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I-35 Showdown game preview

Get your tweets and bed sheets ready... It’s that time of year again.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Kansas State Scott Sewell-USA TODAY Sports

Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

Kick Off: Saturday, September 22, 6 pm CT


Stream: ESPN+

Live Stats: Side Arm Stats

Audio: Ticket 760 or Texas State All Access

Betting Odds: UTSA -7.5, O/U 50

Records: Texas State (1-2), UTSA (0-3)

Series Record: UTSA leads 2-0

Last Meeting: The Roadrunners won last year’s meeting in San Marcos 44-14.

Texas State Bobcats Outlook - Vidal Espinoza

It took quite a bit for Bobcat fans to escape from the mire and leave behind the dregs of last week’s heart/brain/liver-breaking loss to South Alabama but if there is any cure on Earth for a post-game hangover it’s a win against a bitter rival (and winning a gold shopping cart).

Texas State quarterback Willie Jones III has convinced me he has the ability to lead a team. Aside from a dreadful season debut at Rutgers, WJIII has shown some skills to pay the bills. In the past two games Jones has completed nearly 58% of his passes, eclipsed the 200-yard passing mark and has led the team in rushing. His early departure in last week’s game may have had a hand in the second half offensive momentum dissolving but that just goes to show

Now only if that offensive line can pass block for more than 1.5 seconds and let Jones III’s dropback develop instead of WJIII having to do his best Archie Manning impression. I’m not sure on the number of quarterback hurries last Saturday but I know it was quite often.

If Jones can get some time he should target the big wingback/tight end hybrid that is Keenan Brown. Brown only had two targets last week after smashing up Texas Southern for 108 yards receiving and they need him to be that dump off option in the pass game.

Defense, defense, defense. It’s been a double-edged sword all year. The Bobcats in three games have already notched over half the takeaways they had in 2017 but are giving up 263 yards per game through the air and a healthy 63.7% completion. That is what’s been killing Texas State. The pure passing defense statistics are not horrible but it’s the big plays that get the Bobcats. So far opposing quarterbacks have been 11/20 on passes of 15+ yards or more and Texas State defenders haven’t been pressuring the passer enough, only having two sacks this year.

NCAA Football: Texas State at Rutgers
Willie Jones III escapes the pocket against Rutgers.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

On the plus side the rush defense has been money, allowing only 123.3 yards a game on the ground, good for 41st in the nation on a respectable 4.0 yards a carry. Bryan London II and the rest of the ball-hawking front seven have been avoiding getting gashed on the ground. The passing statistics from before have been mostly occurring during the second half of games after the rushing attack has been grounded by the Bobcats and the opposing teams realize this.

Texas State needs to figure out a way to enforce a pass rush and disrupt whichever quarterback the ‘Runners go with. The Bobcats have to clamp down on their pass coverage because if I have figured this pattern out then you know damn well Coach Wilson and his staff have as well.

UTSA Roadrunners Outlook - Jared Kalmus

That sound you heard was the collective exhale of a program that has faced three straight Power Five programs to start their season. While we hope all the checks cleared the bank, the Runners start their G5 season without a win to their name. Fortunately UTSA escaped the gauntlet of a season-opening stretch without any major injuries but surely the team’s collective psyche is a bit bruised following blow outs against Arizona State and Kansas State.

With three winnable games ahead of them, the Roadrunners can get to .500 by getting their groove back against an equally-troubled Bobcats team.

For the first time this season, The Roadrunners will have bigger, faster, and stronger athletes at a few matchups, an advantage the team has yet to enjoy this season. That’s no slight on the Bobcats, just a reality of the P5 vs G5 divide when it comes to athleticism.

Nowhere is that talent gap more pronounced than along the line of scrimmage. UTSA’s offensive line has struggled to protect its quarterbacks this season, a byproduct of the tough competition they’ve faced as well as each of the starting five either seeing their first Division I snaps or learning a new position. While UTSA only gave up one sack against Kansas State, it’s clear that improvement is needed. Without a true pass rushing terror, Texas State provides an opportunity for the offensive line to regain their confidence and give starting quarterback Cordale Grundy time to keep his eyes downfield.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Arizona State
UTSA’s secondary has struggled against explosive offenses this fall.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA’s defensive struggles have mostly been focused on a secondary that has failed to generate turnovers or prevent big plays. While flex receiver Keenen Brown is a match-up nightmare, Texas State doesn’t have a receiver on their roster that has taken over a game this season. If the Roadrunners’ front six can force Willie Jones III to speed up his internal play clock, UTSA could come down with their first interception of the season.

Perhaps the most interesting match up in this game is UTSA’s stout front six against Texas State’s vastly improved rushing attack. Last year the Roadrunners’ dominated the Bobcats offensive line, often playing two yards behind the line of scrimmage. Has Texas State’s offensive line improved enough over the span of the year to return the favor?


Vidal: In the given situation that both teams are in this year it means more than just bragging rights to win this game. The 2018 season is on the line essentially and it should bring out the fight in both teams ferociously. Gimme the Bobcat win, 36-34.

Jared: Texas State has to win a game in this series at some point but I think UTSA still has a little bit too much of a talent advantage up front to lose this one. I don’t have much faith in the Roadrunners’ ability to find the endzone but placekicker Jared Sackett will carry the load to let UTSA escape with their first win of the year, 19-17.