Four Down Territory 9.7.16

Presenting our weekly post in which InsideRunnerSports’ JJ Perez tackles four burning questions facing UTSA this week. Presented by the law firm of Saucier & Smaistrla PLLC.

Presented by the law firm of Saucier & Smaistrla PLLC.

 

What Quarterback Controversy?
QB Dalton Sturm got the start this past Saturday vs Alabama State . He played a majority of the snaps with Jared Johnson seeing some spot action. Sturm played very well. He completed 20 of 25 passes for a career-high 274 yards with two touchdowns. He also used his feet to escape pressure and scramble for a 51 yard rushing touchdown that basically sealed the game for the Roadrunners. Save for one bad mistake, an across the body pass that was intercepted inside of the five yard line, Sturm did as much one could ask. He was calm, poised, and showed maturity. One of the biggest changes from the 2015 Dalton Sturm to the 2016 Dalton Sturm was his ability to follow through with his passing progressions. Last season, if his first read wasn’t there Sturm often tucked and ran, most of the times too early. In his first game this season, that was not the case. As a result of Sturm’s play, Head Coach Frank Wilson did not hesitate when he announced Monday that Sturm would be the starter vs Colorado State . A caveat to that is that Wilson also said that there was a high likelihood that Jared Johnson would see action vs Colorado State too. So does UTSA have a quarterback controversy?

No. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. While we may have not seen the last of Jared Johnson, Sturm was just better. The offense had more a rhythm when he was in and when Sturm got his opportunity, he was sharp. I mean 20 for 25 speaks for itself. And to be fair with Johnson, I don’t think anyone has seen enough of him play to relegate him to the permanent backup role. If Wilson ’s depth chart is truly etched in sand, that means the QB competition will continue through the course of the season, which is good for everyone involved. But that does not necessarily mean there’s a controversy. At least not for the time being. 

Is the D-line a strength?
Since last spring, all we’ve heard was how good the defensive line could be. But in the first half of the first game of the season, it didn’t look that way. In fact, watching from the press box Saturday, Alabama State gashed UTSA in the trenches in the first half. The Hornets had four players rush for 135 yards in the first half. The most glaring stat: a 6.1 yards per carry average. So how good can UTSA be upfront while giving up those kind of rushing numbers?

Well, look no further than the second half. The defense answered the bell out of halftime and stepped up big. UTSA would only allow Alabama State 10 rushing yards in the second half. During that time, UTSA would hold the Hornets scoreless on nine straight possessions. With the exception of one long play that led to a late score, it was a total defensive domination by UTSA in the second half. Sometimes players come out too excited and too jacked up. For much of the first half, that looked to be the case with UTSA’s defensive line. But in the second half, they performed like they were expected to. 

Time to Tarp the ‘Dome
Last week I said the over/under with attendance this season should be around 25,000. UTSA drew a little over 22,000 in the season-opener. That’s not a great number but it was an improvement from the 2015 season finale. I was on the field during the pregame. I like to take in the atmosphere when the team runs out of the tunnel and the opening kickoff. Let me tell you something. 22,380 fans at the Alamodome are very loud. When UTSA forced a fumble on the opening kickoff and scored a touchdown a few plays later, the energy pouring down on the field was tremendous. Taking a step back, only two other Conference USA schools drew higher than UTSA in week one. UTEP had 30,119 vs rival New Mexico State while North Texas had 24,718 vs SMU. So if we keep things in perspective, the 22,380 vs Alabama State isn’t too shabby.

But one improvement related to attendance that needs to happen much sooner than later is tarping of the upper levels of the Alamodome. The idea of closing the upper deck was to get all of the fans in the two lower sections to provide a feel of intimacy and make the stadium louder. But when you look at the field, your eyes can’t be helped to be drawn to thousands of empty seats in the upper level. The emptiness makes the overhead space feel that much more cavernous. And in photographs and video, it’s an aesthetic nightmare. It’s my understanding the cost of covering the upper level of the Alamodome is very expensive. But in my opinion, it’s a cost that will be well worth it. The Alamodome is a great facility for UTSA. And the fans have done a great job making it a real home field advantage (ask Alabama State about their multiple procedure penalties). The Alamodome is already receiving a major renovation that will improve the game day experience. It’s time to make the ‘Dome feel like home and cover up the upper level. 

Colorado State Expectations
There’s a lot of excitement as the Roadrunners head to Fort Collins this weekend for their first road game of the season. Colorado State looked terrible in their season-opening loss to Colorado . And on Monday, they announced they’ll be starting a new QB vs UTSA. Meanwhile, spirits are high among Roadrunner fans. UTSA didn’t play a real clean game vs Alabama State but the team showed enough to give faithful hope of an upset vs the Rams. Historically, Colorado State is a solid program. The Rams are coming off a 7-5 season last year and are led by second-year head coach Mike Bobo. CSU has gone to bowl games in each of the last three seasons while being competitive in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. UTSA shouldn’t be favored in a game like Saturday. The Roadrunners will go into hostile territory playing a team that can be compared to a wounded animal. Colorado State has their backs up against the wall early in this 2016 season. A lot of times in games like this, the advantage goes to the more desperate team. In this case, I believe that’s Colorado State . On the flip side, UTSA enters Saturday riding a wave of energy and emotion. Last season, UTSA fell to CSU by just two points. You know that will be on the mind of a lot of UTSA players. Various lines have Colorado State favored between 9.5 to 11 points. If you ask me, I think it’ll be too close to call. This will be the first real measuring stick for UTSA in 2016. 


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