For most teams, the conference season is the time of year where schools face off against old rivals — teams they have played so many times they already know the game plan and their tendencies like the back of their hand.
It’s a little different for the Utah State football team at this portion of the WAC schedule, however. Saturday, the Aggies (6-2, 2-0 WAC) visit San Antonio, a place none of them have ever been, to play WAC newcomer University of Texas-San Antonio (5-2, 1-1), a team that none of them have ever lined up against before.
“It's a road trip, a place we've never been before,” USU coach Gary Andersen said. “That comes with a lot of question marks.
"The key thing for us is to worry about is the Aggies and prepare for the person we are playing ... which we do this week with UTSA.”
It’s not for a lack of trying that has kept the Aggies from preparing for the Roadrunners prior to this week; it’s that there hasn’t been much to see. UTSA is only in its second year of fielding a football program at any level and dipped their toes into FBS waters this season for the first time. The Roadrunners' football program is so new they won’t even be a full-fledged FBS team until 2014.
UTSA started the season 5-0, but has dropped two straight as the schedule has grown increasingly more difficult. But it would be a mistake to overlook the Roadrunners due to their recent skid.
The team is led by former national title-winning Miami Hurricanes coach Larry Coker and has already built an intimidating home-field advantage in the Alamodome. More than 56,000 people showed up for their inaugural game last season and the team brought in 30,862 last week in their first WAC home game. The Aggies are expecting a vocal welcome in their only appearance in a dome this season.
“It is definitely going to be an amazing experience," said sophomore quarterback and Texas native Chuckie Keeton. "It is the first time that I am going to be able to play at home and on top of that most of my graduating class is at UTSA. So it is going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully it is going to be a great atmosphere and hopefully we can come out with a win.”
UTSA will be without starting quarterback Eric Soza, who is sidelined with a hip injury. Soza threw for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns in his six starts. Ryan Polite took over for Soza against San Jose State last week throwing for 302 yards and two touchdowns, but turned the ball over twice in the Spartans' rout of the Roadrunners. Regardless of who the quarterback is, the defensive game plan won’t change much for the Aggies.
“With the throw to the option, the speed of the wide receivers, I suspect their offense will stay intact,” Andersen said. “It's a good offense. These guys have won a lot of football games this year and played very well.”
With a win, Utah State would match its 2012 total of seven victories with three regular-season games remaining. The Aggies will return to Logan next week for a date with another WAC newcomer, Texas State.
Utah State Aggies @ Texas San Antonio Roadrunners
Saturday, Oct. 27, noon (MT).
San Antonio, Texas. Alamodome (65,000)
TV: ESPN 3
Radio: Utah State Sports Network
Kraig is a 2010 Utah State University graduate and regular Deseret News sports blogger. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on Twitter at DesNewsKraig.