In 2011 the UTSA Roadrunners football team took the field for the first time. On November 12 the Roadrunners played their final road game of the season against McNeese State
EDITORS NOTE: This is the ninth installment of a story series looking back at the 2011 football season.
One final chance at the first road win in 2011
It was 64 degrees and a clear night in Lake Charles, Louisiana on November 12, 2011. UTSA had made the 356 mile trip from the UTSA campus to Cowboy Stadium on the McNeese State campus for their final road game of the inaugural season.
UTSA was 3-5 on the season and coming off of a bye week. The Roadrunners most recent game had been on October 29 when they came back from being down 14-0 to force overtime against Georgia State in the Alamodome. UTSA had won that game in overtime, 17-14.
McNeese State was 4-5 when they took the field on November 12, 2011. The Cowboys season had been one of streaks. After losing to Kansas in the season opener the Cowboys had won three in a row against the University of Souix Falls and Southland Conference rivals Southeastern Louisiana and Northwestern State.
The Cowboys had followed that three game winning streak with four straight losses to FCS-Independent Texas State and to Central Arkansas, Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin in Southland play. Sam Houston–who UTSA had lost to earlier in 2011–beat McNeese 38-14. A week before playing UTSA the Cowboys had snapped their losing streak by beating Nicholls State 26-17 at Cowboys Stadium.
UTSA was 0-3 on the road. This was their last chance at a win on the road in the inaugural season. McNeese State was 3-2 at home as they celebrated senior night before their final home game of the season.
Another slow start on the road
The ball was kicked off at 7 p.m. on the field of Cowboy Stadium. McNeese had won the coin toss and deferred to the second half.
UTSA’s Aaron Grubb received the opening kickoff at his nine yard line and returned it 20 yards. That is where UTSA began an opening drive that went three plays and negative two yards. The Roadrunners punted the ball away and McNeese took over at their own 44 yard line.
The Cowboys first drive made it to the UTSA 27 yard line before they were forced to try a 44-yard field goal. The kick was no good and UTSA took over at their own 27.
UTSA only managed 26 yards on their second drive before having to punt the ball away again.
McNeese drove down the field on their second drive but their quarterback was sacked at the UTSA 13 and the Cowboys had to try a field goal. This time it was good and with one second left in the first quarter the Cowboys took a 3-0 lead.
The Roadrunners went three and out on their next drive. McNeese fumbled the ball on the punt and UTSA took over at the Cowboys 41 yard line. UTSA’s hold on the football was short lived as Kam Jones fumbled on the second play of the drive at the Cowboys 26 yard line. McNeese recovered the fumble but the Cowboys offense had to punt after reaching the UTSA 38.
UTSA only had the ball for three plays. On the third play of the drive, a second and two from the McNeese State 38, Eric Soza threw an interception that the Cowboys returned to their own 49.
McNeese made UTSA pay for that mistake with a six play scoring drive. The Cowboys scored on a five-yard touchdown run with 6:23 left in the second quarter to take a 10-0 lead.
After UTSA had to punt on their next drive the Cowboys added to their lead. At the 2:32 mark of the second quarter McNeese went up 17-0 with a 21-yard touchdown run.
Both teams fumbled on their next drives. The McNeese fumble was recovered by UTSA’s Mark Waters at the Roadrunner 39 with 2:03 left in the half. This time the Roadrunner offense found a way to put points on the board.
Evans Okotcha scored on a one-yard touchdown run with 39 seconds left in the second quarter. The Roadrunners went into the halftime break trailing 17-7.
The late rally falls short
McNeese State began the second half with good field position after the kickoff went out of bounds. The Cowboys drive ended when they went for it on fourth down and were unsuccessful.
UTSA also had issues on their first drive of the second half. The Roadrunners went three and out to start their offense in the second half.
The Roadrunners third drive of the second half resulted in a second touchdown. At the 3:31 mark of the third quarter Soza and David Morgan II connected on a seven yard touchdown pass. Sean Ianno added the extra point and UTSA trailed 17-14.
UTSA would find themselves in possession of the ball when the third quarter ended, setting up a chance to take the lead in the fourth quarter.
It was early in the fourth quarter that UTSA had their best chance to take a lead wiped off the board. Kam Jones scored what appeared to be a 26-yard rushing touchdown. After UTSA was called for an illegal block at the McNeese 16 the ball was placed instead at the 26 yard line. On the next play Soza threw his second interception of the game.
McNeese was unable to take advantage of the turnover as they had to punt after going three and out. UTSA drove into field goal range but Sean Ianno’s attempt from 48 yards out fell short of the upright.
The Cowboys then went 69 yards in eight plays and went up 24-14 with a 29-yard touchdown pass at the 4:35 mark of the fourth quarter.
Soza and the Roadrunners answered with a touchdown on their next drive. After driving to the McNeese 26 yard line Soza threw a touchdown pass to Jake Wannamaker with 3:50 left in regulation.
McNeese was then able to keep hold of the ball for all but seven seconds of the remaining time on the clock to hold on for the 24-21 win.
In what had been a season of firsts, one first would have to wait. A first road win had eluded the Roadrunners in 2011.
UTSA wouldn’t have to wait long in the 2012 season for their first road win. It came in the first game of the year at South Alabama. In fact, 2011 remains the only season that UTSA has failed to win at least one game on the road. Later in 2012 UTSA would beat McNeese State 31-24 in the Alamodome.
In later years UTSA and McNeese State would be linked by a coach. After being fired as UTSA head coach in 2019, Frank Wilson would take on the job of head coach at McNeese State.
Of course in November 2011 nobody knew how the two schools would one day be linked. The news of November 12, 2011 was that UTSA was 3-6 and had one more game in the inaugural season.
The roller coaster of a season was nearing its conclusion. The final stop would come at the Alamodome against Minot State on November 19.
UTSA season by season road/neutral site records
NEXT WEEK: The Roadrunners close out the inaugural season with a blowout win at home