Sturm red hot in UTSA's 51-17 rout of Southern in home opener

SAN ANTONIO – It was just another day at the office for UTSA senior quarterback Dalton Sturm on Saturday.

Sturm completed 19 of 22 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns, all in the first half, to spark the Roadrunners to a 51-17 rout of Southern in their home opener. 

UTSA gave most in the crowd of 25,093 at the Alamodome plenty to cheer about in the first half, taking a 48-0 lead into intermission after scoring on all seven of its possessions. Sturm's four TD passes tied a school single-game record he already shared with Eric Soza. He also set school single-game marks for completion percentage (86.4) and passing efficiency rating (257.9). 

Dalton, a former walk-on, attributed his sharp performance to preparation.

"We spend a lot of time in the film room going over certain stuff, coverages, going over stuff with the receivers and stuff like that," said Sturm, a Goliad High School graduate. "But the line's been doing a great job of making me feel comfortable in the pocket.

"That's huge, being able to stand back there and know that I'm not going to get hit, and knowing where the receiver is going to be. That's a big edge." 

Coach Frank Wilson sat Sturm for the entire second half, going with freshman Bryce Rivers at the start of the third quarter. It was a tough initiation for the Stevens High School graduate. He passed for only 48 yards and was intercepted twice, with the first one returned 61 yards by cornerback Danny Johnson for the Jaguars' first points.

The lopsided halftime score gave Wilson an opportunity to play backups in the final two quarters. UTSA's only points of the second half came on a 28-yard field goal by Jared Sackett with 1:50 left in the third period. 

The Roadrunners (2-0) play at Texas State (1-2) next Saturday in San Marcos. Southern, which lost to Southern Miss 45-0 last week, dropped to 1-2.  The Jaguars play in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision, formerly I-AA. UTSA has been a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly I-A, since 2014.

The Roadrunners' 2-0 start is their first since 2012, when they went 5-0 before losing.

"I think anytime you can start a year 2-0, you're on the right path, and so that was our goal, to take care of this game," Wilson said. "It was the most important game because it was the next one. We challenged our team to be beyond reproach, to take a game, the first one, although a milestone and as historic as it was, and put it in its proper place, look at the next opponent and do the things necessary to prepare for that opponent. 

"I think we were mature enough to do those things to come out victorious, Pleased to be 2-0, but we certainly have a lot of work left to go."

The Roadrunners beat Baylor 17-10 in their opener last week in Waco, making history with their first victory against a Power 5 opponent.

Wilson assured reporters throughout the week that his team would not suffer a letdown after the big win, which he described as a "monumental feat." He doubled down Saturday night after the game.

"Yeah, you know, I said that earlier in the week when there was some discussion of that, as our players were being lauded for the work they did, that that could be a potential letdown," Wilson said. "I don't know how it can. We won one game." 

UTSA outgained the Jaguars 502-149 in total offense, finishing with 167 yards on the ground and 335 through the air. Jalen Rhodes led the Roadrunners’ running game with 61 yards on 10 carries and Kerry Thomas paced the receivers, finishing with five catches for 75 yards and one TD. Two of Sturm's TD passes went to tight end Shaq Williams, who had three receptions for 43 yards.

UTSA's 48 first-half points set a school record, eclipsing the 42 they scored against Northwestern Oklahoma State on Sept. 22, 2012. 

The Roadrunners defense also had a record night. The 149 yards it allowed Southern is the lowest total in school history. Senior linebacker Marcos Curry paced the defense with six tackles, including 2.5 sacks. Freshman tackle Morris Joseph Jr. and junior linebacker Les Maruo also had six interceptions each.

Junior safety C.J. Levine, sophomore safety Andrew Martel and freshman safety Tay'lor Perry each finished with an interception. 

"Frank Wilson has gone a good of building this program, and you can see it," Southern coach Dawson Odums said. "They play a certain style. It's physical down there. You don't even see fullbacks anymore. They get in two backs and they get downhill. Rhodes is as advertised. I think he's one of the better backs that we've seen."

Odums said the Roadrunners' strength simplly overwhelmed the Jaguars.

"I think the physicality down in the trenches is where you saw the difference in the ballgame," he said. "They moved the ball up and down the field and we couldn't do anything. It makes for a long game, but I really think (UTSA) had a lot to do with it. "

Final: UTSA 51, Southern 17

Tonight's attendance: 25,093

UTSA 51, Southern 17
Fourth quarter, 8:18:
Tevin Horton scores on a 24-yard run for the Jaguars' first offensive TD. Cesar Barajas adds the PAT.

UTSA 51, Southern 10
Fourth quarter, 12:37:
Barajas kicks a 45-yard field goal for the Jaguars. 

End of third quarter: UTSA 51, Southern 7

UTSA 51, Southern 7
Third quarter, 1:50:
Jared Sackett continues the Roadrunners' scoring binge with a 28-yard field goal. Sackett has converted six of seven extra-point attempts.  

UTSA 48, Southern 7
Third quarter, 8:43:
The Jaguars finally get on the scoreboard when cornerback Danny Johnson picks off freshman Bryce Rivers and returns the interception for a 61-yard TD. Cesar Barajas adds the PAT. 

Second-half note: Stevens graduate Bryce Rivers, a freshman, starts the second half at quarterback for UTSA. He completes a 21-yard pass to Blaze Moorhead on his first attempt, but is sacked for a 15-yard loss on the next play. Rivers hits two more passes but the Roadrunners punt on fourth down. The punt is the first of the game for UTSA.

First-half notes: UTSA senior quarterback Dalton Sturm had an outstanding first half, completing 19 of 22 passes for 292 yards and four touchdowns, two to tight end Shaq Williams. Dalton's four TD passes ties a school single-game record he shares with Eric Soza . . . The Roadrunners outgained the Jaguars 399-40 in total offense, gaining 107 rushing and 292 passing . . . UTSA had 20 first downs and Southern made just three . . . Jalen Rhodes led the running game with 61 yards on 10 carries and one TD . . . Linebacker La'Kel Bass led the defense with five tackles. 

End of first half: UTSA 48, Southern 0 

UTSA 48, Southern 0
Second quarter, 0:29:
Dalton Sturm throws an 11-yard scoring strike to wide receiver Josh Stewart, capping  a six-play, 79-yard offensive. Sackett misses the extra-point kick. 

UTSA 42, Southern 0
Second quarter, 4:48:
 Sturm connects with tight end Shaq Williams for a 14-yard touchdown pass, ending a seven-play, 66-yard march. Jared Sackett kicks his sixth extra point of the first half. Sturm has completed 14 of 17 passes for 220 yards and three TDs, two to Williams. The Roadrunners have scored on all six of their first-half possessions. 

UTSA 35, Southern 0
Second quarter, 9:19: Sturm scores on an 8-yard run. His TD ends a nine-play, 68-yard drive. Sackett kicks his fifth extra point of the first half. 

UTSA 28, Southern 0
Second quarter, 14:18: Sturm throws a 17-yard touchdown pass to tight end Shaq Williams on the second play of the second period. TD ends a four-play drive that began after a Southern Punt. Sturm has hit 7 of 8 passes for 116 yards and two TDs.

End of first quarter: UTSA 21, Southern 0

UTSA 21, Southern 0
First quarter, 2:52:
Tailback Tyrell Clay goes over right guard for a 2-yard touchdown. The score ends a six-play, 27-yard drive drive that began after an interception by safety C.J. Levine. Sackett kicks his third extra point of the first quarter. 

UTSA 14, Southern 0
First quarter, 7:37:
 Tailback Jalen Rhodes scores on an 8-yard run up the middle, capping a seven-play, 50-yard drive that started after a Southern punt. The key play in the drive was a 23-yard completion from Dalton Sturm to Rhodes on third-and-21 at the UTSA 39. 

UTSA 7, Southern 0
First quarter, 12:07:
UTSA ends its first possession with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Sturm to wide receiver Kerry Thomas Jr. Sturm's TD strike caps a four-play, 45-yard drive. Sackett adds the PAT.

PREVIEW STORY

UTSA GAMEDAY: Finally, it's home sweet dome for Roadrunners

Southern (1-1) vs. UTSA (1-0)
When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m., Alamodome
Series history: First meeting
Last week: Southern Miss 45, Southern 0, Hattiesburg, Miss.; UTSA 17, Baylor 10, Waco
UTSA record in home openers: 3-3
Notable: The Roadrunners’ victory against Baylor was their first in school history against a Power 5 opponent.

SAN ANTONIO – UTSA football coach Frank Wilson undoubtedly would agree with Dorothy’s memorable line at the end of the iconic 1939 movie “The Wizard of Oz.”

There’s no place like home.

Their scheduled home opener against Houston two weeks ago got canceled in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

The Roadrunners are raring to go for their first game at the Alamodome since last year’s regular-season finale against Charlotte on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Fresh off a 17-10 road victory against Baylor, its first against a Power 5 opponent, UTSA plays its seventh home opener in school history against Southern at 6 p.m. Saturday.

“It’s been way too long,” Wilson said this week after a workout. “I miss the Alamodome, man. I miss walking through my little entrance spot. I miss going into my locker room and taking the team to the field, looking at our crazed fans with shirts on, no shirts on. The walk, the tailgating, the smell, just going through there. I’m ready for it. I’m ready for Saturday.”

The mere sight of Southern is sure to rekindle a flood of warm memories for Wilson, a New Orleans native who grew up watching the Jaguars play Grambling in the annual Bayou Classic in the Crescent City.

“For many years, for decades, it was the only place that African Americans could go pre-integration,” Wilson said, referring to Southwestern Athletic Conference schools.

Wilson, 43, spoke admiringly of Southern’s rich football tradition and the storied history of the SWAC, which includes Grambling, Prairie View, Texas Southern and six other historically black universities.

Southern is in Baton Rouge, La., where Wilson was an assistant coach at LSU for six seasons before landing his first college head-coaching job at UTSA in January 2016. 

“You’re talking about 14-plus SWAC championships, 11 black college national championships,” Wilson said of Southern. “We did a little history just to enlighten our guys. Seventy-five players drafted by from that school that played in the NFL, two (pro football) hall of famers in Mel Blount and Aeneas Williams. A prideful program that we need to recognize and be prepared to play well against.”

SWAC schools compete in the NCAA’s Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA. UTSA is in its fourth season as a full-fledged member of the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A.

Wilson has three uncles and six cousins who played for legendary Grambling coach Eddie Robinson, who went 408-165-15 in 55 seasons with the Tigers before retiring in 1997. He was the first coach in NCAA history to win 400 games.

UTSA was 0-9 before it knocked off Baylor last Saturday night at McLane Stadium in Waco. Wilson called the victory a “monumental feat” for the Roadrunners, who held the Bears to their lowest scoring output since 2010 and outgained them 375-274 in total offensive yardage.

Wilson assured reporters early in the week that his team would not have a letdown after their big win over Baylor.

“We’ve got one game. That’s all we’ve won,” he said. “We’ve got a whole season ahead of us, and so our ability to be focused on the next task at hand is critical for us. That game is behind us. We’re totally focused on the Southern Jaguars and the rich history of that program and the success that they have had.”

Southern (1-1) is coming off a 45-0 road loss to Southern Miss, which plays in the West Division of Conference USA with UTSA, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, Rice, UAB and UTEP.

The Jaguars could find the going tough on both sides of the line of scrimmage against the Roadrunners. Southern gained just 140 yards and allowed 477 against Southern Miss, and is averaging only 218.5 yards of total offense. The Jaguars also have committed four turnovers (three interceptions).  

Sturm, a senior from Goliad, racked up 253 yards of total offense. He completed 15 of 20 passes for 155 yards and two touchdowns and finished with a career-high 98 yards rushing. Junior tailback Jalen Rhodes also turned in a strong performance, rushing for 103 yards on 20 carries.

“I thought we played a great ballgame all the way around, but we left a lot of opportunities out there on the field offensively,” Sturm said. “We moved the ball very well. Just had some breaks that didn’t go our way, a couple of pass interference calls and other stuff down the field that kind of just killed the drive. We’ve just got to fight through that stuff and put the ball in the end zone.”

The UTSA defense was outstanding against Baylor, yielding only 137 yards on the ground and 137 through the air.

Still, the Roadrunners are giving the Jaguars their just due.

“They’ve got some great players,” linebacker La’Kel Bass said. “They’ve got a pretty good running game. They throw the ball here and there, but like I said, they have a strong running game.”

Southern is expected to have a large contingent of fans at the Alamodome on Saturday. The school's renowned band, known as the "Human Jukebox" in the SWAC, also will make the trip. 

"I think this is college football at its finest when you talk about pageantry, talk about music and dance and football. The Pride of San Antonio (UTSA band) against the Human Jukebox. It'll be one to remember. Looking forward to it."

Wilson said that his mother had bought 105 tickets in the UTSA section by midweek for "our church members and family and friends." All of Wilson's six siblings and their children will attend the game, he said.  

"I've urged my mother not to get involved in the ticket business, but she can't help herself," Wilson said, chuckling.  "So, she takes on the obligation of doing so."

© 2017 KENS-TV


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