SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Larry Coker resumed his head coaching career with the quick start that resembled his first job a decade ago.
Coker's UTSA team won its first football game, defeating Northeastern State 31-3 on Saturday.
Eric Soza threw for 237 yards and ran for 102 more, accounting for three touchdowns (2 pass/1 rush), as the Roadrunners scored on their first three possessions before an NCAA start-up program record crowd of 56,743 at the Alamodome. South Florida held the previous modern record with 49,212 on Sept. 6, 1997, against Kentucky Wesleyan.
Coker won his first 24 games as coach at Miami (Fla.) and led the Hurricanes to the 2001 National Championship. Saturday looked like 10 years ago when his players emptied a large drink bucket on him as the final seconds ticked away.
"Kind of expect that for a national championship, but one game?" Coker said. "This is maybe the most awesome game I've ever been around. I'm being totally honest with you."
Just seconds after he led his team onto the field, breaking into the stride of a 63-year-old as fireworks showered with the school's colors in balls of orange and blue, Coker drew close to the side of co-captain Steven Kurfehs and tapped him on the helmet before the opening coin toss.
"He told me we had been working hard for this, all those hours in the weight room, on the practice field, it was all about to pay off," Kurfehs said. "I think we had a lot more energy than they did. This has been building up for a year. Everyone has been ready for this. The day finally came, and we came out flying."
Coker, who went 60-15 (.800) in six seasons at Miami, witnessed opening plays that could not possibly have gone any more smoothly for a first-year program.
After Kam Jones returned the opening kickoff 37 yards to the UTSA 45-yard line, Soza ran 14 yards for UTSA's first touchdown, then connected with Jake Wanamaker for a 6-yard scoring toss and Jones for a 3-yard score before the first quarter had ended.
UTSA's defense also contributed early.
Safety Nic Johnston broke through the line and delivered a hard hit to stop Northeastern's Joel Rockmore for a 5-yard loss. The RiverHawks didn't get a first down until the last play of the first quarter.
"For the first game in the history of the program, they did a phenomenal job," Northeastern State head coach Kenny Evans said. "They were clicking on all cylinders."
Sean Ianno kicked a field goal as time expired in the half, giving the Roadrunners a 24-0 cushion heading into the locker room.
Soza completed 17-of-29 passes for 237 yards, was not intercepted and sacked just once.
Northeastern State, a Division II independent, only managed a 22-yard field goal by Dylan Beers in the third quarter.
"I didn't really know what to expect," Coker said of his return. "I know it was a lot more exciting that to be sitting on a golf course in Fort Myers, Fla."