The UTSA Roadrunners’ balanced offense will make them a good test for BYU’s defense

UTSA quarterback Frank Harris (0) celebrates with teammate De'Corian Clark (88) after running for a touchdown against Stephen F. Austin during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Provo • A lot has been said about the BYU offense, which has dazzled in the first three games of the season. Led by quarterback Zach Wilson, the Cougars attack has put up 148 points while averaging nearly 600 yards per game.

But there’s also a lot to be said about BYU’s defense.

The Cougars have only allowed 24 points by opponents and are giving up an average of just over 200 yards per game. Even looking at first downs, the Cougars have been dominant — BYU 86; the opponents 34.

And when it comes to sacks and quarterback hurries, the Cougars are rapidly closing in on their numbers from all of 2019. Last season, the BYU defense recorded 17 sacks and 10 quarterback hurries. Through three games this season, the Cougars have 12 sacks and nine hurries.

But will the BYU defense be able to keep it up with UTSA coming to Provo on Saturday?

Senior defensive back Troy Warner is unable to pinpoint the Cougars' early season success, but is fairly certain they will be able to maintain their high level of play.

“Each guy on this team is really hungry and we feel really grateful to be playing this game right now, so it’s just a matter of not taking one day for granted,” Warner said. “Like I said, I think a lot of the guys and this team is hungry. Each week, we feel like there’s a new opportunity to correct the mistakes that happened the last game. And that motivates us.”

UTSA’s offense is led by redshirt junior quarterback Frank Harris, who is completing 66% of his throws, but the Roadrunners have three capable quarterbacks that could play.

Two weeks ago Harris suffered an injury during the second quarter against Middle Tennesse, which led Josh Adkins to take the snaps for the Roadrunners. However, Adkins got injured himself early on against UAB last week, leading the Roadrunners to put in Jordan Weeks.

But before the season started, Harris, Adkins and Weeks were all in the competition for the starting QB gig.

Whether Harris will get the starting nod on Saturday will be a game-time decision. Either way, BYU has been preparing for any of the quarterbacks they could face.

“They all have their own unique skill set, but I think as an offense, they want to establish the run game,” coach Kalani Sitake said. “They have a really good, big O-line, [and] big tight ends that can block. Really, for us, I think trying to get them to not be as balanced as they are will be the challenge. Try to minimize the run game and try to establish our presence up front is going to be the key.”

Of the 2020 opponents BYU has already played, UTSA is the most balanced. The Roadrunners have 837 rushing yards and 831 passing yards.


At LaVell Edwards Stadium

When • Saturday, 1:30 p.m.


However, where the Cougars' defense has most succeeded so far has been at stopping the run. BYU has only allowed 212 rushing yards through three games.

Against Navy’s triple option, BYU only gave up 119 rushing yards. Against Troy, a spread team, the Cougars allowed just 19 rushing yards. With Louisiana Tech, an offense similar to Troy, the Bulldogs only ran for 74 rushing yards.

The Roadrunners are led on the ground by Sincere McCormick, who’s put up 527 rushing yards on 89 carries through four games. Last week, in a heartbreaking loss at UAB, McCormick rushed for 150 yards and a touchdown.

BYU senior linebacker Isaiah Kaufusi said McCormick looks bigger than the usual running back, runs really hard and bounces off tackles. Kaufusi is excited for the challenge UTSA’s balanced offense should bring.

“I think it’ll be a good challenge for us to stop the run and really have a week where we get challenged on the run,” Kaufusi said. “We really got to step it up and stop the run first and then move on to the pass.”

Having been so dominating against their opponents early in the season, opponents facing off against BYU could feel intimidated. But Kaufusi anticipates UTSA will face BYU with with more determination than fear.

“I definitely know when we’ve played the Tennessees and the USCs and the Wisconsins that we’ve always taken it as a challenge and we’ve never really tried to shy away,” Kaufusi said. “I don’t know if that’s just our program and the kind of culture that we’ve built, but I would hope that teams look at us and say ‘hey, this is a great opportunity — let’s get after them,’ and not more intimidated and kind of scared to play us.”