Start Time: 3:00 pm CST
Location: Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins, Colorado
TV: Not Available
Radio: Ticket 760
Live Stats: CBS GameTracker
Betting Line: Colorado State (-10), O/U 54
Series Record: Colorado State leads 1-0
Last Meeting: 33-31 Colorado State (2015)
Recommended Reading: Colorado State Q&A with Mountain West Connection
This game is much more interesting than one would expect at first glance. Despite the appearance of an innocuous out of conference match up between two Group of Five programs, both teams really need to close this game out to have a realistic shot at a bowl game this season. Saturday’s game may be even more important to the Rams than previously assumed due to a disastrous performance against a hated rival in week one. The Rams need to right the ship and build some confidence before they embark into conference play.
Colorado State Outlook
Man, where to start? The Rams are in disarray to start the season after taking it on the chin against Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Showdown. Returning starting quarterback Nick Stevens played poorly enough to lose his job in the 44-7 beatdown as he posted a stat line of 6-20 for 31 yards and two interceptions. WOOF.
Stepping in for Stevens is Georgia graduate transfer Faton Bauta. While Stevens
is was a returning starter, Bauta does have a sort of experience edge over Stevens thanks to his time under Mike Bobo at Georgia where the Colorado State head coach was Bauta’s offensive coordinator. Bauta wrapped up his CSU debut with 6-9 passing for 32 yards through the air and a touchdown. He also ran for 39 yards, bringing a nice spark to the Rams’ faltering offense.
With the Rams returning receiver Xavier Williams serving a two game suspension it’s hard to predict what weapons Mike Bobo will throw at the UTSA secondary since his quarterbacks were so inaccurate against Colorado. The only wide out to catch more than two passes in week one for the Rams was junior college transfer Michael Gallup (four receptions for 38 yards).
Unless Faton Bauta is the real deal, Colorado State will likely lean on their weighty offensive line and explosive running backs to create an offensive edge. Make no mistake, Purdue transfer Dalyn Dawkins is the man at running back for the Rams. Returning with over 1,000 all purpose yards, Dawkins was the lone beacon of hope for Colorado State’s offense last week as he fought his way to 88 rushing yards on just 14 carries. Sophomore Izzy Matthews is also highly talented while true freshman Marvin Kinsey seems to be the future of the position for the Rams.
There aren’t many bright spots to expose following a game in which the defense allowed 44 points but it’s hard not to come away impressed with the effort of linebacker Kevin Davis. The 6’2”, 240 pound senior totaled 19 tackles and forced a fumble despite the dominance of the Buffs’ offense.
All eyes are on senior nose tackle Josh Lovingood heading into the game (I promise I didn’t make that name up). The undersized nose tackle (6’4”, 250) will need to play a ton of snaps this week with both of his backups O’Shea Jackson and Colton Foster suspended for this week’s game.
If nothing else, we have a good idea of what to expect out of the quarterback position for UTSA. Roadrunner fans haven’t had that privilege since Eric Soza was stealing hearts and kissing newborns in San Antonio.
Dalton Sturm was electric for the Roadrunners in his first game of the 2016 season, leaving no doubt of who the team’s starting quarterback would be. The former walk on had no trouble connecting on his deep throws and showed slippery escapability and great speed outside of the pocket. He won’t complete 80% of his passes every week but head coach Frank Wilson should feel pretty comfortable with the junior under center.
Star running back Jarveon Williams’ status for this game is up in the air as he’s been held out of practice due to a mild ankle sprain. While Williams is expected to be healed up in time to make his presence felt in the game, sophomore running back Jalen Rhodes showed great potential for the Roadrunners filling in Williams against Alabama State (78 yards on 16 carries, one touchdown). If Williams is unable to go on Saturday bruiser Corbin White and slasher Brett Winnegan could be in line for some opportunities to display their abilities.
Sturm spread the ball around in week one, connecting with ten receivers. I’m not sure if that distribution will continue each week but the Roadrunners’ receiving production was lead by three somewhat unexpected contributors. Tight ends Shaq Williams and Trevor Stevens combined for 110 yards on six completions as the Roadrunners had no issue replacing current Minnesota Vikings tight end David Morgan’s place in the passing game. Slot receiver Marquez McNair also showed his explosiveness in his first game in the Blue and Orange as he caught three passes for 49 yards and one touchdown.
The Roadrunners have a budding star on the defensive side of the ball in redshirt freshman Josiah Tauaefa. Racking up 13 tackles and two sacks in his first game at the collegiate level, Tauaefa looks to be a force to handle as a blitzer after he destroyed blocking backs twice on his way to the Alabama State quarterback.
Introducing a new attacking defense, UTSA struggled to protect against the run in the first half against their FCS foe. A half time adjustment to the front seven’s gap assignments alleviated the pain for the Roadrunners as they allowed just 10 rushing yards in the second half. Even though UTSA ended up correcting their flaws, Alabama State’s early ability to run the ball is particularly concerning as the Roadrunners head to Fort Collins to face a team with a large offensive line and three good running backs. UTSA may be forced to play its secondary close to the tackle box and hope Bauta can’t beat them over the top.
I’ve really struggled with this one. The teams seem to be pretty equally matched in talent but the Rams do enjoy home field advantage and will certainly be anxious to correct their mistakes and redeem themselves after an embarrassing loss in week one. While Colorado State seems to be suffering from Murphy’s Law to start the season I can’t shake the feeling that the Rams are going to find a way to pull this one out. UTSA’s kicking game has been a perpetual struggle and these types of close games are where poor special teams really make an impact.
Colorado State 27 UTSA 24