First Road Win

The Roadrunners rallied for an exhilarating road victory, 33-31, against the University of South Alabama Jaguars with a 51-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Sean Ianno with 16 seconds to play. Players credit their maturity and experience from last year as key factors that helped them secure UTSA’s first road win in the program’s history.

The UTSA players wore shirts that read, “Unfinished Business” to the game, a constant reminder of what happened to them last season against the Jaguars.

Last October, South Alabama defeated the Runners in the Alamodome with a game-winning overtime touchdown after blocking Ianno’s kick to secure the win.

After the win, some of the Jaguars danced on the Roadrunner logo in the middle of the field. Some of the Roadrunners used that memory as motivation.

However, the Roadrunners depended on their maturity and experience from last year to keep their heads level and ready to compete.

“We pretty much went on a business trip, and that’s something we all learned and matured about,”senior defensive tackle Franky Anaya said. 

The game winning field goal was the longest successful kick of Ianno’s college career and gave the Runners a redemptive victory. In the last few minutes of the game the Roadrunners were down 31-30. In a high-pressure situation, Ianno’s teammates’confidence did not waiver in his abilities. That game-winning field goal was one of the four field goals Ianoo made on the day.

“The first thing I said is ‘he can make this’,“Anaya said. “Some NFL kickers can’t make 50 yard-plus field goals and this guy did it with all the pressure of the world on him.”

The Roadrunners had a slow start against the South Alabama Jaguars. South Alabama’s sophomore running back, Demetre Baker, put the Jaguars on the board first when he reached the endzone with an 11-yard run with 12:20 in the first quarter.  The Jaguars tried to keep their momentum going, but sophomore safety Tristan Wade intercepted South Alabama quaterback C.J. Bennett’s pass in the end zone with 7:22 left in the first quarter.

Wade’s interception was one of four turnovers forced by the Roadrunners defense. Each turnover lead to a total of 20 points for the offense. The other three turnovers were all forced fumbles by the defense. Senior linebacker Brandon Reeves credits their defensive performance to the growth of his teammates.

“There’s more leaders this season on defense,”Reeves said. “Everyone is fired up and more focused than last year.”

UTSA quarterback Eric Soza rallied his team together and responded to South Alabama’s touchdown with a pair of first quarter touchdowns.  At the 4:26 mark, sophomore wide receiver Kam Jones caught Soza’s pass and ran 58 yards to tie up the game at seven each. The Runners struck again quickly as junior walk-on wide receiver Cole Hicks caught a Soza pass for his first college reception. Hicks darted towards the end zone for his first college touchdown giving the Roadrunners their first lead at 14-7 with 2:15 left in the first quarter.

UTSA would maintain their lead until the fourth quarter going up as much as 13 points, 20-7 in the second quarter. At the 12:48 mark, the Jaguars rallied back to take a 24-20 lead on a one-yard touchdown run by Jaguars’sophomore running back Kendall Houston.

Instead of crumbling, the Runners maintained their composure and relied on their maturity and leadership to keep them in the game. 

“Last year we might not have won this game. It looked bad at times and it was brutally hot out there, but our growth definitely helped us get the win,”Head Coach Larry Coker said.

Soza set a new school record when he threw for his third touchdown, a 34-yard pass to sophomore Earon Holmes with 9:18 left in the fourth quarter. UTSA took back the lead, 27-24. That was also the first touchdown of Holmes’career. The Runners maintained their fourth quarter lead, which grew to a six-point lead, 30-24, with a 21-yard field goal by Ianno at the 6:32 mark. 

The Jaguars rallied one last time for  with a 34-yard touchdown strike from Bennett to sophomore wide receiver Jereme Jones. That touchdown gave the Jaguars a 31-30 lead with only 2:46 left in the game.

“Sean told me before we went out on offense, ‘hey just get it to the 35 and I’m good’. Sure enough we got it to the 34 yard line,”UTSA quarterback Eric Soza said. “I had good feeling. I had confidence in him.”

Once the Roadrunners battled their way in his range, the walk-on sophomore kicker, Ianno, kicked his team to their first road win. “It’s good to know that they trust me for those situations. That helps my confidence as well,”Ianno said.

Ianno played soccer all four years in high school,  and didn’t play football until his senior year. He didn’t start kicking a football until the spring of 2009, but with this performance he was named WAC Special Teams Player of the Week.

The Roadrunners also had a Defensive WAC Player of the Week with sophomore safety Tristan Wade. Wade was a one man nightmare for South Alabama offense with a career high 11 tackles in the game, a forced fumble on a 48-yard kickoff return, and a crucial end zone interception.

“Wade is one of my favorite players,”Anaya said. “He has one of the biggest hearts I’ve seen.”

However, the new laser like focus of this team doesn’t mean they aren’t excited to play in front of their home crowd. “I’m very eager. I am just excited about our fans and I hope they will be there,”Coker said. “Our student body is back form the summer break, and they want to see some football.”

The Runners return to the Alamodome on Sept. 8 , 1 p.m. against Texas A&M-Commerce Lions.

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