Florida Atlantic faces battle-tested UTSA
The Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners have played seven games already this football season, while the Florida Atlantic Owls have played two.
The two Conference USA rivals with vastly different experiences with COVID-19 — will meet on Saturday at FAU’s campus in Boca Raton, Fla.
“We’re blessed to have played as many games as we have,” said first-year UTSA coach Jeff Traylor, who inherited a 4-8 team and has already matched last year’s win total.
UTSA (4-3, 2-1) is led by sophomore running back Sincere McCormick, who leads the nation with 867 rushing yards. His 123.9 yards a game ranks sixth nationally.
McCormick, a 5-9, 200-pounder, rushed for 983 yards and eight touchdowns last season, earning C-USA Freshman of the Year honors.
Last week, in a 27-26 comeback win over Louisiana Tech, McCormick ran 37 times for 165 yards and three touchdowns. He also caught two passes for 12 yards, completing a grueling workload — not that he complained.
“He was in my office (Sunday) morning, bouncing around,” Traylor said. “He’s unbelievable. The kid is physically and mentally tough.”
It was McCormick’s fourth 100-yard game of the season. His 1,850 career yards already rank third in program history.
Roadrunners redshirt junior Frank Harris, who lost some playing time earlier this season due to injury, is 4-1 as UTSA’s starting quarterback this season.
The Roadrunners defense is led by senior safety Antonio Parks, who had an interception and forced a fumble against Louisiana Tech. That earned him C-USA Defensive Player of the Week honors, to go with the McCormick’s offensive star of the week award for the league.
UTSA’s defense also boasts sophomore safety Rashad Wisdom, who had 10 tackles against Louisiana Tech, and junior linebacker Trevor Harmanson (eight tackles).
UTSA held Louisiana Tech to just 35 yards in the second half, helping the Roadrunners dig out of a 13-point hole to snap a three-game losing streak.
Meanwhile, FAU (1-1, 1-1) — after winning two of the past three C-USA titles — has struggled to even get on the field in 2020.
Coach Willie Taggart, who took over the FAU program this season after he was fired by Florida State, led the Owls to a 21-17 season-opening win over Charlotte on Oct. 3.
After that game, the Owls had 20 players test positive for COVID-19, and 25 more athletes lost practice time while quarantining.
Those issues certainly contributed to last week’s 20-9 loss to Marshall, which was FAU’s first game in 21 days. FAU was hit with 11 penalties for 126 yards last week, which was another sign of a lack of sharpness.
FAU’s quarterback is redshirt junior Nick Tronti, a first-year starter who is completing 55.8 percent of his passes. His ranks last in the C-USA in passing yards per game (123.0).
Taggart hinted he may use other QBs on Saturday.
“There have been thoughts on getting guys ready other than Nick all year,” said Taggart, whose son, Willie Jr, is among three backup quarterbacks. “We have to be more efficient offensively.”
Indeed, FAU ranks last in C-USA scoring with 15.0 points per game. The Owls, who rank 91st out of 101 teams nationally in average yards per play, are hurting at running back, where Larry McCammon and BJ Emmons are likely out due to ankle injuries.
Junior Malcolm Davidson leads FAU in rushing, averaging 6.7 yards, but has carried just 12 times. He has totaled 80 yards with one touchdown.
–Field Level Media