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Running to 2-0

UTSA holds off SFA 24-10 in home opener to improve to 2-0 for first time since 2017

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Frank Harris led the Roadrunner rushing attack with 104 yards and two touchdowns. Harris also threw for 269 yards and a touchdown.
Frank Harris led the Roadrunner rushing attack with 104 yards and two touchdowns. Harris also threw for 269 yards and a touchdown. (Burk Frey)

As wild a year as 2020 has been, there is a silver lining coming out of the city of San Antonio: the UTSA Roadrunners are 2-0. It is the first time since 2017 that the Roadrunners open the season with 2 wins, and only the third time in the school's nearly 10 seasons of football.

For the second week in a row, UTSA won a game before a national TV audience on ESPN2.

There were moments on Saturday where it seemed like UTSA might not get to 2-0 against an SFA Lumberjacks team that was up for the challenge of an Alamodome with a socially-distanced crowd of 6,611.

In the end, though, the Roadrunners made the plays they needed to and held on for a 24-10 win over their visitors from Nacogdoches.

"Defense rose up to the challenge," UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said following his first home win, a gift to his wife on her birthday. "We held them to two yards a carry rushing the ball. We wanted to finish."

The Roadrunners also gave glimpses of continued promise as the 2020 season moves along.

For the second week in a row, UTSA flirted with 500 yards of total offense. On Saturday afternoon the Roadrunners finished with 498 yards of offense. Once again Frank Harris was the Roadrunner hero as he rushed for a team-high 104 yards and two touchdowns. Harris also put up yards in the air on SFA as he finished with 269 yards on 23 completions and a touchdown pass to Joshua Cephus. Cephus finished the day with 89 yards on eight catches.

"This being (against) Coach Traylor's alma mater we are even more hype to get the win," Harris said. "We're blessed to be 2-0."

Roadrunner players and fans had more surprises waiting for them after the game, as they found out UTSA's opponent for next week had changed from Memphis to Middle Tennessee. Memphis opted out of the game with personnel issues related to COVID-19 protocol, and UTSA was able to quickly reschedule with MTSU.

Joshua Cephus led the Roadrunners receivers with 89 yards on eight catches and a touchdown.
Joshua Cephus led the Roadrunners receivers with 89 yards on eight catches and a touchdown. (Burk Frey)

There were a few similarities between the first half this week and the first half last week in San Marcos. The main ones are that UTSA got points on its first drive of the half and it's last drive of the half.

UTSA's first points came from the leg of Hunter Duplessis who kicked a 28-yard field goal at the 11:34 mark of the first quarter. Duplessis's make was his 13th in a row, tying for the longest active made field goal streak in the country.

After the Duplessis field goal the fans in attendance must have thought they would be in for another fast start by the UTSA offense. It wasn't to be as UTSA didn't score the rest of the quarter. SFA, likewise had problems getting their offense going and punters Lucas Dean and Max Quick spent a lot of time punting to the other team.

"We were so much better on special teams," Traylor said. "Our punt coverage and kickoff coverage was fantastic. We worked our tails off on that this week."

UTSA made it 10-0 early in the second quarter when Frank Harris scored on a three-yard run at the 13:01 mark. That was the culmination of a 75 yard drive that had started in the late stages of the first quarter and took 15 plays and 5:10 off the clock.

The two teams traded punts for much of the second quarter before things got interesting in the last few minutes of the half. UTSA got the ball at their own 37 with 2:25 left to play and drove down the field. On second and goal from the SFA four Harris found Cephus open in the endzone for the touchdown. Duplessis added the extra point and UTSA went up 17-0 with 0:35 left in the second quarter.

"I feel like we were at a good level today," Cephus said. "We were good enough to get the win. Overall I feel like we can do so much better."

It seemed UTSA might go into the locker room with momentum and a chance to blow the game wide open in the second half.

SFA had other ideas. The Lumberjacks put their best drive of the afternoon together and drove 72 yards in four plays before scoring a touchdown on a pass from Trae Self to Xavier Gipson from 10 yards out with 0:02 left in the first half. The touchdown was set up in large part by a 45 yard pass on the play before.

"We busted a coverage right before halftime and that was unfortunate," Traylor said.

Momentum had swung to the Lumberjacks even though UTSA held a 17-7 lead at the intermission.

Clarence Hicks had five tackles on Saturday but his fourth quarter forced fumble that teammate Jamal Ligon recovered saved the day for UTSA.
Clarence Hicks had five tackles on Saturday but his fourth quarter forced fumble that teammate Jamal Ligon recovered saved the day for UTSA. (Burk Frey)

The second half this week got off to a rough start for UTSA on offense. On the first drive Harris had a pass intercepted at the SFA 18 on the Roadrunners third play of the half. SFA wasn't able to cash in on the interception and had to punt.

Misfortune struck the Roadrunners again on the second drive of the half. On the sixth play of the drive with the ball at the SFA 33 Harris found Leroy Watson open. Watson made it to the SFA 16 before the hit by Myles Heard caused Watson to fumble the ball. SFA recovered the fumble and took to offense with a chance to cut the deficit down from 10.

"We left a lot of points out there," Harris said. "We have to execute better. We beat ourselves a lot. Coach Lunney stresses DBO, don't beat ourselves. Next week we cannot have that."

SFA drove the ball to the UTSA 15 before the Roadrunner defense made its last stand and forced the Lumberjacks to settle for a 32-yard field goal attempt. SFA kicker Chris Campos had missed a 43 yarder in the second quarter but he was good from 32 yards out and SFA cut the deficit to 17-10 with 6:06 left in the third quarter.

The two teams then traded punts back and forth for the next nine minutes of game time. UTSA would add their final touchdown of the night at the 7:08 mark of the fourth quarter. On SFA's next drive Clarence Hicks caused SFA's Remi Simmons to fumble and freshman linebacker Jamal Ligon, making his first career start, recovered the fumble for UTSA with 6:14 left to play.

The Roadrunners drained all 6:14 of that time off the clock and held on for the 24-10 win.

Now the Roadrunners will turn their attention to a short week. While UTSA will now face Middle Tennessee instead of original opponent Memphis, the schedule of the game hasn't changed. It will still be Friday, September 25th at 7 p.m. CST.

"We put about 50 hours in on Memphis. We'll have to throw that away. Welcome to the new world," Traylor chuckled. "I'm very grateful for Dr. (Lisa) Campos and the work she put in to get us a game. She found out late and went to work immediately. She's been very committed to our kids playing football and we're thrilled to be playing at home again on Friday night on national TV for three straight weeks."

The game against Middle Tennessee will still be televised by CBS Sports Network, making it three weeks in a row that UTSA will be on national TV. At this point Traylor and the Roadrunners, as well as the Roadrunner fanbase are just thrilled they've been able to have three games in a row.

"We had eight kids out today just because of the contact tracing. They could have played. We've had six tests now with 100% (passing)," Traylor said. "The sacrifices these kids are making, can you imagine being their age, trying to do this and stay six feet away from everybody when you know they want to go out and be a college kid. It's an anxious feeling everytime you go in there, you just wait for the call. It's taken its toll on us I will say that but it's a moral victory everytime we go out there. To be 2-0 with all that is exciting."

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NEXT WEEK: UTSA (2-0) vs. Middle Tennessee (0-2). Friday, Sept. 25. 7 p.m. in the Alamodome.

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