Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl: Getting To Know The UTSA Roadrunners
San Diego State’s bowl opponent, the UTSA Roadrunners, have had a dream year. We talk with Jared Kalmus of Alamodome Audible to learn more.
The Mountain West meets #MeepMeep once more.
The San Diego State Aztecs and UTSA Roadrunners will square off in this year’s Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl, one of just two non-New Year’s Six bowl games to feature two teams who won at least ten games this season.
This isn’t the first time that a Mountain West team has crossed paths with the Roadrunners in 2021 — UNLV lost a one-score decision at the Alamodome back in September — but the program has certainly helped itself to put the rest of the country on notice by climbing into the top 25 for the first time in its young history and claiming a conference championship.
Mountain West Wire: Unlike the rest of our Q&A inquiries, we actually talked a little bit about UTSA during non-conference play and then the Roadrunners continued to climb to new heights afterwards. Is this the kind of season that the UTSA faithful expected to have and, if not, what has been the biggest surprise?
Jared Kalmus: I don’t think anyone could have predicted a 12-win season given UTSA has never had a season like this before. A lot of balls have bounced UTSA’s way, both literally and figuratively. Perhaps the biggest surprise has been Frank Harris’ development as a passer. The dual threat quarterback found his deep ball this season, allowing UTSA to take advantage of one-on-one matchups out wide as defenses focus on limiting running back Sincere McCormick.
MWW: Obviously, one of the game’s biggest stories is that star running back Sincere McCormick will not play for UTSA. Who’s the next man up for the Roadrunners and how do you think his strengths compare to McCormick’s?
JK: I definitely expect a running back by committee approach for UTSA. The starting running back will be senior Brenden Brady, another former All-American from the San Antonio area. While he doesn’t have the top end speed or work horse ability of McCormick, Brady is an electric pass catcher (and thrower!). He’s a very efficient back who has been excellent when healthy, which unfortunately has been rare throughout his career at UTSA. We’re also expecting to see super senior BJ Daniels, and speedy true freshman Kevorian Barnes.
FOREVER A ROADRUNNER 🖤🧡 pic.twitter.com/yDHU1YnBcI
— Sincere McCormick 📍 (@yoboisin) December 16, 2021
MWW: UTSA is no slouch at throwing the football, either, but someone is going to have to deal with San Diego State defensive end Cameron Thomas. Do you think the Roadrunners are likely to handle him one-on-one most often or revise their tactics in McCormick’s absence to get the offensive tackle some help from pass-blocking at running back?
JK: UTSA’s offense primarily operates out of 12 and 11 personnel so the Roadrunners will have a tight end on the field for most offensive snaps. Those tight ends mix between helping with pass blocking and releasing on routes, and UTSA does keep running backs in to block frequently. I don’t think the game plan will need to change all that much to adjust to Thomas’ game-changing ability, the execution will just need to be as perfect as possible, and Frank Harris will need to make some plays on his feet when Thomas breaks through the protection.
MWW: On offense, the Aztecs aren’t likely to be too flashy but UTSA has the talent up front to frustrate them. You mentioned Clarence Hicks in our first conversation as a guy who can do serious damage, but is he the defensive front’s best run stopper or is that someone else in your eyes?
JK: Clarence Hicks is more of a pass rushing specialist so he may not play as many snaps in this one as a typical matchup. Freshman nose tackle Brandon Brown (Tulane transfer) has emerged as a dominating presence in the middle of the field and should provide some entertaining battles with SDSU’s strong offensive line. Super senior defensive tackle Lorenzo Dantzler’s season is done, so sophomore Asyrus Simon will need to step up and control the edge.
TEXTBOOK nose tackle play from UTSA's Brandon Brown pic.twitter.com/ol6CRVPBVB
— Cam Mellor (@CamMellor) November 20, 2021
MWW: It’s probably no secret that field position will be a big part of how the game unfolds because San Diego State has been so good at tilting things in their favor all year long. How do you think the Roadrunners stack up by comparison and what could be the biggest hindrance on that front?
JK: The Roadrunners actually have an All-American punter of their own in Lucas Dean. While Dean doesn’t get as many chances to flash his talents as Araiza (44 punts to 76), UTSA should be able to flip the field as well when SDSU gets a stop. The concern for UTSA, however, is in their punt returners’ ability to field Araiza’s booming punts. Punt returns have been a bit of a scary adventure for UTSA this year so I would say punt fielding for UTSA will be a big wild card in this game.
MWW: Finally, how do you see the Tropical Smooth Cafe Frisco Bowl playing out between San Diego State and UTSA?
JK: My original score prediction was 24-21 in the Roadrunners’ favor, however we’ve since learned that UTSA will be without up to 10 key players in the bowl game due to a mix of NFL draft opt-outs, Covid postive tests, and injury. I’m sure San Diego State will have their own fair share of missing players due to the Covid issues they’re going through right now so this game could get pretty sloppy pretty quickly. I’ll still give UTSA the extremely slight edge due to their passing game seemingly still being mostly intact.