Is a rivalry really a rivalry if the teams have only played once?
Everett Withers doesn’t think so.
Texas State and UTSA face off Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. Bobcat Stadium in San Marcos in what is being dubbed the ‘I-35 Showdown.’ But the school 50 miles apart have only met once on the football field, a 38-31 win by the Roadrunners in the Alamodome in 2012.
“When I think of rivalry, I think of years of history. It has to grow into that,” the second-year Texas State coach said. “What we’ve done is really try to take the name off of the helmet and just go play. The fans might not like it, but the fans don’t have to play 60 minutes out there either.”
UTSA joined earned Division I-FBS status in 2010, while the Bobcats moved up to the same level and joined the Sun Belt in 2013. The two teams have had fierce competitions in other sports and fans from both schools are very vocal about the rivalry on social media.
Withers has seen the great college football rivalries across the country, having been the sidelines for Texas-Oklahoma, Michigan-Ohio State, and North Carolina-Duke matchups in his career.
Both coaches are trying to take the human element out of it.
“The more we look at our opponent, the more apparent it is how much improved they are,” UTSA head coach Frank Wilson said. “You watch them against a good Appalachian State program and really study their personal. I have a newfound respect for their offensive line and watching them compete.”
Texas State opened the year with a 20-11 win against Houston Baptist and followed that up with a 37-3 loss at Colorado. The Bobcats came up one yard short on the final drive of the game in their 20-13 loss to Appalachian State last Saturday.
Damian Williams had one of his best games since transferring from Mississippi State, more than doubling his season passing total for the season when he threw for 260 yards and a touchdown and ran for 46 yards. The Bobcats’ leading receiver Elijah King caught six passes for 112 yards.
UTSA had its season opener against Houston canceled due to Hurricane Harvey. The Roadrunners upset Baylor in the second week of the season and dominated Southern 51-17 last Saturday.
Quarterback Dalton Sturm can do a little bit of everything for the Roadrunners. The dual-threat athlete had thrown for 447 and six touchdowns and is second on the team with 133 yards and one score on the ground in two games.
Texas State showed its ability to shut down an offensive threat when it held Appalachian State running back Jalin Moore, the reigning Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, to 14 yards on nine carries last week.
“We’ve got to find a way to harass the quarterback and force him to make some throws that he doesn’t want to throw,” Withers said. “He can make the off scheduled plays and he’s got a good arm. They do the things he does well. We’ve got to be good on the edges.”
That first meeting on the football field was a good one back in 2012. Eric Soza transferred from Texas State to UTSA and threw for 200 yards and three touchdowns to down his former school.
A trophy between the two teams was awarded to the winner in men’s basketball game and quickly morphed into competition with points awarded to the winners across all other shared sports.
The Bobcats and Roadrunners will meet seven more times after this season. So if the coaches want to see each other more before they call it a rivalry, that’s exactly what they’re going to get.
“They’ve got us circled on the calendar and they’re going to give us everything they have,” UTSA tight end Shaq Williams said. “They’re going to come out and play hard. It means everything to us, too.”