SAN ANTONIO – For the second straight season, UTSA celebrated a Conference USA Championship in the Alamodome in front of 41-thousand fans.
Nearly a year to the day that they secured their first title, the No. 23 Roadrunners defeated North Texas 48-27 to become the first C-USA team to win back-to-back championships. Quarterback Frank Harris was the star of the show, completing 32 of his 37 passes for 341 yards and five total touchdowns, while wide receiver Zakhari Franklin was nearly unstoppable, catching 10 passes for 144 yards and three scores. Harris was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. With the win, UTSA has won their 10th straight game and finishes with a perfect 9-0 record against conference opponents.
“I told them all week that their best football was coming,” head coach Jeff Traylor said. “I felt it. They’re unbelievable kids. We’re out of kids, but the ones that are left standing played their best game of the entire season tonight. We were unbelievable throwing the ball, running the ball, tackling the ball, defending the pass, kicking, punting... almost a perfect game. This season will be special to me for many many reasons, but the adversity they overcame and their belief in the triangle... I’ll never forget it, and I’m grateful.”
“This means a lot for the city of San Antonio,” Harris said. “When I committed here, this was something I wanted to do for the city and the university, and we got it done last season. Getting it done again this season definitely means a lot. What can I say? We’re back-to-back champs.”
UTSA drew first blood on their opening drive, capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive with Kevorian Barnes’ 27-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead. North Texas responded with a two-yard score from Ikaika Ragsdale, and both teams ended the first quarter with the game tied at 7-7.
The Mean Green had possession up 10-7 midway through the second quarter when UTSA cornerback Clifford Chattman intercepted quarterback Austin Aune and returned the ball 27 yards to the North Texas 15-yard line. Two plays later, Frank Harris found the end zone on an 11-yard quarterback keeper, and momentum was on the Roadrunners sideline. While UTSA’s defense force two punts for the remainder of the quarter, the Roadrunners offense added another 10 points on Jared Sackett’s 42-yard field goal and Harris’ 32-yard touchdown pass to Zakhari Franklin to give the home team a 24-10 lead at halftime.
Both teams traded points the third quarter. Harris found Franklin again for a 14-yard score and a 31-13 lead, but Aune answered right back on the ensuing drive with a 36-yard TD to Jyaire Shorter, and the two squads entered the final frame with UTSA leading 34-20. The Mean Green made it a one-possession game early in the fourth quarter on Isaiah Johnson’s one-yard touchdown run, but the Roadrunners responded less than three minutes later. Harris hit Franklin for his third touchdown of the game, a 39-yarder that put the Roadrunners up 41-27 with 11:09 left in regulation.
BACK TO BACK! @UTSAFTBL runs away from UNT to claim their 2nd straight Conference USA title 48-27! Here's every TD from field level #KSATsports #210TriangleOfToughness #BirdsUp🤙 @UTSAAthletics | @thefrankharris | @CoachTraylor | @ZakhariFranklin | @OCardenas84_ | @KevorianB pic.twitter.com/hWctJ8MOgY— Andrew Cely (@ACelySports) December 3, 2022
Ken Robinson intercepted Aune on the first play of North Texas’ ensuing drive, and after their offense was unable to capitalize on the field position, UTSA’s defense forced a turnover-on-downs to effectively end the Mean Green’s hopes. Harris later found homegrown tight end Oscar Cardenas for a 16-yard touchdown and the exclamation point to a resounding victory.
UTSA announced an attendance of 41,412 fans, the third-largest crowd for a Roadrunners home game in history. The mark was slightly higher than last year’s Conference USA title game attendance of 41,148.
The No. 23 Roadrunners improve to 11-2 overall and now await bowl selection.