Breaking down UTSA's path to its first Conference USA title – San Antonio Express-News

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Sincere McCormick, second from right, celebrates a TD run vs. Memphis with Tykee Ogle-Kellogg (11).
Defensive back Rashad Wisdom (0) breaks up a pass intended for Illinois’ Isaiah Williams.
Quarterback Frank Harris, right, celebrates a big run with tight end Myles Benning in Ruston, La.
Zakhari Franklin picks up a big chunk of yardage after a catch against UTEP.
Charles Wiley returns a fumble recovery for a TD during the first half as part of the rout of Lamar.
Joshua Cephus leaps over a UNLV defender after a reception in the first quarter against UNLV.
Offensive lineman Alex Wyant celebrates with teammates and fans after the C-USA title game.
Tight end Leroy Watson reacts to cheers after his touchdown reception against Southern Mississippi.
Trumane Bell sacks Middle Tennessee quarterback Bailey Hockman (10) during the first half.
UTSA’s 2021 set record after record for the program. The Roadrunners won more games than than ever before (12). UTSA defeated a Big Ten school, Illinois. It achieved its first national ranking by the Associated Press, climbing as high as No. 15. And the Roadrunners won their first Conference USA championship. How did UTSA do all of that? The Express-News breaks down each game from the historic season.
UTSA 37, Illinois 30
Sept. 4
UTSA jumped out to a 14-0 lead and never trailed, looking at home on the Big Ten stage as the Roadrunners notched the second win against a Power Five opponent in program history. Zakhari Franklin racked up 155 yards receiving, Sincere McCormick ran for 117 yards, and Brenden Brady scored two rushing touchdowns. UTSA also brought home a $1.1 million guarantee payment that stands as the largest in program history.
UTSA 54, Lamar 0
Sept. 11
The Roadrunners’ home opener against the FCS Cardinals was as dominant as anyone could have hoped, marking the first shutout in school history and setting a record for the program’s largest margin of victory. Sheldon Jones returned a punt for a touchdown on UTSA’s opening touch as the Roadrunners scored on their first eight possessions. The defense allowed just 122 yards, marking a new program record.
UTSA 27, Middle Tennessee 13
Sept. 18
The Roadrunners were even more commanding than the final score indicates, scoring the first 27 points and keeping the Blue Raiders off the board until late in the game. With about five minutes to play, Middle Tennessee had no points and just 76 yards, only finding offense down the stretch against the Roadrunners’ reserves. Trumane Bell had 2½ sacks and a forced fumble that Lorenzo Dantzler returned for a touchdown, while Charles Wiley added 1½ sacks and Corey Mayfield snared an interception.
UTSA 31, Memphis 28
Sept. 25
Kicker Hunter Duplessis nailed a 42-yard field goal as time expired to complete the largest comeback in program history and keep UTSA undefeated with a road win at Memphis. The Roadrunners fell behind 21-0 in less than 10 minutes, giving away a touchdown on their second offensive snap when a miscommunication between center Ahofitu Maka and quarterback Frank Harris ended with the Tigers recovering a fumble in the end zone. McCormick sparked the rally with a school-record 42 carries for 184 yards and three touchdowns.
UTSA 24, UNLV 17
Oct. 2
The Roadrunners received an unexpected test as a three-touchdown favorite at home against the winless Rebels, needing to force a turnover on downs in their own territory during UNLV’s final drive to secure the win. Frank Harris completed 24 of 30 passes for 278 yards and two touchdowns. With Zakhari Franklin out due to injury, De’Corian Clark racked up 109 receiving yards and a touchdown, while Joshua Cephus added 84 receiving yards and a score. The Roadrunners also forced three turnovers.
UTSA 52, Western Kentucky 46
Oct. 9
Frank Harris threw for six touchdowns and hauled in a scoring pass on a trick play, pushing UTSA to a wild road win. Behind Bailey Zappe’s 523 passing yards and five touchdowns, the Hilltoppers racked up 670 yards — the most the Roadrunners have ever allowed. But with Western Kentucky driving toward the potential game-winning touchdown in the final minute, UTSA’s Clarence Hicks made a diving interception at the 3-yard line to seal a 6-0 start — the best in program history. De’Corian Clark also came away with some UTSA history, notching the program’s first three-touchdown receiving game along with 160 yards.
UTSA 45, Rice 0
Oct. 16
Ending a streak of nail-biters, the Roadrunners cruised to a dominating victory, vaulting into the national rankings the next day at No. 24 in the AP poll. UTSA notched the largest margin of victory in a Conference USA game and the program’s first shutout against an FBS opponent, setting a new school record with only 102 total yards allowed.
UTSA 45, Louisiana Tech 16
Oct. 23
Returning to a stadium at which they were winless in five previous tries, the Roadrunners exorcised their demons with a convincing win in Ruston, La. After Louisiana Tech led 10-7 at the end of the first quarter, UTSA ripped off 35 unanswered points to put the game away early in the fourth. Sincere McCormick ran for 113 yards and three touchdowns, Zakhari Franklin made five catches for 118 yards and two scores, and Clarence Hicks recorded 2½ sacks.
UTSA 44, UTEP 23
Nov. 6
Expecting a test from a resurgent UTEP program with an ESPN2 spotlight in El Paso, UTSA scored on a 75-yard touchdown run from Sincere McCormick just 17 seconds in and never looked back. The Roadrunners were rested from an open week, riding high from coach Jeff Traylor’s 10-year contract extension and motivated by a snub in the College Football Playoff rankings, scoring on their first eight possessions and running out the clock on the ninth. McCormick ran for 169 yards with two touchdowns, while Frank Harris threw for 286 yards with two scores and added 76 yards and two touchdowns rushing.
UTSA 27, Southern Miss 17
Nov. 13
Entering with an 0-8 record against FBS opponents, the Golden Eagles turned to an unorthodox approach, moving star running back Frank Gore Jr. to quarterback in a wildcat-style offense. UTSA was a 33-point favorite but trailed late in the third quarter and didn’t break a 17-all tie until less than five minutes remained. With Gore sitting most of the second half due to injury, Southern Miss’ only points after halftime came on an interception return for a touchdown, as the offense ended the game with three straight turnovers.
UTSA 34, UAB 31
Nov. 20
Oscar Cardenas hauled in a tipped 1-yard touchdown pass from Frank Harris with three seconds remaining, erasing a four-point deficit and marking one of the most memorable plays in the program’s young history. UTSA drove 77 yards in 1 minute and 6 seconds with no timeouts, culminating when Harris picked up a fumbled snap and found Cardenas for the score that lifted the Roadrunners to their first Conference USA West Division title in front of a raucous Alamodome crowd of 35,147.
North Texas 45, UTSA 23
Nov. 27
Coach Jeff Traylor said UTSA came in as a prosperous team seeking to finish off a 12-0 season, while North Texas was the desperate group needing a win to reach bowl eligibility and keep its year alive. With rain falling steadily and temperatures in the low 50s, the Roadrunners gave away three first-half fumbles, including two on special teams, and the Mean Green converted them into 21 points. The early lead helped North Texas establish a run game that racked up 340 yards on 60 carries.
Conference USA Championship
UTSA 49, Western Kentucky 41
Dec. 3
The Roadrunners brought home their first Conference USA championship in front of a crowd of 41,148 in the Alamodome, marking the third-highest attendance in program history. UTSA built a 42-13 lead early in the third quarter and survived a push of 21 unanswered points from Western Kentucky, thwarting a pair of Hail Mary attempts from near midfield in the closing seconds. Sincere McCormick racked up 36 carries for 204 yards and three touchdowns to win game MVP honors, while Frank Harris threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to outduel Bailey Zappe, who finished with 577 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Greg Luca is the UTSA beat reporter and general assignment reporter for the San Antonio Express-News. In addition to UTSA, his coverage includes the University of Incarnate Word, the San Antonio Missions, the San Antonio Rampage and other San Antonio area colleges. He is a 2013 graduate of the University of Florida and a native of Connecticut. He was the sports editor of the McAllen Monitor from 2014-18.


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