Brady Phelps, The Paisano

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

Until this weekend, the last time UTSA Football team played at the Alamodome, they were routed 42-7 by Conference USA (C-USA) foe Middle Tennessee State University.

The loss ended a disappointing season that led to former Head Coach Larry Coker’s being replaced by former LSU Assistant Coach Frank Wilson – an event that put UTSA in the national collegiate football conversation and provided a source of hope for the program’s turnaround.

On Saturday, April 23, UTSA Football hosted its first Fiesta Spring Game with Wilson at the helm.

The roster was broken up into two teams – orange and blue. The orange team featured most of the first-string offense while the blue team was the second-string offense, and both teams’ defenses were a mix of first and second-string players. The game was structured as a whole game with 10-minute quarters.

“It was a tale of two halves,” Wilson stated. The orange team, led by last year’s starting quarterback Dalton Sturm, dominated the offense during the first half, but struggled late and allowed the blue team to make up lost ground.

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

The orange team gained a 14-point lead with two touchdowns by running back Jalen Rhodes. Sturm also played his best in the first half, earning 12 of his 19 completions for 138 passing yards. The blue team struggled early on offense, ending every possession with a punt, loss of down, or a fumble – which was recovered by redshirt freshman linebacker Josiah Tauaefa.

Led by sophomore cornerback Jacobie Butler, the blue team’s defense finished with a total of five tackles and a second-half interception that led to a game-winning rushing touchdown from sophomore running back Brett Winnegan. The blue team’s offense began to gel in the second half as they made up a 14-point deficit and scored again to win 20-14.

“We came in at halftime and challenged the blue team not to lie down,” Wilson continued. “Don’t just lie down and wave the white flag. They came back the second half and found a way to tie the game and then win it by six.”

The orange squad finished with 19 completions on 33 attempts for 199 yards. Seven of the completions were to JaBryce Taylor, who finished with 84 receiving yards.

Before each half, the players competed in individual competitions: battles between offensive and defensive lineman before the first half, and then one-on-one coverage battles between wide receivers and defensive backs before the second.

“We’re a physical team, whether we’re running it, throwing it, rushing or protecting,” explained Wilson. “We’re going to be physical in all aspects of the game. So we wanted to start the scrimmage off today with our big men leading the team in our ‘birdcage’ drill.”

“We came out for the second half and allowed the skill guys to showcase what they can do, and I think it was entertaining. The crowd loved it,” said Wilson. “It was an opportunity to be put on display. We told those guys, ‘Go let your personalities show. We got one rule around here: have fun. Go compete and have fun.’ I think they really enjoyed it, and it was good to see the crowd get involved.”

Rhodes scored the orange squad’s touchdowns, but senior running back Jarveon Williams, who also suited up in orange, led both squads in net rushing yards with 28 yards on eight carries and only one yard lost.

The blue squad gained some momentum in the second half. On the very first possession of the third quarter, backup quarterback Jaylon Henderson got his team on the board, connecting on a 48-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Aron Taylor. The next score came late in the third on a one-yard run from senior running back Corbin White.

In the fourth quarter, the orange team was unable to move the ball, coming up empty on every possession. Their final drive ended on a fourth-and-two running play in which freshman defensive end DeQuaris Henry tackled Rhodes for an 11-yard loss.

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

Brady Phelps, The Paisano

“I liked the resiliency of this team,” commented Wilson. “The blue team, being down 14, found a way to fight. This program is built off competition and finds a way to get off the mat and being able to fight again.”

Expected starting quarterback Dalton Sturm also shared his thoughts about how the team has looked in spring football.

“I think we had a great spring,” said Sturm, “but like Coach Wilson says, ‘The hay is never in the barn.’ We got a lot of work to do.”

“Whenever you wake up in the morning, you look in the mirror and try to make yourself better day-in and day-out,” Sturm continued. “Don’t look to compete with other people as much as you just try to be the best (player) you can be. And the results are going to come.”

The first chance for UTSA Football to turn these changes into results will be at the Alamodome on Saturday, Sept. 3 when the Roadrunners take on Alabama State University of the Southwestern Athletic Conference at a start time that has yet to be announced.

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