In their grand finale as members of Conference USA, the University of Texas at San Antonio Roadrunners departed in style, exiting stage left with a 48-27 win over rivals North Texas to claim their second straight conference championship on their home field in the Alamodome.

It was a special night in the Alamodome as the crowd of 41,412 marked the third largest crowd in UTSA program history and Conference USA Championship game history. 

“Huge shoutout to the city of San Antonio,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said. “They were incredible tonight. It was a blast. It was fun. It felt like a real championship game.”

The Roadrunners dedicated the game to longtime dean of students Barry McKinney who passed away Monday. UTSA honored McKinney with decals on the back of their helmets in the game against North Texas.

UTSA opened the scoring on their first drive when running back Kevorian Barnes burned his way through the North Texas defense for a 27-yard touchdown. Barnes eventually led the Roadrunners in rushing, finishing with 175 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

https://sanantonioreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/Scott-Stephen-Ball_UTSA-CUSA-Championship-UNT-Alamodome-12-2-2022_10.jpg
UTSA quarterback Frank Harris runs the ball for a touchdown during the Conference USA Championship game against North Texas at the Alamodome on Friday. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

“It’s amazing,” Barnes said of winning the conference. “I’ve never been a part of something so amazing as this. To be able to do this is unbelievable to me.”

Barnes’ touchdown came with 12:04 left in the first quarter. North Texas answered on their very next drive when Ikaika Ragsdale scored on fourth and goal from the UTSA two-yard line to tie the game at 7-7 with 8:09 left in the first quarter.

After North Texas went up 10-7 early in the second quarter, the Roadrunners scored 17 unanswered points before the half ended. 

Frank Harris put UTSA back in front 14-10 with an 11-yard run at the 8:25 mark of the second quarter. Jared Sackett put UTSA up 17-10 when he kicked a 42-yard field goal with 1:12 remaining in the second quarter.

After North Texas went three and out, UTSA got the ball back at their own 38 with 37 seconds left in the first half. Harris only needed three plays to lead the Roadrunners to the end zone, connecting with Zakhari Franklin for a 32-yard touchdown pass with 11 seconds left in the half to put UTSA up 24-10.

“It means a lot for the city of San Antonio,” Harris said of winning a second conference championship in a row. “This was something I wanted to do for the city and the university when I committed here.”

Harris and Franklin connected two more times in the second half. Franklin’s three touchdown receptions set a new record for the Conference USA Championship game.

The second connection between Harris and Franklin came on the Roadrunners’ first drive of the third quarter after North Texas had cut the deficit to 24-13. Harris threw a screen pass to Franklin that went 14 yards and put UTSA up 31-13 with 10:33 left in the third quarter. 

That was the story of the third quarter, as each time North Texas scored UTSA answered. Early in the fourth quarter, North Texas scored to cut the UTSA lead to 34-27. It felt like a repeat of last year’s conference championship might be in the offing.

A year ago, UTSA built a big lead against Western Kentucky and had to sweat it out as the Hilltoppers came up just eight points short. Before Friday’s game, that game against Western Kentucky had stood as the third largest crowd in UTSA program history and the history of the Conference USA Championship game. 

There wasn’t as much sweating going on in the fourth quarter against North Texas, not after Harris threw his third touchdown pass of the night to Franklin and then threw a touchdown pass to Oscar Cardenas that gave the Roadrunners their final margin of victory.

UTSA’s football team had to wait 3,744 days for its first conference championship from the first game on Sept. 3, 2011, to the win over Western Kentucky last Dec. 3. They only had to wait 364 days for their second conference championship.

Now they just have to wait two more days until Sunday to find out their bowl destination to close out the season.

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Stephen Whitaker

Stephen Whitaker has been covering UTSA athletics since the fall of 2008. He is a 2013 graduate of UTSA.