UTSA Inside Runner Sports publisher J.J. Perez provides Colorado State fans direct insight on what to expect from the Roadrunners Saturday.

After an ugly opening week showing, Colorado State looks to right the ship and get their first win of the season against UTSA in Fort Collins Saturday.

Colorado State looks to get on the winning track on Saturday as the Rams take on Texas-San Antonio in their home opener. To get further insight on the Roadrunners, who enter the game at 1-0 following a 26-13 home win over Alabama State, Inside The Rams was fortunate to get the wisdom of UTSA Scout publisher J.J. Perez of Inside Runner Sports. He answers five key questions below.

Inside the Rams: After a tough 2015 campaign, UTSA is off to a 1-0 start following a 26-13 win over Alabama State. What did the Roadrunners do particularly well in the win?
J.J. Perez: UTSA didn’t play a clean game in the opener. Four turnovers stymied the offensive rhythm and the 80 penalty yards were more than what first-year Head Coach Frank Wilson wanted. But what the Roadrunners did do was persevere. They didn’t catch a lot of breaks and there were a few tense moments, but UTSA did enough to win. Most notably was the play of the offense. UTSA spread things around and got a ton of receivers involved. And when the time came, they made plays. On the other side of the ball, the defense clamped down after struggling in the first half. At one point, UTSA held Alabama State to nine consecutive scoreless possessions and were on their way to pitching a 3/4 game shutout before a long passing play setup a late score. Looking at the box score isn’t an indication of how the game played out.
 
ITR: Quarterback Dalton Sturm showed glimpses last year of being a true dual-threat. He had a very efficient showing in the opener last week, going 20-of-25 for 274 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, while adding a 51-yard rushing score. What are his greatest strengths as a quarterback and what can CSU do to slow him down?
Perez: Sturm is a former walk-on. This time last year, he was the fourth-string QB. After an injury to the starter and the departure of two quarterbacks ahead of him, he was thrown into the fire. He played remarkably well in 2015, all things considered. In the offseason, UTSA added a graduate transfer QB, Jared Johnson from FCS Sam Houston State. Johnson came to UTSA as the reigning Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year. So there was a lot of excitement when it was announced that there would be a free and open competition at the QB position. Most automatically thought Johnson would get the call. But last week, just hours before the opener, Sturm was told he’d be the starter. In his first game you could tell he’s improved, specifically with his ability to move through his passing reads. Appears to be a better decision-maker. One of the key things that plagued UTSA last season was lack of protection. Some of that was on the offensive line but some of that was on Sturm tucking and running too quickly. In the season-opener, he showed patience. A true dual-threat, Sturm has deceptive speed once he gets into the open. The best thing CSU could do to slow him down is put pressure on him.
 
ITR: Who are their other playmakers offensively? CSU struggled last year stopping their run game, as the Roadrunners breezed to 279 yards on the ground including an 85-yard score from Jarveon Williams. Will he (Williams) be healthy this week and do you see UTSA running the ball effectively against CSU?
Perez: RB Jarveon Williams is UTSA’s workhorse. But he injured his ankle in the first half of last weeks game and did not see much action. This week, he’s been limited in practice. He is expected to travel to Fort Collins and will give it a go. If healthy, Williams should carry the ball around 20 times. His backup, Jalen Rhodes, is also a key contributor in the running game. Like Williams, Rhodes is fast, agile, and strong. The Roadrunners have a good one-two punch in the backfield. I’m not too sure what kind of game plan we’ll see this week vs CSU. Last week UTSA had an almost 50-50 split between the run and the pass. I’d expect we’d see a lot of the same this week.
 
ITR: Break down the UTSA defense. Who are the playmakers and what should the Rams expect from them?
Perez: UTSA’s defensive strengths are in the middle of the field. The interior of their d-line is very good. Defensive tackles Baylen Baker and Vontrell King-Williams anchor the d-line. Linebackers Josiah Tauaefa and Ronnie Fiest are poised for a breakout season. Last week, Tauaefa had a team-high 13 tackles. And at Safety, UTSA has a pair of ball hawks in Nate Gaines and Jordan Moore. There’s a lot of talent on UTSA’s defense. First-year Defensive Coordinator Pete Golding has already shown to be aggressive. Last week vs Alabama State, UTSA recorded a program record six sacks. And while UTSA’s scheme is listed as 4-2-5, expect to see a lot of three down configurations.
 
ITR: Finally, what are your three keys to a Roadrunner victory and score prediction?
Perez: In the past, UTSA has had bad luck when it came to mistakes. Like when a turnover happens, it hasn’t been a regular one but one that leads to points or costs them points. Last week, UTSA had two turnovers inside of the five yard line. They’ll need to clean that up. Place Kicker Daniel Portillo missed two PAT attempts last week. There was a muffed punt and also an onside kick recovery that was a little shaky. UTSA needs a clean effort from their special teams. And finally, just be ready to fight it out. I’d equate Colorado State to a wounded animal right now. Their backs are against the wall and they’ll do whatever it takes to push forward. I’m expecting a very close game and competitive game that will be too close to call. Put me down 34-31 UTSA.

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