Jalen Rhodes runs the ball up the middle after finding a hole. Chase Otero/The Paisano

After suffering a tough loss to Florida International University the week before, UTSA came into Saturday night’s game against University Alabama Birmingham still one win away from becoming bowl eligible for a second straight season. The UAB Blazers have been surprisingly tough this season. In their first season since 2014, the Blazers entered the Alamodome with a 6-3 record (4-2 C-USA). After putting up only seven points last week, the UTSA offense was looking to bounce back.

The Roadrunners offensive woes continued immediately. After receiving the kickoff, quarterback Dalton Sturm threw a pass over the head of receiver Kerry Thomas and into the arms of a UAB defender for an interception. The play gave the UAB offense the ball inside the UTSA 30-yard line. Within four plays UAB drove the ball inside the five. From there, UAB quarterback A.J. Erdley took the ball around the left edge and into the end-zone to give the Blazers an early 7-0 lead.

UTSA finally showed a sign of life on their third offensive possession, when receiver Greg Campbell took the ball on an end-around and broke off a big 30-yard gain. However, UTSA couldn’t capitalize once inside the red-zone and was forced to settle for a field goal attempt. Kicker Jared Sackett knocked the ball through the uprights, and UTSA cut the lead to 7-3 midway into the first quarter.

Once UAB got the ball back, the Blazers wore the UTSA defense down with their rushing attack as they earned first down after first down. Once inside the 10-yard line, the UTSA defense forced a third down and goal. On third down, UAB’s Erdley found receiver Ronnie Turner Jr. wide open for another touchdown. UAB went up 14-3 with under two minutes to go in the first.

The Blazers ate up the entire first half of the second quarter with a 17 play, 89-yard drive that ended in a touchdown when Erdley snuck it up the middle on fourth and goal. The UTSA defense did not have an answer for UAB’s rushing attack. The Roadrunners suddenly found themselves down 21-3.

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UTSA would get a chance to answer with under two minutes to go in the first half after a pair of pass interference penalties and a personal foul on UAB gave the offense the ball inside the ten. However, the offense was once again unable to get into the end-zone. UTSA settled for a field goal. The ballgame went into halftime with a score of 21-6.

Early in the third quarter, it looked as if the Roadrunner defense finally figured out how to slow down UAB’s potent rushing attack. However, on the other side of the ball, the UTSA offense still couldn’t find an answer. After a couple of first downs, UTSA had the ball in UAB territory and for the first time all night, Jalen Rhodes found some daylight. Rhodes broke off a big gain but fumbled the ball at the end of the run. UAB recovered, and the life was sucked out of the Alamodome.

With UAB driving down the field to put the nail in the coffin, UTSA corner Devron Davis came up big with an interception and kept the ‘Runners hopes alive. The offense was unable to do anything with the turnover and punted the ball away once again.

As the third quarter came to a close, the UTSA defense forced another turnover on a fumble recovery to give the offense the ball in UAB territory. It would be UTSA’s ball to start the fourth quarter.

The Roadrunner offense was plagued by penalties on their following possession and were soon faced with a third down from the 20-yard line. With hope fading fast, Dalton Sturm took it upon himself to make something happen. Sturm scrambled outside the pocket and then proceeded to get every fan left in the stadium on their feet. Sturm made a series of dazzling moves, causing defender after defender to miss until he finally broke free and dove into the end-zone for UTSA’s first touchdown of the game. It was suddenly a one-possession game with 11 minutes left. UTSA trailed 21-13.

On UTSA’s next drive, Sturm was faced with pressure again, and he couldn’t get away. Sturm was sacked and fumbled the ball, giving UAB the ball in UTSA territory. UAB converted the opportunity into a field goal and took a ten point lead of 24-13.

With time winding down, Sturm hit receiver Kerry Thomas over the middle for a touchdown. With UTSA now down by five, the ‘Runners went for two. The two-point conversion failed, and the score remained 24-19 with a minute left. UTSA attempted a desperate onside kick afterwards, but UAB recovered easily. UAB kneeled the ball to run out the clock and seal the win. Despite the valiant comeback effort from UTSA, UAB walked away from the ‘dome with a victory.

“I’m proud that our guys did not quit and fought back…To be down 21-3 and have to claw our way back, I’m proud we got the game within’ five,” said Head Coach Frank Wilson postgame. “We just have to do better as an offensive unit.”

Following the loss, UTSA is 5-4 with two games remaining on the year. UTSA will look to earn their sixth win next Saturday at the dome when they take on Marshall at 6 p.m.

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