The Roadrunners headed north to the land of legalized marijuana and John Freakin' Denver to take on Colorado State in Fort Collins. The Runners came back with a 23-14 loss to the Rams. The Roundup was interested in taking a look at Dalton Sturm's effort in Frank Wilson's offense. No we didn't watch the game against Alabama State because UTSA isn't trying to win the SWAC.
Overall Sturm was 15-23 for 176 yards, two touchdowns and a pick.
Let's start here, Sturm can pitch it around when he's give time. The issue is UTSA giving him time and less significant, though important, Sturm squeezing time out of busted plays. We'll talk more about that later, but Sturm in a clean pocket is a pretty good chucker. Case in point.
Clear passing down, third down and eleven, last two minutes of the first half and Sturm throws a dart across the field, hashmark to boundary and on time. That's a very high level throw. We had concerns about Sturm's arm strength, but when give time, he made all the throws today.
Then there's this, and Sturm did this several times today including both of his touchdown passes...
Jarveon Williams on a seam with a linebacker covering man to man, safety help over the top and Sturm puts the ball the only place you can put it. That's a big throw in a fair amount of traffic. Nice job finding the mismatch and letting his running back win the route. Accuracy and touch.
If you watch the first drive of the game you'll see a confident Sturm command the game and play inside the pocket. Mostly because there was a pocket. Sturm did a great job climbing the pocket, looking downfield, and making plays. We like that aspect of Wilson's offense, it gives the quarterback a chance to make plays downfield. Coker's offense required the quarterback to throw more quick, horizontal throws, playing sideline to sideline rather than in the middle of the field.
We also like that, even though there's a lot shotgun, Wilson runs a variety of pro sets, putting the quarterback under center and altering the launch point. Playing under center moves the defenders eyes and frankly so few teams run under center it's a schematic advantage.
Sturm played in a clean pocket, 3 seconds or longer, nothing in his face for most of the first quarter. He was effective in that environment. Colorado State adjusted as they will, twisting and blitzing to bring pressure and it worked. The Rams got to Sturm six times on Saturday with five more hurries. No quarterback likes pressure in his face and UTSA's offensive line couldn't handle pressure right through the barn door, between the guards.
Here we are, first possession of the second half, adjustments have been made, but more importantly UTSA's line was physically dominated on pass pro. Too often Roadrunner lineman were catching rather than using the arms to punch and force distance. Worse pressure came right into Sturm's face. That was the story of the second half, no time, dominated up front, pressure in the face. 2.2 seconds to 3.2 second is an eternity in the pocket, especially when you've got pressure coming through your guards.
So what do you do to fix it? Well, the Roadrunners pro sets allow a tightend or a back to stay in and give that extra time but teaching backs to protect at the NFL level is a difficult task, backs that have that skill are highly sought after. At the college level the answer is typically to let those guys work as check downs, be an asset in blitz pickup from the flat. Those plays were available, but Sturm needed to find those check downs more consistently.
Here you've got man to man with a linebacker running a loop or twist, the outside backer crashes to occupy the tackle and the linebacker replaces. The Roadrunners do a better job inside, but let the backer come free. Jarveon Williams is an option, an asset, and he's got grass in front of him. Sturm doesn't see it and even though the loop is slow developing, he's toast. Again, this is a junior quarter back making his ninth start and second in a new offense so he'll get better, but the free man his Sturm's responsibility. In this case beat the blitz by throwing into it.
So what's the takeaway from today. The Roundup still thinks the positives well outweigh the negatives with Dalton Sturm. You can win games with Sturm at quarterback. The bigger issue is can UTSA win with this offensive line? For the day the Roadrunners ran 34 times for 70 yards. They lost 71 yards. It'll be hard to win with those numbers.