Kevorian Barnes ran for 128 yards and two touchdowns to spark the slow-starting UTSA Roadrunners to a 30-10 victory over Florida International University on Friday night in Miami.
Barnes, a redshirt freshman who had seen little action this season at running back behind Brenden Brady and Trelon Smith, set up one touchdown to help the Roadrunners offense get going in the first half before going on to score the first two touchdowns of his UTSA career. He carried the ball 20 times to give the Roadrunners (5-2 overall, 3-0 Conference USA) their most productive performance by a running back this season.
“I knew his time was coming,” UTSA Coach Jeff Traylor said. “It was just a matter of when, and you all finally got to see it. … He’s a humble human with a lot of talent, and those kinds of guys make coaches look really smart.”
Though Barnes was the surprise, the Roadrunners’ typical passing game was also on display against the overmatched Panthers (2-4, 0-2). The nation’s leader in total offense, Frank Harris completed 24 of 35 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns, both in the first half. He surpassed 2,000 passing yards for the season early in the game and had his fifth 300-yard passing game of the year.
Wide receiver Zakhari Franklin caught six passes for 68 yards and one touchdown, De’Corian Clark grabbed five for 60 yards and Joshua Cephus had six receptions for 55 yards.
After a lackluster first half, the Roadrunners got a lift early in the second half when cornerback Corey Mayfield intercepted Panthers quarterback Grayson James’ pass, setting UTSA up at the FIU 45. Barnes carried the ball three times on the ensuing drive, the last time blasting up the middle for a 9-yard scoring run that gave UTSA a 23-3 lead.
The Roadrunners took a 30-3 lead early in the fourth quarter with a 59-yard drive that ended with Barnes’ 2-yard run.
Barnes has seen most of his playing time this season on special teams but got handed the ball Friday night because Brady and Smith were “banged up,” Traylor said. Brady saw limited action against FIU and Smith did not play.
“I feel like the coaches are starting to trust me and giving me more opportunity,” Barnes said. “They see me working hard in practice every day. … I just try to run hard and play fast. I know my line is going to give me a gap, so I just try to hit it as fast as I can.”
UTSA’s defense held the Panthers to 323 yards, keeping them out of the end zone until the game’s final minute, when Kejon Owens scored on a 15-yard run to make it 30-10 with 46 seconds remaining in the game. The 10 points was a season low for a UTSA opponent this season.
With its fourth straight victory, UTSA started its conference season 3-0 for the second consecutive year.
But UTSA did not get rolling until late in the first quarter, and the Panthers could not capitalize on a couple of early opportunities. FIU’s Chase Gabriel missed a 41-yard field goal attempt midway through the first quarter, then the Panthers defense stripped Harris of the ball and recovered the fumble but the ensuing drive stalled.
The Roadrunners began the second quarter with a 65-yard drive capped by Jared Sackett’s 44-yard field goal to make it 3-0. On UTSA’s next drive, wide receiver Karch Gardiner dropped a pass from Harris in the end zone, but on the next play Barnes caught a 13-yard pass to set up first-and-goal for UTSA. Harris then connected with Franklin on a 5-yard touchdown catch.
After Gabriel’s 41-yard field goal put the Panthers on the board with 5:37 left before halftime, UTSA put together a drive that ended with Harris’ 42-yard pass to tight end Dan Dishman to give the Roadrunners a 17-3 halftime lead.
UTSA returns home to host the University of North Texas, which spoiled the Roadrunners’ perfect regular season last year with a 45-23 win in Denton, next Saturday at the Alamodome.