UTSA looks to avenge five-overtime, gut-wrenching loss to UTEP

Roadrunners take on UTEP Saturday in El Paso; Kickoff set for 7 p.m.

(AP Photo/Eric Gay)
(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO – The UTSA Roadrunners have some unfinished business to take care of with the UTEP Miners this Saturday.

Last year marked the first five-overtime game in Conference USA history and it was between the Roadrunners and the Miners.

“It was definitely the longest game I’ve ever been a part of. It was just continuous. We probably played another 25 minutes of football. It was exhausting,” quarterback Dalton Sturm recalled.

The 2016 matchup of the two teams ended with a 6-yard touchdown pass to UTEP’s Warren Redix from Ryan Metz in the fifth and final overtime, which brought the Miners up 52-49 over the Roadrunners.

Dalton Sturm was 18-of-34 for 214 yards with three touchdowns and had one interception.

Kerry Thomas Jr. led the team in receiving with five receptions for 89 yards and Jalen Rhodes had 15 carries for 84 yards.

Sturm used the words “revenge” and “rivalry” to describe the upcoming game.

Head coach Frank Wilson also recalled the four-hour matchup distinctively and he most remembers the Miners tight end.

“I had nightmares about this guy. He was really a good player,” Wilson said, chuckling. “Aaron Jones, the tail (running) back was a really good player and proposed all types of problems for us.”

The guy who gave Wilson nightmares was Hayden Plinke. He graduated from UTEP in 2016. The 6-foot-4, 264-pound tight end participated in the 2017 NFL Combine.

Jones was drafted by the Green Bay Packers as their seventh pick in the 2017 NFL Draft.

UTSA is coming off a big win over Rice last weekend in which Sturm completed 12-of-21 for 134 yards. But the real star of the game was defensive end Marcus Davenport, who was just named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week.

Davenport racked up 11 tackles and had two sacks and scored his first collegiate touchdown on a big 34-yard fumble return.

Wilson and Sturm both agreed that the Rice game was a great opportunity for some second-string players to step up and get experience under their belts. 

"Depth is always a good thing among a football team. Because it doesn't matter if your first 22 are good, if your backups aren't any good," Sturm said.

And with big playmakers questionable for injures including Josiah Tauaefa, who was seen during the Rice game with a bag of ice on his knee, it’s important that other players step up.

"He (Tauaefa) was at meetings today, doing rehab and therapeutic things to get himself ready to play if possible. We're hopeful that he'll be able to play," WIlson said of Tauaefa's status. 

But even with UTEP’s biggest threats out of the way, the momentum from personal accomplishments and second-stringers getting more experience, the Roadrunners know they can’t take the winless Miners lightly.

“You know they’re gonna start off with a bunch of intensity. So we gotta go out there and we gotta match it or surpass it,” Sturm said. “We know that teams who aren’t having the best of success are rolling on their intensity and they’re gonna be dying for a win. So we’re gonna have to go out there and play hard.”

According to ESPN, UTSA has a 85.4 percent chance of beating the Miners. And if history repeats itself, UTSA will win because they’re the away team.

Through the back-and-forth between the two teams, a home team has yet to win against the opponent on its home field.

Wilson says he hopes to keep that trend going as they travel to El Paso.

"We owe 'em one. We owe 'em a good game,” Sturm said. Kickoff is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. at UTEP.