At stake for UTSA is a three-game winning streak. For Rice, it’s a chance to end a four-game skid. Here’s what we’re watching for Saturday night:
The Roadrunners struggle up front and this week, Jalyn Galmore is out for the season, so Josh Dunlop moves back out to tackle, and Jordan Wright steps up at right guard. Both started in spots at those positions in 2017 and Dunlop might be a better fit at tackle than guard. Either way, the UTSA line needs some help. The Roadrunners average less than three yards per carry and allowed 20 sacks, bad enough for second worst in the FBS.
Meet Austin Walter
If Rice has a secret weapon, correct that, if Rice has a weapon at all, it’s Austin Walter. The senior from Crosby is one of the best all-around backs in college football. He leads the FBS in All-Purpose Yardage. He’s averaging 209 total yards per game, last week he hit up Wake Forest for 266 total yards and two scores. He’s averaging almost seven yards per touch. Originally used as a change of pace to Emmanuel Esukpa, Walter is now more and more of a feature for the Owl offense.
What Hath Al Borges Rought?
After last season, UTSA split with offensive coordinator Frank Scelfo and hired experienced hand Al Borges. UTSA’s offense ran a bit stagnate last season, and Borges was brought in to inject some life into the Roadrunner attack. Through five games, what are the results? Great question, glad you asked.
Pace - UTSA isn’t showing any discernable increase in pacing. The Roadrunners average one more play per game and one more possession. UTSA’s average plays per possession are down from last year (2.0 to 2.3). The average drive time is down from an average of 2.7 minutes per possession to 2.28.
Run/Pass Ratio - Personnel dictates how one attacks, this year with a rebuilt offensive line, a new quarterback, and new skill talent, the Roadrunners balanced their attack, increasing their pass plays per game. Last year under Scelfo, UTSA rushed the ball 58% of the time, that number’s dropped to 48% this season.
Efficiency - The biggest change is in rush efficiency, the Roadrunners average 96 yards per game, a near 100 yard per game drop from last season (188.18 yds per game). The average per rush falls from 4.64 to 2.88 this season. The more significant dive comes in the passing game where the loss of Dalton Sturm and crucial several skill players left a void. Completion percentages are down nine points, yardage is down, as is QB rating.
Scoring - UTSA averages four fewer points per game than in 2017. Points per possession are down from 1.95 to 1.5, and the percentage of possessions that resulted in a score is down from 19% to 13%.
What’s our takeaway? UTSA misses Dalton Sturm and that offensive line. You can try to blame the schedule but other than the disastrous rushing game at Arizona State, the numbers are consistent. UTSA gets an extra possession but doesn’t do anything with it. Splash plays are down as well, on pace for a near 50% reduction from last season as well.
UTSA is more of a grind it out offense than last year when ran the football far more efficiently. This year, doing with a less potent running game makes for a far higher degree of difficulty. Maybe they break out against Rice, but they’ll need to break several offensive trends to do so.
Through the Air
Rice allows opponents to complete 70% of their passes. That’s the fourth worst in the FBS, only better than UConn, Louisiana Monroe, and Georgia State. You’d rather not live in that neighborhood, but that’s where Rice is setting up shop. The Owls allow the highest passer rating of any team in the FBS and almost four passes per game. Can UTSA take advantage of Rice’s inability to contain the pass?