SAN ANTONIO — Opportunity knocked for the Colorado State football team Saturday night.
For the first time in three games, the Rams took advantage of it.
Following two overtime losses in a row, the Rams made sure they wouldn’t need extra time as they knocked off the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners 33-31 in front of 24,705 fans at the Alamodome.
Redshirt sophomore Nick Stevens completed 15 of 28 passes for 255 yards and three touchdowns, while senior running back Jasen Oden Jr. carried 30 times for 143 yards and one touchdown in place of injured starter Dalyn Dawkins.
Oden Jr., who entered preseason camp as the No. 3 running back, bullied the Roadrunners’ defense, often dragging multiple defenders with him before he went down. On the Rams’ final drive, Oden Jr. ran the ball six times for 49 yards, picking up two crucial third-down conversions in the process.
“We practice that well, and we’ve got a period in practice called the ‘four-minute drill,’ where we’re trying to stay inbounds, trying to get first downs and trying to run the clock out,” Oden Jr. said. “We do a good job at it, and when I saw the signal (from the sideline), I knew what time it was, and I knew I had to just suck it up.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Rams struggled against the Roadrunners’ uptempo attack, giving up a number of long plays, including an 85-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. In the team’s first three games, CSU’s defense was its anchor, and though the Rams allowed the most yards (432) they have this season, CSU came up with big stops when it needed them, including a key interception by cornerback DeAndre Elliott midway through the fourth quarter.
“It felt good,” Elliott said of the interception, his second this year. “It let me know that I came back (from injury) the right way. I want to credit the pick to the D-line and linebackers, because they had the quarterback going crazy, and I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”
The Rams allowed points in the first quarter for the first time this season when UTSA running back Jalen Rhodes burst through the CSU defense for a 13-yard touchdown just 2:39 into the game.
Colorado State would march right back down the field, though, going 63 yards in nine plays, capped off by a 34-yard touchdown pass from Nick Stevens to Xavier Williams.
After a UTSA punt, CSU went three-and-out, but punter Hayden Hunt pinned the Roadrunners at their own 2-yard line. Three plays later, UTSA offensive lineman David Anzaldau was flagged for holding in the end zone, resulting in an automatic safety.
Leading 10-9 early in the second quarter after a field goal by Daniel Portillo, the Roadrunners blocked a rugby-style punt attempt by Hunt and recovered at the CSU 5-yard line. Three plays later, UTSA quarterback Blake Bogenschutz found tight end David Morgan II open in the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown.
CSU would respond with its longest drive of the season, covering 75 yards in 5:26, riding the legs of backup running back Jasen Oden Jr., who punctuated the drive with a 2-yard touchdown.
Trailing by one at halftime, CSU opened the third quarter with 14 unanswered points, taking what looked to be a commanding 30-17 lead with 6:20 to play. The Roadrunners, however, weren’t going quietly into the night.
Jarveon Williams capped off another UTSA drive with another 13-yard touchdown to bring the Roadrunners within six, 30-24.
Starting from their own 13, the Rams drove the length of the field, but were unable to punch it in from the 1-yard line, and settled for a 21-yard field goal from Wyatt Bryan.
Two plays later, Williams outran everyone for an 85-yard touchdown to bring the Roadrunners back within two.
Following a Hunt punt, the CSU defense bent, but didn’t break, forcing a UTSA punt with 5:28 to go.
On the backs of Oden and freshman Izzy Matthews, CSU ran out the remaining minutes, rushing the ball on all but one play.
“I thought it was a great night for our team,” CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. “First off, we won the ball game and second, we were able to win it with some adversity again and have to finish the game. I told the guys in there that I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way, to win the game the way we did, and to conquer some of the demons.”
With the win, CSU improves to 2-2 on the year heading into a challenging road matchup next week at Utah State.
No Dawkins, Matthews fills in
Sophomore running back Dalyn Dawkins did not play Saturday with a sore hamstring, limiting CSU’s depth at the position even more after senior Treyous Jarrells left the team earlier this week. Senior Jasen Oden Jr. filled in admirably, running 30 times for 143 yards and one touchdown. Freshman Izzy Matthews saw action for the second game this season, running for 31 yards on 10 carries.
Defense on the board
CSU’s defense scored for the second time this season, recording a safety in the second quarter. After a Hayden Hunt punt pinned UTSA inside its own 5, Roadrunners guard David Anzaldau was called for holding in the end zone. That automatically results in a safety, which was CSU’s first since 2009. The Rams’ other defensive score came in the season opener against Savannah State when Kevin Davis recovered an SSU fumble in the end zone.
13 of Colorado State’s players returned home to the state of Texas Saturday. The last time the Rams played in the state of Texas was Nov. 19, 2011 against then-Mountain West member TCU. Three of Colorado State’s defensive starters, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Cory James and Trent Matthews hail from the Lone Star state.
Lone Star captains
The captains for Saturday’s game each hailed from the Lone Star State. Center Kevin O’Brien is from Katy, senior safety Trent Matthews from Converse, and both Kevin Pierre-Louis and Cory James from Del Rio.
Home sweet dome
Colorado State played in a dome for the first time since 2009, when the Rams lost 31-29 to Idaho inside the 16,000-seat Kibbie Dome. The Rams’ only other indoor game in the past decade came against Minnesota, in a 55-24 loss in 2005 in the Metrodome.
Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.