SAN ANTONIO — Frank Wilson has plenty to smile about these days.
After a 2016 season that saw the University of Texas at San Antonio reach its first bowl in program history — the Roadrunners competed in the Gideon New Mexico Bowl — its second-year head coach is riding an early wave of success in 2017.
In August, Frank Wilson was rewarded with a five-year deal that made the 43-year-old Louisiana native the highest paid coach in the Conference USA. While it was a commitment the university made in order keep Wilson in San Antonio, the school may already be reaping the benefits.
The Roadrunners are undefeated (3-0) entering this weekend’s conference opener against the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (2-2). The game will take place at the Alamo Dome in San Antonio with a kickoff time of 6 p.m.
THE RUSHING ATTACK
Wilson’s Roadrunners lead the conference in rushing at 248 yards per game behind a stout offensive line that features center Austin Pratt and guards Steph Beard and Jordan Wright. The backfield is anchored by junior running back Jalen Rhodes, a 5-foot-9, 200-pound rusher from Rowlett, Texas. Rhodes is off to a hot start, averaging 7.5 yards per carry and 112.6 rushing yards a game and has scored three touchdowns this season.
“I’ll take him against anybody,” said Wilson of Rhodes during an Oct. 2 press conference. “He’s a quality back. He can play just about anywhere in the country.”
Rhodes’ productivity has enabled UTSA to wear down opposing defenses while burning valuable time in the process. It has also kept the pressure off quarterback Dalton Sturm.
THE PASSING ATTACK
Wilson’s offense also hosts an efficient and effective passing game led by Sturm, a former Goliad High School Tiger. In the first three games of this season, Sturm has completed 76.1 percent of his passes for 659 yards with six touchdowns and zero interceptions and his current quarterback rating is 188.3 per ESPN statistics. The second-year starter has also rushed for 170 yards on 27 attempts and a touchdown.
Wilson has assembled a gritty defense that is currently ranked number two in the nation, holding offenses to a stifling 3.53 yards per play. The unit’s lynchpin is a fast and physical line and its front features senior Marcus Davenport and junior Kevin Strong, Jr., who constantly applying pressure to opposing quarterbacks and consistently shutting down rushers.
“Kevin Strong is playing lights-out,” Wilson said during the same Oct. 2 press conference. “Marcus Davenport is playing at a different level. I think as a [defensive] unit, we’re really at our best. I think the chemistry is right. I think the selflessness is right.”
With several talented underclassmen in Wilson’s coffers, it appears that the UTSA Roadrunners may be on their way to becoming the top team in C-USA.
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