Let us expound a bit on some of the remarks I made about UTSA’s offense. I will not bore you by showing you standard Weak-I set, but I will show you some of their most explosive plays. When you look at the box score, you see UTSA is explosive. How is this happening?
Against Southern Miss, there were some unforgivable mistakes in the Golden Eagle secondary.
Here is the first touchdown. The secondary is man-to-man and do not seem to have the Quarters coverage rules, where the safety would take the inside man even if that man started on the outside. This is likely why UTSA’s offense coordinator Frank Scelfo dialed this route.
Later UTSA gets Southern Miss in a Play Action play. Dalton Sturm finds Josh Stewart over the middle for a chunk of yards.
This is standard pro-style football right here, folks. When it works, it is beautiful. The idea is to get the DB 1v1 against your deep threat and hit them over the top. Here, Stewart has a step on the DB, the throw is accurate enough, and he is big enough to shake off the contact.
Let us compare it to something Florida did against NT
While not exactly the same play, it is the same concept: the NCAA route combination.
Florida had the mid-level route come from the left side, UTSA had it coming from the same side as the deep post. Nate Brooks and Eric Jenkins are often targeted on these and have performed well. UTSA will likely hit on one or two of these (and might get pass interference calls on others) throughout the game, as Josh Stewart is big and fast. Courtland Sutton gave NT trouble in the secondary (as he does with everyone) and UTSA might look for a couple of these if the conditions are favorable. The good news is that Eric Jenkins has feasted on these recently. NT has not really been gutted for deep throws since the SMU game. At worst, we have seen something like what Florida did: catch it and immediately go down.
The underrated aspect of this defense has been the tackling by the corners. Jenkins and Brooks have been good not only because of their close coverage, but because they do not give up much after the catch. Of course, it helps that Kishawn McClain is lurking back there.
McClain and James Gray are solid in pass coverage, also. They usually do not do this:
Yes this play was going to be a UTSA WR vs a UTEP Safety, which is favorable. The play is a lot more favorable when the dude falls down. Let us give UTSA plenty of credit for drawing these up, hitting on them, and taking advantage of mistakes in the secondary. While our guys may not fall down or mess up releases on the line of scrimmage, they have some other things UTSA’s staff have seen on film. I feel rather confident, however. Stewart is concerning because of his size, but there is comfort in knowing that NT has shown they will be competitive against this style of pass game.
Meanwhile in the run game …
Here Jalen Rhodes makes one cut and is off to paydirt. Look closely at strongside LB trying to hard to make a play and getting out of his run fit. The weakside backer shifts with the motion, and is out of position also. Finally the safety does not make a good tackle. NT has not stuffed the run for many tackles for loss, but has done a good job of staying in their fits.
The discipline NT showed against Army will be useful here and against the QB.
NT has been burned by Davis and Stehling this season. Strum will get some yards, and NT will probably get a little bit frustrated with this. But no more than usual. NT has been fairly poor on third downs this season and still has produced some quality defensive games. That resilience – and perhaps the bend-but-don’t-break coaching – has been essential.
Finally here are a couple of clips from UTSA’s defensive performance against UTEP. They are a couple of things the staff will have to figure out: how to stop rampaging DL in the backfield. UTEP managed to make some adjustments, but benefited greatly from a couple of big plays.