By Josh Orozco
Assistant Sports Director
Following a hard-fought loss to SMU last week, the Texas State Bobcats prepare for the fourth installment of the I-35 rivalry football game against the UTSA Roadrunners in San Marcos today.
With only 54 miles separating the two, there is no love lost between these programs. Here are the three things to watch for in the 2020 edition of the I-35 showdown between the Bobcats and Roadrunners.
BryceStrong: More Than Football
Although the outcome will be determined inside the confines of Jim Wacker Field, there is more meaning behind this game than just the latest chapter to a rivalry.
UTSA safety Rashad Wisdom has already cemented himself as one of the Roadrunner’s defensive leaders following an impressive freshman campaign. Wisdom was selected to the Conference USA All-Freshman team, earned 44 tackles and grabbed a pick-six in his first collegiate season.
However, the on-field accomplishments Wisdom accumulated last season as a Roadrunner doesn’t fully define the toughness and valiance he displays.
Rashad’s brother, Bryce, passed away in late July at the age of 17 following a battle with cancer. Less than two months later, Rashad Wisdom will take the field for in-game competition for the first time since his brother’s passing.
Wisdom looks to continue his brother’s mentality and motivation towards exceeding limits.
“Being #BryceStrong is pushing past points where you feel like you can’t,” Wisdom said. “He [Bryce] left a big impact on the whole community.”
As head coach Jeff Traylor arrived in San Antonio, so did the introduction of the “Triangle of Toughness.”
Throughout the offseason, Traylor and the Roadrunners adopted the triangle as an attempt to revitalize the culture of the football program and award those who possess qualities representing “toughness, passion, selflessness, perfect effort and integrity.”
The Triangle of Toughness is represented by numbers making up the San Antonio area code, “210.” Wisdom was nominated to join the trio, a triad including the duplicate number worn by quarterback Frank Harris, as number zero.
Expect Wisdom to be an added level of physicality and athleticism for the Roadrunners secondary and disrupt Texas State coach Jake Spavital’s receiving core.
Hill and Sturges Surges
The Bobcat rushing duo of Calvin Hill and Brock Sturges had an impressive showing in week one. Hill and Sturges combined for 195 yards rushing, the most yards on the ground by maroon and gold running backs in the Spavital era.
The emergence of Texas State’s run success comes at an inopportune time for UTSA. Last season, the Roadrunners gave up an average of nearly 200 rushing yards per game (198.3).
UTSA also finished second-to-last in their conference in rushing defense, surrendering 2,379 yards and 28 touchdowns throughout last year.
Sturges credits the offensive line for providing excellent scoring opportunities for the Bobcats. The Arizona State transfer also showed his excitement playing next to Hill following Saturday’s opening kickoff.
“I love Calvin. He’s a hard worker,” Sturges said. “I love having him right there with me right beside me. I know he’ll do big things for us this year.”
If Hill and Sturges get going early, UTSA’s perfect 3-0 record against Texas State in the all-time series could be in jeopardy.
UTSA is a relatively new program that has found success during the first games of the year. The Roadrunners have won seven of their nine season-opening matchups since the program’s birth in 2011.
UTSA looks to extend their winning ways with Traylor now under their helm. This year’s I-35 showdown however isn’t the first time that Spavital and Traylor face each other on opposite sidelines.
Spavital, then offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, and the California Golden Bears defeated Traylor, then associate head coach and wide receivers coach, and the #11 Texas Longhorns 50-43 in 2016.
Spavital is also familiar with the Traylor family through Jeff’s son, Jordan Traylor, who played quarterback in 2015 for the Texas A&M Aggies. Both head coaches are joined by their brothers on the coaching staff with Kurt Traylor as the UTSA tight ends coach and Zac Spavital as the Texas State defensive coordinator.
Spavital realizes the importance of the contest against the Roadrunners and highlighted the keys for a Bobcat victory.
“You educate them on what’s at stake and what has happened in the past but at the end of the day, it’s more about us playing with the effort that we did last week… match the physicality that UTSA is going to bring and making sure we minimize mistakes,” Spavital said. “That’s going to be the most important stuff that actually wins the game.”
It’s easily understandable as to why the Bobcats are favored to win for the first time since Nov. 9 of last year against South Alabama.
Texas State raised eyebrows in competing with an AAC contender in SMU on ESPN. As for UTSA, there is no sample size of what the Roadrunners bring to the table in-game action with it being their season opener.
The maroon and gold also have added motivation to grab a win before their enormous five-game road swing. Although the Bobcats defeated SMU in the turnover battle, Texas State had nothing to show from it.
If the ‘Cats can convert and whip together something other than a five-play drive ending in a punt following a turnover, Texas State could finally get on the board in the football category of the I-35 rivalry.
*Note: an unconfirmed, yet trusted, source says both Texas State starting quarterback Brady McBride and an unnamed cornerback are out due to either contact tracing or testing positive for coronavirus, per Keff Ciardello of the Austin American Statesman.
Prediction: Texas State 27, UTSA 17.
The Bobcats battle the Roadrunners at Jim Wacker Field inside Bobcat Stadium at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow on ESPN 2 and over the airwaves on KTSW 89.9 FM. Live tweets, updates and analysis on all things Texas State football can all be found on @KTSWSports on Twitter.
Featured Image by Texas State Athletics