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UTSA Travels to Knoxville to Take on Tennessee in Final Non-Conference Matchup

Updated: Oct 2, 2023

After a tough start to the season, UTSA sits at a 1-2 record heading into arguably one of the biggest road trips in program history. On Saturday, the Roadrunners will face off against SEC opponent Tennessee in Neyland Stadium for the first time.

This will be only the second time in the history of UTSA football that they will face off against an SEC opponent (Texas A&M 2016).

UTSA is coming off a loss to Army in the Alamodome last Friday night, something we don't hear too often. UTSA has only lost three times (including Friday) since Coach Jeff Traylor took the reigns in 2020. Two of the three losses have been to the Army Black Knights.

What to Know about Tennessee?

The Tennessee Volunteers are currently ranked 23rd in the nation according to the AP Poll. They are coming off a tough loss to SEC Rival Florida Gators in Gainesville last Saturday 29-16.

The Vols have the potential to be an explosive offense under head coach Josh Heupel who took over the job in 2021. Since then, the University of Tennessee has gone 20-9, including an 11-2 record in 2022.

The offense has not got off to the start that was anticipated with the first-year starter for the Volunteers Joe Milton under center. Milton, has a cannon for an arm, easily the strongest in all of college football. In the first three games of the season, Milton has gone 62/97, 716 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception. He has only been sacked three times all season.

One of the biggest issues in the loss to Florida last week was the inability to run the ball in "the Swamp." The Vols were held to only 100 yards on the ground against the Gators, more than half less than what Tennessee averaged rushing the first two games of the season (207.5 rushing yards per game heading into Week 3 vs. Florida). The leading rusher for Tennessee is Jaylen Wright who has 41 carries for 296 yards on the season.

The Quarterback Question Continues...

The conversation will continue to swirl around who will play under center for UTSA on Saturday against the Volunteers with questions still regarding the status of quarterback Frank Harris. Harris was held out of Friday's matchup against Army with a toe injury and is yet again a game-time decision in Knoxville.

Eddie Lee Marburger gave fans a pleasant look at the Roadrunners' potential future at the position last week, and we may be in for Act Two against Tennessee this Saturday.

Other Injuries to Keep an Eye on

Linebacker Trey Moore is officially listed as "day to day" on the injury report. However, Coach Traylor stated on local radio that he would be out for "some time".

JT Clark has been cleared to play by the medical staff, but Jeff Traylor and the coaching staff are being very cautious getting him back on the field. He has warmed up with the team the last two weeks after not dressing for the opener in Houston. Clark has only played one snap so far this season (against Texas State). He could make his debut in Knoxville.

Something to keep in mind regarding these injuries is that after the Tennessee game, UTSA will have an open week and will not return to action until October 7th. This very well could come into play when deciding to play any of the players on the fringe. Give them two full weeks to heal up and be ready to go for conference play.

Does UTSA Stand a Chance?

First of all, anything is possible. Upsets happen all the time, and if I've learned anything from the past few seasons with Coach Traylor at the helm, the Cardiac Runners will find a way to make an appearance any chance they get.

UTSA currently is a 21-point underdog heading into the game on Saturday in Knoxville, according to Caesars Sportsbook (Over/Under set at 59).

Here are three things that must go right (dare I say perfect) for a UTSA victory on Saturday.

Revive the Triangle of Toughness

Last week was missing a crucial side of the TOT, and that was a lack of superior defensive performance. UTSA allowed 442 total yards against Army, 254 of them were on the ground rushing. Tennessee will look to "right the ship" after their lackluster efforts rushing last week against Florida. It is paramount the Roadrunners find a way to stop the run.

Protect Eddie Lee Marburger

Yes, Eddie Lee will most likely be the one under center on Saturday. Although not official yet, I'd expect Harris not to dress this week and try to get right for AAC play. Last week, the UTSA O-line did a great job protecting the quarterback with only one sack and three tackles for loss.

However, this is a different beast up front on Saturday. They will not be facing a military school defensive line with weight requirements. They will be going against some "big boys" from the SEC, some that holster national Top-100 Recruit in their resume. Tennessee already has 12 sacks on the season (averaging four sacks per game). The O Line will have their hands full. If they can slow down the pressures and let ELM Work, they stand a chance.

If Frank Harris does get the nod to go for this game the same rules apply.

Get the Running Game Back Online

Last week was a season-low in rushing for the UTSA offense, especially for Kevorian Barnes. With the lack of time of possession against Army, the offense did not have enough opportunities to get the running game moving like it should have.

Barnes had a crucial lost fumble at the beginning of the game last week that allowed Army to go up 14-0 early in the game. He also was below 100 yards rushing for the first time this season. Getting him going along with Rocko Griffin and Robert Henry will be crucial to allow Marburger to find good matchups in the passing game.

Wrapping up Non-Conference Play

The game will kick off at 2 pm C.T. and will be aired on SEC Network. Don't forget to tag us in your photos if you are tailgating or at the game in Knoxville @MeepMeepNation.

And Remember...



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