<strong>LOGAN —</strong> Following a home blowout of New Mexico State, the Utah State football team hits the road for its third time in the past four games Saturday as the Aggies travel to San Antonio to take on the Roadrunners of UTSA.
Playing in their first year of FBS level football and their only season in the Western Athletic Conference, the Roadrunners jumped out to a 5-0 start to the season. UTSA even won its first ever WAC game during that stretch, defeating NMSU on the road. Now out of its easy early season schedule though, UTSA has lost two straight coming into its game against the Aggies.
“We need to protect the football and not turn over the ball and we need to play well on special teams,” UTSA head coach Larry Coker said. “(Utah State is) a very good team and those mistakes we made last Saturday cannot be made this Saturday. From what I have seen on Utah State, they look like a top-25 team.”
The Roadrunners are coming off a 52-24 Homecoming loss to San Jose State – a team the Aggies defeated 49-27 – and a game where they committed five turnovers.
Saturday’s matchup will be the first ever for Utah State and UTSA – the Roadrunners are only in their second year of existence – and it is a great opportunity for the Aggies to showcase themselves in front of a large contingent of Texas talent at the Alamodome where UTSA regularly brings in 30,000 fans.
“Texas is an area where we recruit, so it is big for us. We have a couple of coaches in Texas and I think the ability for us to go in there and hopefully play well is important,” USU head coach Gary Andersen said. “Moving into the Mountain West Conference, this is what we are obviously recruiting into in the future. You don’t get into Texas a lot to play, but you get close.
“We will continue to recruit it, so it is important for us. I am sure as we move through the years we will bump heads with UTSA in recruiting. To say you played well against somebody is an important part of the recruiting process.”
On the season, the Roadrunners are led by quarterback Eric Soza, who has passed 1,077 yards and 11 touchdowns with only one interception. However, he is injured and did not play in UTSA’s game against the Spartans and is not expected back this week either. In his place, speedy redshirt freshman Ryan Polite has stepped up.
Polite has thrown for 356 yards and two touchdowns in relief of Soza, and has been adept at running UTSA’s spread option attack.
“It sounds like it is definitely going to be the new quarterback,” Andersen said. “Like I said, with the throw to the option, the speed of the wide receivers, I suspect their offense will stay intact. It’s a good offense. These guys have won a lot of football games this year and played very well”
Helping out Polite will be a solid group of receivers. Kam Jones leads the Roadrunners with 13 catches for 226 yards and one score on the year. Running back Evans Okotcha is also heavily involved in the passing game as he is tied with Jones for the team lead in receptions with 13. Kenny Bias is another offensive weapon for UTSA as he has 11 receptions and is identical to Jones in yards and touchdowns. All told, UTSA has 10 different players that have a receiving touchdown on the season.
“UTSA, what I see, is an offense that does a great job of using the whole field with their wide receivers, with their running backs, with their quarterbacks, with their scheme. They do a very nice job. They’ve won a lot of football games. It’s obvious they know how to win,” Andersen said. “They play extremely hard on the offensive side of the ball … it’s a difficult offense to prepare for, from a scheme standpoint.”
Defensively, the roadrunners are led by a solid group of linebackers. Brandon Reeves leads the team with 55 tackles, while Steven Kurfehs (40) and Blake Terry (38) are also near the top of the team in defensive stops and tackles for loss. Statistically, UTSA boasts one of the better defenses in the conference, though those numbers have been skewed by the Roadrunners soft early schedule.
Because 2012 is UTSA’s first year as an FBS school, their statistics don’t count in the national rankings yet. However, if they did, they would rank No. 18 in the country in total defense, and are allowing just less than 100 rushing yards per game.
For the Aggies, there are a few players on the roster who get to play their first collegiate game in their home state. One of those players is starting USU quarterback Chuckie Keeton. Keeton said he has always dreamed of playing in the Alamodome.
“It is kind of funny because that was always where the 5A state championship were, so it has always been kind of like a dream for me to play at the Alamodome. So I will finally get my opportunity,” Keeton said. “It is definitely going to be an amazing experience. It is the first time that I am going to be able to play at home, and on top of that, most of my graduating class is at UTSA. So it is going to be a lot of fun, hopefully it is going to be a great atmosphere and hopefully we can come out with a win.”
Saturday’s game will be USU’s earliest of the season as it kicks off at noon local time. The game can be heard live on 610 AM or 95.9 FM in Cache Valley, as well as online at 610kvnu.com. The game will also be available through ESPN3.