UTSA vows to learn after latest close loss to Power Five team

Photo of Tim Griffin

So close, but yet still so far.

UTSA players reflected into the wee hours Saturday morning about what they nearly accomplished against Arizona State.

The Roadrunners came excruciatingly close to what have been a program-defining victory before falling 32-28 to the Sun Devils at the Alamodome.

After the defeat, the realization of what the Roadrunners squandered still was stinging as they dropped to 0-8 in the school’s brief history against Power Five opponents.

“We’re very upset,” UTSA senior strong safety Michael Egwuagu said. “There’s no doubt about it. It’s a bitter taste in our mouths. But as far as a springboard, I think all it does is shows us we can play with anybody.”

The 16-point advantage late in the third quarter UTSA frittered away represented the biggest lead blown in the history of the school and only the third time the Roadrunners have ever squandered a double-digit lead in a loss.

“I thought we did a good job of defending them and playing competitively,” UTSA coach Frank Wilson said. “But we’re not into moral victories of finishing second. We’re disappointed because we had opportunities where we could have won.”

For much of the game, ASU looked like it was hung over from the whipping it had administered to Texas Tech last week.

The Sun Devils could never get their vaunted Devil Cat short-yardage offense rolling until late in the game. But ASU wasn’t the only one sputtering as the night went on.

ESPN’s broadcasting crew had troubles as their announcers twice referred to the Roadrunners as “USTA” — just like the tennis organization — during their game broadcast.

The devastating hit that UTSA cornerback Devron Davis administered to ASU quarterback Manny Harris had Twitter buzzing for a few minutes.

But the close margin Friday night ended up being a glaring indictment of a Tech defense that was roasted for 652 yards in a 68-55 loss to the Sun Devils last week. At least that was what the Tech bulletin boards seemed to indicate.

The Pac-12 struggled this season with Washington State losing to Boise State and Eastern Washington and California falling to San Diego State in the first two weeks of the season. Arizona State was lucky it didn’t join the list of ignominy Friday night.

The Roadrunners hit the Sun Devils with a slew of big plays — mostly because of Dalton Sturm’s arm and feet.

ASU adjusted as the game went on, keeping two linebackers in the box to account for Sturm’s scrambling.

“He’s a good quarterback who hurt us more with his legs,” ASU coach Todd Graham said. “We went into the game and said that the number one play he was going to run was the quarterback draw and then the quarterback pull-it-down and scramble. We were very prepared for that, but we were just making some errors early on. Just little things you can’t do.”

But the Sun Devils came up with four straight third-down stops, limiting the Roadrunners to 21 yards and two first downs on their final 21 snaps.

“They weren’t doing anything I hadn’t seen all game,” said Sturm, who accounted for 311 yards of total offense and four touchdowns. “Just got to find a way to make plays.”

The loss should prepare the Roadrunners for the start of Conference USA play next week at Old Dominion. But their offensive line must improve if they have any legitimate hopes of the school’s first bowl trip.

In the seven previous games after facing a Power Five school, UTSA is 1-6. Last season, the Roadrunners were 0-3 the next week, losing by an average of 28 points per game.

But under Wilson, the Roadrunners vow all that has changed.

“I think we’re a long way from both those seasons,” Egwuagu said. “We’re a different team. We have to get over the hump and we just have to capitalize.”

One of these days, UTSA is going to jump up and beat a Power Five foe.

The Roadrunners had their opportunities Friday night.

The Sun Devils were just too fast, too deep, too big and ultimately too good for the Roadrunners.

It was a harsh lesson for Wilson to learn in his first game against one of those teams.

He’ll get other chances as he builds his program.

And if his team plays like it did for most of Friday’s game, that streak should be ending before too long.


Twitter: @TimGriffinBig12