It didn’t take long for the University of Texas at San Antonio to set the tone for its home opener against Lamar University on Saturday. Three plays after the kickoff, with less than three minutes expired on the game clock, Roadrunners wide receiver Sheldon Jones returned a punt 76 yards for what would be the first touchdown in a 54-0 blowout of the visiting Cardinals.
More than a few fans at the Alamodome waved orange “Come and Take It” flags, despite a much-debated decision by UTSA President Taylor Eighmy to end the university’s use of the slogan and the traditional flag unfurling on the field during games.
The Roadrunners (2-0) scored the first ever shutout victory in the football program’s 10-year history and their largest-ever victory margin.
“It’s hard to do this,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said of the shutout. “These kids, man, this isn’t easy, and it’s new for us. We’re not used to this as a program, these players, this coaching staff.”
For UTSA, the badly outmatched Lamar team offered the opportunity to flex its offensive muscles and give second-string players some game experience.
After Jones’ punt return, Hunter Duplessis booted a pair of 46-yard field goals in the first quarter. Sincere McCormick ran for an 18-yard touchdown to make it 20-0. That was followed by linebacker Charles Wiley’s fumble recovery that he returned for a 44-yard touchdown.
McCormick rushed for another touchdown, making it 34-0 at halftime. His two-touchdown performance gave the junior a school record 21 career touchdowns.
UTSA quarterback Frank Harris completed 13 of 15 passes for 118 yards in the first half and was rested for the remainder of the game. Josh Atkins, a senior transfer from New Mexico State, took the field to start the third quarter and led a 58-yard drive that ended with a 32-yard touchdown pass to Zakhari Franklin for a 41-0 lead. Atkins threw 11 completions on 13 attempts for 134 yards and two touchdowns and gave way to freshman Eddie Marburger later in the game.
The UTSA defense was suffocating, holding Lamar to just 122 yards of total offense. The Runners put up 427 yards of total offense. Duplessis had a perfect game: 3 for 3 on field goals and 6 for 6 on extra points.
With its win over Lamar, UTSA has won its last three home openers.
The sparsely attended game, with an announced attendance of 16,229, honored First Responders in attendance with a 20-second moment of silence before the kickoff, enthusiastic applause with a first-quarter salute, and a halftime memorial program in observance of the 20th anniversary of the attacks.
Next up for the Roadrunners is Middle Tennessee (1-1), a team looking to bounce back from a 35-14 loss against 19th-ranked Virginia Tech. Kickoff is set for Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Alamodome.
“We’re fixing to play a Middle Tennessee team that played our tails off last year, came down to one play, and they just played Virginia Tech’s tail off today,” Traylor said.