Texas State sports fans, it’s been a long time since we had Dan McCarney, UTSA beat writer for the San Antonio Express-News, around these parts.
With Texas State hosting UTSA tomorrow in basketball at 4 p.m., I thought it would be the perfect time to rifle a few questions his way.
Texas State Sports: We haven’t talked since July, when the Western Athletic Conference hosted its media days in Las Vegas. A lot happened since then. So fill me in. What did you take out of UTSA’s inaugural football season? Were there any surprises? How about disappointments?
Dan McCarney: I think it went about as well as could be expected. It ran the gamut from good to bad to ugly. They didn’t belong on the same field against teams like Southern Utah and UC Davis. But then they were one of the few teams to give Sam Houston State a game. They’ve got a long, long way to go to be a consistently competitive FBS team, and they know that. The key will be to continue progressing, and building on any successes they can, to prevent malaise from setting in.
TSS: A lot of talk had been made about how hungry San Antonio was for a football team. If you had to classify the atmosphere surrounding the home opener in one sentence, what would it be?
DM: I can do it in one word: Memorable.
TSS: Former Texas State co-offensive coordinator Travis Bush left San Marcos for a number of reasons, but one of them was to finally be able to control an offense to himself. How do you think Bush did in his first year? Were you pleased with how he managed the offense?
DM: Larry Coker isn’t getting any younger, and if I was Lynn Hickey I’d be keeping a close eye on Travis as a possible successor. Numerous opposing coaches I spoke to said UTSA was an extremely difficult team to prepare for with all the different facets they throw at you, everything from the spread to the option. Considering how complex offenses have gotten in the last decade or two, that was a pretty high compliment. One thing he said that stood out was how much he grew this year as a game planner and play caller by going into games knowing that UTSA didn’t have the capability to run certain things because of their inexperience and/or lack of ability. He had to learn to be creative, and he was already pretty creative to begin with.
Now to basketball…
TSS: We all know Devin Gibson graduated, but is the team identity still the same Brooks Thompson team you expect on the court game in and game out or did Gibson have a lot to do with that?
DM: It’s a different team. You can never really replace an MVP-type player like Devin, but in some ways I think they might be a little better, especially when they’re focused on defense. They’re certainly deeper and more balanced than they were last year. Instead of relying on Devin to carry them they can spread the ball around a little more. One guy might have an off night, and there are two or three others who can pick up the slack. On the flip side, they miss that savage competitive drive that Devin had, that refusal to lose that carried them through last year’s postseason. The ultimate measure will be the Southland tournament, so we’ll see what happens.
TSS: One player told me he ‘hates UTSA with a passion.’ Is there a similar feeling toward Texas State from some of the Roadrunners? Is this a true rivalry?
DM: I definitely think it’s a rivalry, and a good one, but I don’t sense a lot of dislike on UTSA’s part. That probably has more to do with the makeup of the team than anything else. Guys like Melvin Johnson III and Jeromie Hill — the quintessential laid-back Australian — just aren’t wired like that. And two of their main rotation players, transfers Michael Hale III and Kannon Burrage, have never even played Texas State before. Coach Thompson is as competitive as they come, but I really think he’s trying to get his team to focus on the bigger picture, which is steadily improving so they can peak at the end of the season.
TSS: Who wins Saturday’s game inside Strahan Coliseum?
DM: On a neutral site, I think the Roadrunners probably wins six, maybe seven times out of time. They’re a better team. But Strahan is a totally different animal. The UTSA staff considers it one of the toughest, if not the toughest, places to play in the Southland. Of the gyms I’ve been to, I would easily agree with that. It’s a great atmosphere — very loud and intimidating — and that will have a big impact on the outcome. I’ll go UTSA, but I’ll couch by saying I expect a very, very tight game that could go either way.