Perhaps it is unfair to say that Texas-San Antonio football goes as quarterback Eric Soza goes, but that’s certainly the way things have played out on paper.
The second-year program, in its first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision, zoomed out to a 5-0 start.
Then Soza got hurt early in a game against Rice on Oct. 13, the first of what has become four consecutive losses for the Roadrunners.
“It’s a tale of two seasons for them, really,” said McNeese head coach Matt Viator. “When they’ve had their quarterback, and when they haven’t.”
Granted, the schedule has also ramped up considerably now that the Roadrunners are in the heart of Western Athletic Conference play. Two wins came against Division II opponents and two were against fellow start-ups Georgia State and South Alabama.
“The first five were nice wins, but not the same caliber we’ve played last few weeks,” said Roadrunners coach Larry Coker.
Soza returned in last week’s 51-27 loss to No. 22 Louisiana Tech, but threw for 314 yards and four touchdowns in a game that was competitive until the final 7 minutes.
“It was really surprising he was a sharp as he was,” Coker said. “He just had an outstanding game. He brings leadership and experience. It’s just one of those things where your quarterback can make the rest of the guys better and he made the rest of our guys better.”
Soza rarely gives opponents the opportunity to hurt him. He’s thrown 15 touchdowns against one interception, and the Roadrunners have allowed a league-low six sacks.
“His ability to get ball into hands of playmakers, his ability to avoid sacks (make him special),” Coker said. “Guys play well around him because they know he can do his job.”
Coker, who won a national championship at Miami (2001), said the UTSA program is making big strides since last season’s 24-21 loss to McNeese in Lake Charles.
“I think we’ve grown a great deal,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we don’t have. We don’t have our facilities complete. But we’ve got a very fine stadium in the Alamodome. Last year the players said ‘We’re not strong enough’ and have dedicated themselves to the weight room. … Are we there yet, no? But we’re going in the right direction.”