Quarterback Frank Harris threw for six touchdowns and caught another scoring pass as the UTSA Roadrunners defeated Western Kentucky 52-46 Saturday night for a school record 6-0 start.
Harris’ performance set a UTSA record for touchdown passes in a Conference USA matchup that featured seven lead changes and the two teams combining for 1,234 yards of offense. Harris did it all for the Roadrunners with 423 total yards. He completed 28 of 38 passes for 349 yards and an interception, rushed nine times for 51 yards and caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Joshua Cephus.
“We kind of knew it was going to be a shootout,” Harris said. “We knew they [Western Kentucky] was going to make a lot of plays on offense. … Offensively we knew we had to come out there and strike, and I think we did a great job of doing that.”
Harris connected with wide receiver De’Corian Clark on scoring passes of 30, 18, and 43 yards. The last one gave the Roadrunners a 52-43 lead with 6:39 to play at Houchens-Smith Stadium in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Western Kentucky (1-4, 0-1 Conference USA) pulled to 52-46 on a field goal with 4:22 remaining. With less than a minute left, the Hilltoppers had the ball back and were driving, but linebacker Clarence Hicks made a diving interception of quarterback Bailey Zappe at the 3-yard line to end Western Kentucky’s comeback attempt.
“They [the UTSA defense] just won’t quit. They just won’t stop,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said. “… And wow, what a play — that’s a tough pick, too.”
Clark had seven receptions for 160 yards, while Cephus and Zakhari Franklin each had eight catches for 83 and 50 yards, respectively. Running back Sincere McCormick had 120 yards on 23 carries.
The 6-0 start is a first for UTSA’s young football program, in just its 11th season. The Roadrunners are 2-0 in Conference USA play.
It only took three plays and less than a minute for the Roadrunners to get things going and set the tone for the game with Harris’ 30-yard touchdown pass to Clark on UTSA’s first drive of the game.
Both teams traded touchdowns to end the first half in dramatic fashion. Harris was able to redeem an interception by forcing a fumble that was recovered by Franklin on the same play and keep the drive alive. The Roadrunners were able to punch in a touchdown on an 11-yard pass from Harris to Oscar Cardenas for a 28-24 halftime lead.
UTSA built its largest lead of the game in the third quarter as the Roadrunners came up with a stop and were able to score on a 3-yard pass from Harris to Cephus on fourth down to make it 42-31 with 6:06 left in the quarter.
Western Kentucky wouldn’t go away, however, as the Hilltoppers made it a two-point game with 8:04 remaining when Zappe connected with wide receiver Jerreth Sterns on a 20-yard touchdown pass. The Hilltoppers then went for the two-point conversion but Zappe’s pass fell incomplete.
Harris’ key 43-yard touchdown pass to Clark made it 51-43, and the Roadrunner defense was able to hold Western Kentucky to a field goal on the following drive and get the ball back with 4:22 remaining in the game. But the Hilltoppers still found themselves with an opportunity to tie or take the lead before Hicks’ interception preserved the win.
Zappe threw the ball 60 times for Western Kentucky, completing 38 passes for 523 yards and five touchdowns in the loss.
The Roadrunners host the Rice Owls (2-3) in the Alamodome next Saturday. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.