The Colorado State Rams take on UTSA in the first true road game tomorrow. UTSA has opened the season 0-3 but they have played quality Power 5 conference teams. They played Arizona very tough, until the Wildcats separated themselves in the second half. This team may be the best 0-3 team in the country. So this game will not be easy for Colorado State. Here are some things you need to know about UTSA's season so far. I interviewed Jared Kalmus who covers the Roadrunners for Underdog Dynasty to get some much needed answers about this team.
1. Despite an 0-3 start to the season, what are some positives from the team so far?
One nice surprise has been the relative success of the running game. Despite an inexperienced offensive line in front of them, running backs Jarveon Williams and Jalen Rhodes have showed a lot of promise. They've combined for 301 yards while averaging over four yards per carry. Those numbers should become even more impressive as UTSA wraps up the Power 5 portion of their schedule.
2. Who are some key players to watch on the offensive and defensive side of the ball?
All eyes should be on quarterback Blake Bogenschutz this weekend. He played an awful game against Oklahoma State, accounting for four turnovers before being benched for walk-on Dalton Sturm. Bogenschutz had been pretty solid before OSU. He even broke a few school records against Arizona. "Bogie" will still start against Colorado State, but you've got to wonder if he'll be on a short leash given his poor play last week.
On defense free safety Nate Gaines might be under the microscope. The sophomore is an impressive athlete and he's delivered some crushing blows this season but he's still getting his grasp on the mental aspect of the game. He should improve every week but if he finds himself out of position in coverage again it could lead to some huge plays through the air for the Rams.
3. Who do you expect to get the assignment of covering Rashard Higgins? What do you expect the defensive game plan to be?
Well first off Bennett Okotcha will likely be locked on to Higgins throughout the entire contest. Okotcha is heads-and-shoulders above the rest of the cornerbacks and UTSA has always stuck him on the opposition's best receiver. He's had plenty of challenges this season due to UTSA's demanding schedule but Higgins might be the best players he's been tasked with thus far.
UTSA employs a 4-2-5 defense so expect to see a fairly base defense that is fundamentally sound with a linebacker/safety hybrid on the strong-side edge. From what I've seen Colorado State has a very impressive offensive line so UTSA may need to throw out more blitzes than they normally would in order to generate pocket pressure.
4. What kind of offensive approach do you expect the Roadrunners to have for this game?
I think we'll see the usual from UTSA: a balanced spread look that seeks to get the ball into their best playmakers' hands. David Morgan is definitely the top target to look out for. The massive tight end has popped up all over Sportscenter with his acrobatic catches and showings of brute force this season. The two running backs I mentioned before should get plenty of run and freshmen receivers Derrick Dick and Peyton Hall may be getting more work in the offense.
5. If the roadrunners to win what are three things that need to happen?
1.) Establish a consistent running game early. UTSA was able to run on Arizona pretty well for the majority of the contest. They were stuffed early against Kansas State which caused them to abandon the run and become one dimensional. Perhaps they learned from their mistakes, as they stuck with the run against Oklahoma State despite some early failures which lead to one of Jarveon Williams' best games as a Roadrunner.
2.) Fix the turnover and penalty problems. Fresh off an insane seven turnover discombobulation, UTSA fans are becoming increasingly frustrated by the sloppy play of the offense. They've moved the ball very well in all three games but boneheaded penalties and costly turnovers have prevented the offense from turning yards into points.
3.) Make Stevens air it out. Traditionally the UTSA defense has excelled at taking away the opposing offense's first option. In this case it will mean UTSA crunches down on the defensive line and prevents the Rams from setting up easy passing downs for Nick Stevens. Even with a moderate crowd the Alamodome can get extremely loud in a hurry, often leading to some mental miscues from young quarterbacks such as Stevens. UTSA will need to make him win this game on his own.
6. What are some key information that Ram fans should know about UTSA?
UTSA isn't going to be a world-beater by any means but their 0-3 record is very misleading. They've faced three top 30 programs so far this season and competed fairly well in all three games if you ignore the turnovers and penalties. The offense can move the ball upfield and the defense is sound. A good portion of UTSA's early struggles have been caused by their lack of experience across the board. That becomes less of an issue with each passing game as the young athletes become acclimated to the college game.
7. Prediction of the game?
Colorado State controls the trenches well enough to skate by in a close contest. CSU 34, UTSA 27.
We both agreed that this will be a tough game for the Rams. We also agreed that it will be a high scoring game because their 0-3 record is very misleading. This should be an entertaining game tomorrow, this is a must win for Colorado State before going into conference play. The schedule doesn't get easier because the Rams are about to enter a brutal stretch in October.