On Saturday afternoon, the Colorado State Rams step on the field for the first time since their 44-7 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
The University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners come into Hughes stadium fresh off their 26-13 week one win over Alabama State.
Last year, the two teams met in the Alamodome where the Rams escaped with a 33-31 victory.
“They are fast team, they are a physical football team,” coach Mike Bobo said. “They are a very talented team and we all remember what happened last year. We were lucky to get out of there alive.”
The Roadrunners are led by first-year coach Frank Wilson, who joined the program this past winter after spending the previous six seasons as the recruiting coordinator and running backs coach for the Louisiana State Tigers. The team returns five starters on defense, and seven on offense.
Offensively, the roadrunners are led by junior quarterback Dalton Sturm and senior running back Jarveon Williams. Sturm, who started eight games last season, completed 20 of 25 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s win. He also ran for a 51-yard touchdown.
Williams, a preseason All Conference-USA selection, became the first ever 1,000 yard rusher in program history last season. Williams had a big night against the Rams last year, rushing for 170 yards and two touchdowns on just 13 carries.
Sturm has another weapon in junior wide receiver Kerry Thomas Jr, who set a program-record with 52 catches last season, while totaling 541-receiving yards and four touchdowns.
Sturm’s dual-threat ability and Williams’ game-breaking potential were a point of emphasis for the CSU coaches all week for good reason.
The Rams defense gave up 260 yards on the ground and 318 through the air to the Buffaloes last week, and they were particularly susceptible to the big play.
The defense has got to find a way to get production out of someone other than Kevin Davis, who recorded a career-high 19 tackles last week, and play with the discipline needed to contain Sturm and Williams.
“I do think that they have some good speed. Their running back is a very very good football player. He hit us on a couple long runs last year. We have to keep the ball in front of us,” defensive coordinator Marty English said.
After last week’s anemic offensive performance, Mike Bobo tabbed Faton Bauta as Saturday’s starting quarterback in an effort to generate a needed offensive spark.
After Nick Stevens struggled for most of Friday night, Bauta took over for good in the third quarter, finishing the game 6-9 passing for 32 yards and one touchdown. Bauta also ran for 39 yards on four carries.
But it’s going to take more than one move to fix a CSU offense that only scored seven points and totaled 225 yards while committing three turnovers in the Showdown.
“We have to have an offense where the quarterback is going to make first downs happen and help out his defense by changing field positions,” Bobo said. “We have to be able to run the ball and get first downs and put ourselves into position to win a football game.”
On defense, the Roadrunners are led by preseason All-Conference USA selections in junior safety Michael Egwuagu and junior defensive end Marcus Davenport.
Ewuagu recorded 62 tackles and three interceptions a year ago, while Davenport registered 49 tackles and four sacks last season. Davenport also had two sacks last week.
The Roadrunners return just five starters on the defensive unit, but they do bring back three of their top five tacklers from a year ago in Ewuagu, safety Nate Gaines, and linebacker Marcos Curry, as well as their leading pass rusher in Davenport.
With Bauta getting his first start, the Rams could look to the run game early with Dalyn Dawkins, who was the Rams leading player on offense last week, and a healthier Izzy Matthews who struggled last week with an ankle sprain.
The UTSA defense struggled against the Rams rushing attack last season, and gave up 145 yards on the ground to Alabama State last week.
Junior wide receiver Michael Gallup could also factor heavily in the game. Gallup showed playmaking potential last week when he caught four passes for 38 yards, and Bobo said that Gallup would play an even bigger role in Saturday’s contest.
Collegian sports reporter Eric Wolf can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Eric_Wolf5