SAN ANTONIO – The University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners are preparing to take on Louisiana Tech Bulldogs on Saturday. The Bulldogs have been the Roadrunners' Achilles' heel for the past three years.
Last year, LA Tech dominated UTSA, 63-35. Now the Runners are fired up to get their first win against the Bulldogs since 2013.
A win for UTSA would keep the Bulldogs from becoming bowl-eligible, so Coach Frank Wilson said he expects the environment of the game to be hostile, as it’s a big game for both teams.
“Our guys are enthused," he said. "They’re excited about the opportunity to go play this team. We’re better than we were a year ago when we went there, so we’re looking forward to play(ing) a quality team and to play(ing) our best.”
Brothers Kerry Thomas Jr. and Josh Stewart, who have dominated the UTSA’s record books this year, haven’t forgotten what LA Tech did to them last year and said they are looking forward to the challenge of the upcoming game.
“It’s a fight. We understand the things they did to us last year and we know what's at stake. We want that seventh win so we’re preparing this week for that seventh win, and it’s all got to start in practice,” Thomas said.
Growing up gridiron
The fighting mentality for both Thomas and Stewart started when they were young boys, they said. They grew up in New Orleans and said they would play football on the street in their neighborhood.
“We just wanted a ball in our hands. We’d play in the middle of the streets with no socks on, no shoes on, on the concrete. We were just kids wanting to play,” Thomas said.
“We had landmarks that marked off where the touchdowns were," Stewart said. "Mailboxes! The mailbox would be like the orange pylon, so we knew where the touchdowns were," Thomas said.
"We had certain grasses marked off because we knew everyone in the neighborhood. So if you went past Mrs. Harris’ yard, then you’re out of bounds,” Stewart said.
The brothers reminisced and laughed about their past and both agreed that they are beyond blessed to be where they are today.
“It’s paying off now. We got our opportunity to showcase our abilities,” Thomas said. “ Credit to these coaches and this team. They gave us this opportunity. We work for it, and we’re gonna work for it. We're gonna continue to work for it. It's just a blessing."
Last week's win
Last Saturday, UTSA took on Marshall in a 9-7 field goal showdown. Jared Sackett kicked three field goals against Marshall, including the winning, down-to-the-wire 40-yarder.
“We put him under stressful situations all the time and he answers,” Wilson said about Sackett’s winning kick. "We were confident that he would be able to do it so we felt (that) if we got the ball down there, we wouldn't hesitate to get him to the field to take a shot at it."
Their win over the Thundering Herd marked their sixth win (6-4 overall), making them officially bowl-eligible for the second consecutive year.
Sackett was named Conference USA’s Special Teams Player of the Week this week.
Congratulations to Jared Sackett, who was named @ConferenceUSA Special Teams Player of the Week after kicking three field goals, including a 40-yarder with two seconds left to lift UTSA over Marshall. #BirdsUp🤙 pic.twitter.com/265ThIthXn— UTSA Football 🏈 (@UTSAFTBL) November 20, 2017
Coming off a win has given the players and coaches high energy in practice this Thanksgiving week. But they still have plenty to work on before they take on the Bulldogs on the road.
“We need to work on starting off, getting downfield (and) getting touchdowns in the red zone,” Stewart said.
Wilson agreed, saying they need to start off early and fast as they did against Marshall. Although their strong start only resulted in three points for the Roadrunners in the first half, Wilson said it built needed confidence for the team that carried them through the game.
The team will have a Thanksgiving feast together on Thursday afternoon -- and fit a practice in, too.
“We’ll dress up pretty decent, get haircuts,” Wilson said with a chuckle. “We’ll be thankful -thankful for what we have and be grateful for what we have.”
UTSA will travel to Louisiana this Saturday. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. on EPSNU.