The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Latest Sports

October 1, 2013

Under veteran Coker, Roadrunners have taken off

By Gary Fauber

Assistant Sports Editor

In Adam Sandler’s football comedy “The Waterboy,” the South Central Louisiana State University quarterback pitched to Bobby Boucher and went deep on a trick play.

With Jerry Reed’s evil coach character frantically signaling and yelling “Pass!” to his unwitting defense from the sideline, Boucher fired a touchdown pass to his quarterback, and the Mud Dogs won the Bourbon Bowl.

Last Saturday, UTSA attempted a similar play against Houston. It wasn’t nearly as dramatic, and Kam Jones’ 12-yard pass to quarterback Eric Soza fell incomplete.

One other difference: The Roadrunners didn’t win the game. They were behind 31-28 at the time, but the Cougars scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter and won 59-28.

“It was an easy play,” UTSA coach Larry Coker said, “and we just didn’t execute.”

Not much has been easy for Coker and the Roadrunners, who started playing football in 2011. But things are far better than anyone could ever have predicted.

UTSA, which visits Marshall at 2 p.m. Saturday, is 2-3 overall in its first season as a member of Conference USA, but the program’s overall record through its first 27 games is 14-13. That includes an 8-4 record last year in the Western Athletic Conference.

“This happened fast,” said Coker, who coached Miami to the 2001 BCS national championship. “We’ve got good players. ... We want to recruit better than everybody. Right now, our players are good enough for us.”

Among them is Soza, a senior who has completed nearly 66 percent of his passes (122 of 185) for 1,342 yards. He has eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

Soza completed 29 of 40 passes for 316 yards against Houston, but was also picked off three times to take off some of the luster. Still, Coker believes is quarterback “has some magic too him.”

“I think he felt like he made mistakes in the fourth quarter, which is true,” Coker said. “His spirit is going to be fine. He is a mature young man. He understands where we are and where we’re headed. No, he’s not pleased with his fourth quarter. Sometimes you try to do too much.

“I don’t know if there is anyone in the country that I would trade for him. I like him a lot.”

— E-mail: gfauber@

register-herald.com

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