ATLANTA- Three touchdowns from junior running back Evans Okotcha sparked a 38-14 University of Texas San Antonio rout over Georgia State at the Georgia Dome Saturday night. The Roadrunners improved the series record 2-0 against the Panthers in the match-up between young programs.
Georgia State, hoping to improve upon its 0-2 start, appeared to be ready to do just that early in the first quarter. The Panthers defensive withstood a 79 yard drive forcing the Roadrunners to settle for a 26 yard Sean Ianno field goal.
It didn’t take long for the Panthers to regain the lead. Ben McLane found receiver Albert Wilson wide open at the 45. The junior from Port St. Lucie, Florida turned on the burners racing into the endzone for an 84 yard touchdown.
Wilson added another touchdown reception late in the third quarter but the damage was done. Turnovers and special teams play provided Head Coach Larry Coker’s Roadrunners a comfortable margin.
Receiver Kenny Harrison nearly returned the ensuing kick-off to the house. Panthers safety Arington Jordan made up the stagger from across the field to bring down Harrison inside the redzone.
“Kenny’s return was very explosive and I think that kind of changed the game,” said running back Evans Okotcha. The junior transfer from Portland State made good on the field position busting through the Panthers defensive line for a 5 yard score.
UTSA scored two more times before the end of the half. Wide receiver Aaron Grubb took an elevator up and over the top of defensive back Brent McClendon to haul in the pass from Eric Soza for a 5 yard touchdown. “I didn’t know Aaron could jump that high,” said Head Coach Larry Coker. “It was unbelievable!”
Special teams kept the Panthers off the board blocking a 43 yard field goal attempt from Christian Benvenuto. The low trajectory allowed one of the leaping interior linemen to get a hand on the kick. “Our special teams coach Perry Eliano really stepped up our game,” praised Coker.
The visitors capitalized once again driving 74 yards in the opposite direction for their third score and a 24-7 lead. Soza used his arms and legs to make it happen. The junior transfer from North Texas threw for 206 yards on 17 of 24 passing and rushed for 53 yards on 9 carries. His 18 yard run to the Georgia State 1 set up Okotcha’s second touchdown of the game.
Ronnie Bell started the second half for the Panthers but didn’t have much success against the Roadrunners defense. Running back Donald Russell’s fumble and Bell’s interception set up the Roadrunners first two scores of the second half.
“We created some turnovers and did something with it when we created them,” said Coker of his defense’s play.
In just under 4 minutes the Roadrunners were back in striking position. Soza laid out a pass to the back of the endzone, that appeared to be destined for a Panthers interception, but intended receiver Marcellus Mack made an acrobatic leap to snatch the ball away from the waiting Jamal Ransby.
Less than a minute later, UTSA safety Brian King was running towards the endzone before being stopped at the Georgia State 11. It was smash mouth football from there. “The offensive line had a pretty big challenge and they felt like they had a lot to prove,” said Okotcha. “They definitely rose to the occasion.” Nine different ball carries rushed 54 times for 231 yards including Okotcha’s three touchdown runs.
With the victory, the Roadrunners improve their road record to 2-0 which is two more than all of last season. “I think it’s huge,” said Coker of the road win. “You know the thing we are trying to sell and I know this sounds like ‘Coach-speak’, but we are trying to be the best we can be. It’s not about anybody else, it’s about us. We are still learning about ourselves. We really don’t know a lot about ourselves yet. We are learning and some young guys that came in as true freshmen. It’s kind of an exciting time for us.
Georgia State (0-3) welcomes the Richmond Spiders to the Georgia Dome next weekend and UTSA takes returns home with their undefeated (3-0) record intact to face NW Oklahoma State at the Alamodome.
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