Frank Wilson hypes the team up.

Frank Wilson hypes the team up in the tunnel before the game. Ricky Galindo/The Paisano

UTSA suffers blowout loss in season opener

The last time these two teams faced off, we saw the Sun Devils score 17 unanswered points in the fourth quarter and steal a win from the Roadrunners at the Alamodome—but times are different now. Frank Wilson is in his third season with UTSA and has led the team to six back-to-back win seasons, and their first bowl game in school history. While out in the desert, former NFL coach Herm Edwards is now at the helm at Arizona State University (ASU) and expected to breath new life into the storied program. 

The Roadrunners are 6-1 all-time in-season openers, and 4-1 in-season opening games on the road. With this past Saturday’s game being aired on national television, the eyes of the nation were on the ‘Runners and the Sun Devils.

UTSA’s defense took the field first as they looked to slow down the ASU offense on their first possession.

The defense seemed secure as they forced the offense into a third and short situation, but senior quarterback (QB) Manny Wilkins connected with explosive junior wide receiver (WR) N’Keal Harry on what seemed to be a short gain. Harry broke a tackle and ran 58 yards for a touchdown to give the Sun Devils the lead. 

UTSA defender attempts to bat down a pass.

UTSA defender attempts to bat down a pass.
The Paisano/Ricky Galindo

Junior QB Cordale Grundy made his debut for the Roadrunner offense, although the first series was cut short when sophomore defensive end (DE) Shannon Forman performed an athletic play and jumped in front of Grundy’s pass and ran it all the way into the endzone; this put the ‘Runners down 14-0 with less than three minutes in the game. 

Although the ‘Runners were down two touchdowns early in the game, the defense kept their composure on a third and long which brought the heat on the ASU offense line and forced Wilkins to simply throw the ball away. UTSA would go three and out on their next offensive drive, but senior punter Yannis Routsas had a beautiful 49-yard punt that pinned the Sun Devil offense back to their three yard line. 

By the end of the first quarter the Roadrunners were down by 14 and allowed 168-yards while managing only to put up 53-yards of offense. Although, UTSA’s offense gained momentum when sophomore running back (RB) B.J. Daniels made great plays and ran over defenders to pick up a first down.

Four minutes into the second quarter, the Roadrunner offense began getting things going: Grundy rolled out to escape some pressure and ended up gaining 12-yards. Two plays later, senior RB Jalen Rhodes executed an athletic play to gain 13-yards and kept the drive alive. Starting safety Jalen Harvey was ejected from the game when he was called for targeting on Grundy. As Grundy dropped back for a pass, the drive was cut short when he had the ball stripped.

The Sun Devils found the end-zone again on a three yard Eno Benjamin touchdown that gave ASU a 21-0 advantage with a little over four and half minutes to go in the first half. Senior QB D.J. Gillins would come in for the next UTSA offensive series and try to jumpstart the nonexistent offense, but on the very first series Gillins was sacked on third down, and the Roadrunners found themselves punting for the fourth time of the night. 

Herm Edwards on sideline before game.
Ricky Galindo/The Paisano

By half-time, it was clear that the Roadrunner offense needed to step things up in the second half if they wanted any shot at a comeback since they were only able to put up 76 total yards of offense in the first half. The ‘Runners had allowed 300-yards of offense with 183 of those yards coming through the air, 93 of those yards belonging to N’Keal Harry, who had a touchdown to go along with that stat line.

With six minutes left in the third quarter, the Sun Devils hit pay dirt on a Wilkins to Benjamin seven-yard touchdown pass which increased the lead to 35. On the ensuing Roadrunner drive, Grundy was brought back into the offense to try and bring some life to the team. On his first pass attempt, sophomore WR Kirk Johnson Jr. made a great over-the-shoulder catch for 27-yards and a first down. 

When it was all said and done, the Sun Devils vanquished UTSA 49-7 and managed to hold the Roadrunner offense to only 220-yards and a total of two rushing yards the whole game. Daniels wound up scoring his first career touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the ‘Runners their first touchdown in 11 straight quarters. “Very bittersweet. You can’t really celebrate when you’re down by 40 points,” said Daniels about his first touchdown.

“Well, we didn’t play well enough,” said UTSA Head Coach Frank Wilson. “There were some moments of flash, but as far as consistency, in not one of the three phases of the game did I think we excelled.”

“After a tough loss like this, coach always just reminds us that it counts as just one loss. As bad as it was, there are things that we didn’t do well but there are takeaways from it,” said linebacker Josiah Tauaefa.

The Roadrunners will look to bounce back this Saturday when they play against the Baylor Bears in what will be a rematch after last year’s upset. Be sure to help “Defend the ‘Dome” at 6 p.m.

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