key for the Roadrunners will be senior running back and the school’s all-time leading rusher, Jarveon Williams. If UTSA can establish the run early, it could open up passing lanes for junior quarterback Dalton Sturm.

How UTSA will fare

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In the end, New Mexico will overpower UTSA. The running game will work early for the Lobos and pound away for yards and time of possession. The Roadrunners will keep things close through the middle quarters, but depth and experience will decide this one.

Final score: New Mexico 30, UTSA 20