This article has been updated.
The University of North Texas took advantage of three first-half turnovers by the University of Texas at San Antonio and the Roadrunners never recovered, seeing their dream of an undefeated regular season end in a rainy 45-23 loss at Apogee Stadium on Saturday.
The game started badly for the Roadrunners (11-1 overall, 7-1 Conference USA) as UTSA’s Dadrian Taylor fumbled the kickoff after the Mean Green kicked a field goal on its opening drive. UNT marched down the field to score on DeAndre Torrey’s 2-yard run, grabbing a 10-0 lead with 10:13 left in the first quarter. The Mean Green scored 14 more points off Roadrunners’ turnovers and held the Roadrunners to 45 yards in the first quarter.
Quarterback Frank Harris fumbled twice, and his turnover late in the second quarter was recovered by North Texas’ Gabriel Murphy and returned to the UTSA 25-yard line. The Mean Green needed only two runs by Torrey to score, building the lead to 31-13 with less than a minute before halftime.
Harris, who sat out the second half, passed for only 59 yards, and the only bright spot for him was a 69-yard scoring run in the second quarter that pulled UTSA to 17-13.
“Nobody is taking this loss worse than those players are right now,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said, “ and none of us saw this coming.”
With its fifth consecutive victory, UNT (6-6, 5-3) became eligible for a postseason bowl game and defeated the Roadrunners for the fourth time in five games played in Denton.
“Nobody wanted to go undefeated more than we did, so that hurts terribly bad, but we have everything to still play for,” said Traylor, whose team hosts the Conference USA championship game Friday.
The rainy weather played a big role in the Roadrunners’ woes, causing many plays to get disrupted with drops and missed tackles, and UNT was able to capitalize on each opportunity.
The game was out of reach for the Roadrunners for much of the afternoon as UNT held the Roadrunners to 366 yards, posting five sacks. UNT was able to run at will, putting up 340 rushing yards against a UTSA rushing defense that was 10th in the nation coming into the game. UNT running back Ikaika Ragsdale rolled up 146 yards on 20 carries, scoring two touchdowns, while Torrey put up another 108 yards on 23 carries as he scored three times in the first half.
The Roadrunners started the second half with Josh Adkins replacing Harris at quarterback, but the offense still failed to get anything going and was held scoreless in the third quarter. Meanwhile, UNT put up 28 unanswered points to put the game away with a 45-13 lead.
“We were just being smart,” Traylor said of the decision to sit Harris. “He’s always nicked up. That’s just the way he kind of plays, and it’s a short turnaround. Josh [Adkins] needed to play and that was the reason we made that decision.”
The game was well out of reach when Hunter Duplessis kicked a 42-yard field goal with 4:11 remaining to make it 45-16. Roadrunners quarterback Eddie Lee Marburger connected with wide receiver Tre’Von Bradley on a 67-yard touchdown pass with 2:48 to play for the final margin.
The Roadrunners will play for the conference championship at the Alamodome against the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers, who UTSA defeated 52-46 Oct. 9. The kickoff is set for 6 p.m.