Led by starting tailback Jalen Rhodes, UTSA piled up a school record 569 total yards of offense on the way to a 30-point rout of Texas State on Saturday night. Rhodes accounted for 174 of those yards on just 15 rushes, averaging for a stout 11.6 yards per carry.
In the highly-anticipated and long-overdue sequel of this matchup, Bobcat Stadium was split at the seam as the sea of fans glistened just as orange as it did maroon. Diehards endured hours of a blistering 100-plus degree tailgate before making their way to their seats for the 6:30 PM kickoff. And as the sun set on San Marcos, Texas, the two football teams separated by 53 and a half miles of roadway lined up across one another on the gridiron.
And, as the Twitters foretold, rivalry games are crazy. We certainly got our fix of craziness in this one, and the juices were flowing high from the get-go.
About to beat the Bobcats in their own house. pic.twitter.com/ioNoUkfaXe— UTSA (@UTSA) September 23, 2017
Texas State won the opening toss and deferred to UTSA. For starting quarterback Dalton Sturm and the rest of his rough riders, it was business as usual. Sturm connected on three streaking passes downfield to setup the Roadrunners with first and goal from the Texas State eight-yard line. Sturm would finish 17 for 25 with 212 yards and another 37 on the ground.
As Roadrunner fans awaited the surefire touchdown, the rivalry fuel awoke in the Bobcat defense. An impressive goal line stop stiffed UTSA’s offense after it picked up five first downs, and the Roadrunners instead settled for a 21-yard field goal from new place kicker Jared Sackett. Sackett proved to be the final answer to UTSA’s seemingly everlasting kicking woes, and he was perfect on five extra points and three field goals - one of which from 43 yards out.
The rivalry juice would continue to bubble as Texas State’s offense took the field. On their second snap, UTSA tackle Eric Banks blew up Texas State quarterback Damian Williams and forced a fumble with a strip-sack. The bobbling football was then scooped up by linebacker Josiah Tauaefa and returned 22 yards to the endzone. The sophomore’s first touchdown caused UTSA fans to erupt through the stadium as the Roadrunners took a 10-0 lead in the first. This explosive play was indicative of the havoc created by UTSA’s front seven all evening as the Roadrunners set a new program record with 11 tackles for loss.
It looked like the Roadrunners were going to have a repeat performance of their blowout win against Southern last week, but Williams thought otherwise. As Texas State was backed up to their own two-yard line on third down and 14, Williams cranked his wheels for a 30 yard gain. He then hit Mason Hayes for 26 yards and Elijah King for 18 yards, and just like that, UTSA’s all-world defense had just given up a 98-yard scoring drive.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, that drive would account for half of their yard total for the evening. Williams accounted for 175 of Texas State’s 198 total yardage after completing nine of his 24 attempts for 156 yards and earning another 19 on the ground.
The teams would then exchange punts before going blow-for-blow in the second quarter.
Texas State downed their punt on UTSA’s one-yard line to end the first stanza. It was on the eighth play of UTSA’s drive when Rhodes got a carry on third and three that ended up going 67 yards to the house.
Jalen Rhodes, take me home— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) September 24, 2017
To the place I belong
(the end zone) pic.twitter.com/wqRn4jrHn4
That 99-yard drive was answered by a seven play, 75-yard effort from Williams to bring Texas State back within three. Aided by a pair of UTSA penalties, Williams scored his second touchdown of the evening when he hit Jeremiah Haydel for nine yards.
Penalties seem to be the one thing UTSA cannot get right. After racking up 10 flags in each of their first two contests, the Roadrunners amassed 13 against the Bobcats. The glaring black eye for the team could end up costing them heavily once conference play commences.
Halfway through the second quarter the scoreboard read 17-14 and fans were getting quite the treat. On the ensuing drive UTSA would take and secure control of the game. Drawing the pace down as they have before, the Roadrunners ran the ball time and time again to wear down the Bobcat defense. UTSA had 357 total yards of rushing on 45 attempts between six players.
Another ten points before the intermission set the halftime score at 24-14, and the Bobcats could do no more. UTSA continued its ground success and didn’t waiver from that gameplan at any point. In fact, UTSA didn’t bother trotting out many skill positions on their second string offense like people had anticipated. Sturm played the majority of the game and freshman running back BJ Daniels only had two carries.
The exclamation point came from specialty back Brett Winnegan. The speedster took the backfield with four minutes remaining in the game and on the first play of the drive cut up the field for a 71-yard touchdown run for the final score of the game.
The win moves the Roadrunners to 2-0 against the Bobcats all-time and 3-0 on the season so far. UTSA now heads into their bye week and will begin conference play undefeated against Southern Miss on October 7th at the Alamodome.
Meanwhile Texas State continues to show improvement but this loss to UTSA shows that the Bobcats still have a ways to go before they’re ready to compete for bowl eligibility. The Bobcats will travel to Laramie, Wyoming this weekend to face the Cowboys and their much-ballyhooed NFL draft prospect quarterback Josh Allen.