Sincere McCormick ran like he was bolting for the NFL: cutting, twisting, stopping, changing direction, breaking into the open. He sprinted 65 yards for one touchdown, rambled 17 for a second and bulled in from two yards for a third, turning the Alamodome into a House of Horrors for Western Kentucky.

If this was his final game for UTSA, he scripted an unforgettable farewell: 204 yards rushing, 35 yards receiving and three scores to lead the Roadrunners to a 49-41 victory Friday night and the school’s first Conference USA championship.

In a swarm of orange and blue on the field, McCormick stood tall, taller than his 5-foot 9-inch frame, head high, hands hoisting the MVP Trophy. “This is for San Antonio,” he said, and the crowd, 41,148 strong, the third largest for a Roadrunners game in Alamodome history, roared its approval.

Trumpets sounded and drums pounded. Cheerleaders danced. Fans freaked out all over the place as the MVP made his way past the throng to the locker room with a wave: “Sincerely, McCormick.”

UTSA running back Sincere McCormick (3) celebrates a touchdown against Western Kentucky during the Conference USA college football championship game on Friday.
UTSA running back Sincere McCormick (3) celebrates a touchdown against Western Kentucky during the Conference USA college football championship game on Friday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

What a game. The crowd poured onto the field, despite admonishments not to from the public address announcer, and lingered to soak in the history, hugging, slapping high-fives, as if their team had staked a claim. Titletown SA.

Consider the accomplishment: It took Ole Miss, the No. 8 team in the nation, 129 years to secure its first 10-win regular season. It took UTSA 11 to get 12 wins and now the Roadrunners are aiming for No. 13. An Independence Bowl representative told the San Antonio Report it wants a UTSA-BYU matchup.

Next stop, Shreveport, Louisiana?

UTSA coach Jeff Traylor wasn’t thinking that far ahead. He pumped a fist.

Senior quarterback Frank Harris threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns. He overcame two torn ACLs and a shoulder injury his first three years at UTSA, and plenty of doubt and criticism afterward. But there he was, making play after play against WKU, engineering UTSA to a magical season no one could have imagined in September.

He received plenty of help. The Roadrunner defense made momentum-altering plays. Safety Antonio Parks stopped one WKU drive with an interception. Linebacker Clarence Hicks sacked quarterback Bailey Zappe twice and set the school record for most sacks in one season (10). On special teams, linebacker Donyai Taylor recovered a fumbled punt that set up a UTSA touchdown. The Triangle of Toughness culture prevailed. “This is special,” Traylor said. “We’ve been here two years.”

UTSA wasn’t supposed to win. The Hilltoppers arrived as 3-point favorites, winners of seven straight since losing to the Roadrunners in October. WKU boasted the nation’s leading passer, Zappe, and Zappe threw for 577 yards and four touchdowns. Down by 29, Zappe ignited a remarkable comeback, pulling WKU to within eight in the final minutes.

His final pass floated long and high toward the end zone. UTSA safety Jahmal Sam leaped. The crowd held its breath. Sam snared the ball, tumbled down with the pick and the Alamodome erupted.

“Congratulations to UTSA,” said WKU coach Tyson Helton. “An excellent job by them. They are just a really good football team.”

It was only the biggest game in UTSA history. Fans began arriving seven hours before kickoff. By noon, tailgaters decked in orange and blue were grilling and consuming drinks. By 3 p.m. a throng was swaying to the sounds of the UTSA band, performing with dancers outside the Alamodome. By kickoff, seats were filled with fans shaking pom-poms and waving signs that said, “Get loud!”

How loud did it get? So loud officials flagged WKU three times for false starts. So loud the noise disrupted communication between quarterback and center. So loud there were two bungled snaps, including one that sailed more than 10 yards over Zappe’s head.

Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) scrambles to recover an errant snap against UTSA during the Conference USA college football championship game on Friday.
Western Kentucky quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) scrambles to recover an errant snap against UTSA during the Conference USA college football championship game on Friday. Credit: Nick Wagner / San Antonio Report

Traylor planned it that way. During a Thursday night pep rally, he told UTSA fans how to respond when Zappe took the field and what to do when he changed the play with his fingers.

“When you see him communicate with his hands, he’s changing the play, ok,” Traylor said. ”So what do we do then? We get louder!”

And oh, did they ever. Even after UTSA fell behind, 7-0, and then 10-7, the crowd kept raising the volume. And when the Roadrunners took the lead? The coaches did their part, some hopping on the sidelines, others doing jumping jacks, while players did the same, inciting the crowd.

One of 29 local players, McCormick fed off the energy. He slipped through holes, knocked over defenders, broke tackles — like he did a few years ago for Judson High. He entered the game as the nation’s eighth-leading rusher and left looking like one of the top three or four.

In the post-game celebration, he thanked God, he thanked his family, he thanked his teammates. He hugged his MVP Trophy, cradling the hardware like a baby. And the crowd swelled with pride. A hometown kid, one of their own, gave them the feels, a championship to savor.

This story has been updated to correct information about attendance rankings at the Alamodome.

Ken Rodriguez

Ken Rodriguez is a San Antonio native and award-winning journalist.