Southern Miss’s Ito Smith breaks a tackle while rushing around two UTSA defenders. Chase Otero/The Paisano

Roadrunners handed their first loss of the season in a 31-29 nail-biter

 

Coming into the game against Southern Miss, the ‘Runners looked to start off conference play 1-0 and begin their pursuit to a conference championship appearance. However, the result was not one UTSA was hoping for; as they fell in a hard-fought game to Southern Miss 31-29.

UTSA received the opening kickoff and looked to make a statement on their first drive in conference play. The ‘Runners offense came out firing and were able to drive all the way down to the Southern Miss 19-yard line. However, the Golden Eagles defense wouldn’t give any more yards and the ‘Runners offense was forced to settle for a 38-yard Jared Sackett field goal to give UTSA a quick three-point lead. Southern Miss quickly responded with a score themselves as they drove down the field in only four plays. The scoring drive was capped by a Keon Howard 32-yard touchdown strike to put the Golden Eagles up by four points midway through the first quarter.

For the rest of the first quarter, the teams were locked in a defensive battle as neither team would allow the other to score. A possible momentum swing for the ‘Runners came in the second quarter, when Allenzae Staggers fumbled the ball at the UTSA eight-yard line. The ‘Runners were able to gain some momentum off the turnover, but their offense again stalled and were forced to punt. Immediately following the turnover by Southern Miss, both defenses settled back in for most of the second quarter.

Towards the end of the second quarter the ‘Runners offense finally started to click. On their fifth drive of the game, the ‘Runners got the ball at their own eight-yard line. From there Dalton Sturm took over. His first pass of the drive went to Josh Stewart for a solid ten-yard gain. Continuing the march down the field, Tyrell Clay broke off a 20-yard run to get the ‘Runners into Southern Miss territory. Sturm delivered a 21-yard touchdown strike to Josh Stewart to put the ‘Runners up by three. On the Golden Eagles’ next drive, the ‘Runners defense came up with another key stop, to give the ball back to the offense one last time before the half. Sturm led the team into field goal position, leading to a 40-yard Sackett field goal to give UTSA a 13-7 halftime lead.

Defensive lineman Eric Banks forces a fumble in the fourth quarter. Chase Otero/The Paisano

 

Coming out of halftime, Southern Miss got the ball to start and looked to regain the lead. Instead, they were held to yet another three and out and punted the ball back to the ‘Runners. Sturm again marched the offense down the field and momentum seemed to be swinging back in favor of the ‘Runners. Any possible momentum was halted when Sturm threw an interception that was returned for 61-yards to the UTSA 39-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Golden Eagles to capitalize on the Sturm turnover; Keon Howard connected with Korey Robertson on a 20-yard touchdown.

After the quick score, the ‘Runners were again held to another third and out. On the next drive for Southern Miss, Howard threw for another touchdown; this one coming on a 48-yard strike to Quez Watkins to put Southern Miss up 21-13. They would go up 28-13 early in the fourth quarter after an 89-yard touchdown run by Ito Smith. Midway through the fourth quarter, the ‘Runners offense again started to gain some momentum themselves. UTSA scored on back to back drives to narrow the Southern Miss lead down to 28-23.

Following a Sackett 44-yard field goal, Southern Miss got the ball back hoping to put the game out of reach. The Golden Eagles managed to drive the ball deep into UTSA territory, but the ‘Runners defense held them to only a field goal, setting the stage for Sturm to lead one last drive to tie the game and to go into overtime. Sturm marched the offense down the field with ease and connected with Marquez McNair on a 24 yard-touchdown pass with 48 seconds left to pull UTSA within two. On the two point conversion, Sturm looked for Josh Stewart on a quick slant but the play was unsuccessful. The ensuing onside attempt was also unsuccessful and the ‘Runners comeback attempt fell short.

After a tough loss, Coach Wilson didn’t blame any of the line’s struggles on injuries.

“They all get coached the same, and they’re all trained the same way,” said Wilson regarding the injuries to his offensive line and whether or not having to put in backups was a factor in the game.

Despite the loss, the ‘Runners have plenty reasons to be optimistic about the season going forward. Sturm had a stellar game throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns. His two favorite targets were undoubtedly Josh Stewart and Greg Campbell Jr. who combined for 209 receiving yards and one touchdown. The ‘Runners look to bounce back from the loss as they take on North Texas Saturday, Oct. 14 in Denton.

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