The Cadillac Eldorado of Conference USA bloggers Jared Kalmus joins us for a Q&A on the big Western division clash of UAB and UTSA.

It seems the momentum UTSA had early on in the season has started to dwindle in the past few weeks. What has changed with this team that has caused the fan’s to be disappointed and their on field performance suffer?

You’re certainly correct in that the momentum of this season has been zapped. I believe a few different issues have caused the slide. First and foremost, UTSA has been really stung by injuries on the offensive line. Three year starter Kyle McKinney went down in the first quarter against Baylor and then former starter Juan Perez went down for the year while filling in for him. JUCO transfer Jordan Wright has played relatively well as a third string fill-in and fourth string David Anzaldua has been serviceable but the drop off from McKinney is pretty huge as far as the amount of push created at the line of scrimmage. Bumps and bruises to the tackles have also caused UTSA to depend on true freshman Dominic Pastucci to play a lot of snaps. All of these guys are decent linemen but the constant shuffling leads to a lot of miscommunication and dropped assignments.

Injuries aside, the team’s mental makeup has been poor this season. This has been the first time UTSA has ever had a target on their back as a preseason favorite and I don’t think the team responded well. That falls on the players who haven’t played super motivated football and the coaches that have seemed to be playing not to lose instead of making bold calls. Perhaps that changes as UTSA continues to be humbled because I truly believe this team bought into its own hype after the first four weeks of the season.

After listening to your podcast, the Alamodome Audible, I gathered you feel the offense isn’t playing up to it’s potential and the play calling has been suspect. What do you think UTSA needs to change or add to their scheme to have success against a UAB defense that has been very good lately?

UTSA’s offense is pretty weird since they have been putting up good yardage (FIU game aside) but just not collecting enough points to outscore teams like USM and UNT. For those that haven’t watched a UTSA game this year, the team employs a very methodical, slow paced, power offense. UTSA will eat the clock down as far as possible and have enjoyed a few 8+ minute long drives this year. The Roadrunners are not very explosive by design which really hurts them when they fall behind schedule in down/distance or need to play catch up on the scoreboard. The play calling is pretty limited due to the injuries on the offensive line and at fullback as well as the wide receivers’ inability to get open. As we approach the end of the season and with bowl eligibility on the line I think we’ll continue to see UTSA unleash Dalton Sturm in the run game which should be a big concern for UAB. UTSA also needs to have Sturm roll out of the pocket more often to avoid another four sack performance like we saw against FIU.

We know UTSA has suffered a myriad of injuries this season. Do you expect any players to return for this game?

No, not really. Kyle McKinney, Juan Perez, and Halen Steward are all out for the season and star middle linebacker Josiah Tauaefa is still highly doubtful to return from his knee injury. The guys that have clearly been playing through minor injuries (OT Josh Dunlop, G Jordan Wright, WR Kerry Thomas, CB Austin Jupe, RB Jalen Rhodes, etc.) will likely continue to do so.

How do you see this game playing out tomorrow?

Can I just say that Vegas is crazy for this line? I could see the UTSA team from week one winning the game by more than eight points but after the way the season has shaked out for the Roadrunners it’s very hard to see. Meanwhile UAB is playing fantastic football (Charlotte aside) and is playing for something larger than themselves. The only way I see UTSA winning this game is on the back of a huge performance from Dalton Sturm or an absolute collapse from UAB’s run defense.