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Week-in and week-out, UTSA proved to be the best team in Conference USA and did so once again by withstanding the offensive firepower of Western Kentucky in the conference championship game. Now, they’re going to have to prove so again without one of their best offensive weapons as the Roadrunners search for their first bowl win in program history.
On Thursday, UTSA record-setting running back Sincere McCormick announced he will not be playing in the bowl game – instead of sitting out to focus on pursuing his NFL career. A huge blow to the roadrunner’s chances, who have to go on without the first All-American in the program’s history.
McCormick didn’t earn that title by accident; he was a workhorse in his breakout junior season, rushing 298 times for 1,479 yards (5.0 yards per carry) and 15 touchdowns while adding another 22 catches for 184 yards through the air.
The likely next-man-up is senior Brenden Brady. Brady has played each of the past four years, but never with any consistency, getting between 49 and 67 carries all four years.Still, he’s racked up 976 yards and seven touchdowns in his career and now has a chance to go out on top.
It’s going to be a tall task for the Roadrunners either way – who go against the nation’s second-best rushing defense and a unit that’s ranked No. 13 in total defense
San Diego State’s offense isn’t great. They don’t have a 1,000 yard rusher (maybe that’s not fair to Greg Bell, but sorry 999 yards doesn’t quite count) and their backup quarterback Lucas Johnson had to take over the starting role for much of the year and isn’t a genuine threat as a top-tier quarterback.
Still, their combination of being able to pass and rush keeps defense just off balance enough to work. Bell is still a tremendous back: the senior ran 220 times for those 999 yards and eight touchdowns.
Johnson meanwhile finished the year with 1,091 passing yards, nine touchdowns and four interceptions. His best game came against UNLV in November, when he went 18-of-24 for 192 yards and three scores. He will have to face a UTSA defense that ranks 48th overall but is fantastic against the run, coming in 14th in the nation.
For UTSA, the key is if quarterback Frank Harris can pick up the slack from losing his running back and be a true threat in this one.
Harris had a wonderful season: he threw for 2,906 yards, 25 touchdowns and five interceptions and had a 75.6 QBR (all which ranked in the top 35 in the country) but he always had the help of McCormick as a decoy. Let’s see how he does when his best option isn’t by him.
For SDSU, the x-factor is their special teams ace. Matt Araiza was named the school’s second unanimous team All-American and won the Ray Guy award for the nation’s top punter earlier this month.
His 76 punts went for 3,904 yards as he finished with the best punt average (51.4 yards per punt) in FBS history. Araiza also kicked field goals for the Aztecs and went 17-of-27 but hit three from more than 50 yards.
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|UTSA Roadrunners vs San Diego State Information|
|Teams||UTSA Roadrunners vs San Diego State|
|Location||Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX|
|Time||Tuesday, Dec. 21, 7:30 p.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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