The sixth-largest crowd in program history, all 37,526 of them, and a national TV audience on CBS Sports Network were given a triple overtime thriller Saturday in the Alamodome between the UTSA Roadrunners and the No. 24 ranked Houston Cougars.

The Roadrunners fell short against the Cougars, 37-35 in triple overtime, but showed in their season opener that they can compete. It could give the Roadrunners hope in upcoming games against Army and the Texas Longhorns, but it also was a lesson on how much work remains to be done for UTSA this season.

“I thought we outplayed them. Our kids gave an unbelievable effort,” UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor said. “We just made some critical mistakes at critical times and that’s on me. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

One of those mistakes at a critical time was a substitution penalty against UTSA in the third quarter. The Roadrunners were called for 12 men on the field on a fourth-and-1 play that would have stopped Houston if not for the penalty. 

At the time UTSA had a 21-7 lead and would have gotten the ball back in Houston territory. Instead, the Cougars got a fresh set of downs and eventually went down the field, scoring on the first play of the fourth quarter to cut the UTSA lead to 21-14.

UTSA’s next possession ended in an interception after Roadrunner quarterback Frank Harris was hit as he threw the ball. Houston’s Nelson Ceaser intercepted the pass at the 50 and returned it to the UTSA 20. 

“Coach Traylor told us to keep our head up. He takes the blame, but I also take the blame myself,” Harris said after the game.

UTSA’s Trevor Harmanson (1) attempts to defend the ball against University of Houston’s Joseph Manjack IV (18) during game one against University of Houston at the Alamodome Saturday.
UTSA’s Trevor Harmanson attempts to stop the University of Houston’s Joseph Manjack IV. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

One play later Houston quarterback Clayton Tune threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Joseph Manjack IV that tied the score at 21.

After UTSA had to punt on their next drive, Houston got the ball with 10:53 remaining and used up all but 23 seconds on the clock. The Cougars kicked a field goal to take a 24-21 lead.

Harris then led UTSA on a drive that set up Jared Sackett for a 39-yard field goal as time expired. The game went into overtime tied at 24.

UTSA’s defense was able to hold Houston to a 35-yard field goal by Bubba Baxa in the first overtime. The Roadrunner offense then took over, needing a touchdown to win the game but had to settle for a 37-yard field goal from Sackett that tied the score at 27.

In the second overtime, Houston again had the ball first on offense. This time the Cougars scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run by Tune. By rule, the Cougars had to go for two. Tune threw a pass to Nathaniel Dell that at first was ruled incomplete, but after video review, Dell was found to have completed the catch and gotten a foot down inbounds. Houston went in front 35-27.

UTSA answered on their next possession with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Harris to DeCorian Clark. Harris then kept the ball and ran in for the two-point conversion, tying the score at 35 and sending the game to a third overtime.

UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor holds his head low after Roadrunners are defeated 37-35 against University of Houston at the Alamodome Saturday.
UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor reacts Saturday after the Roadrunners lost 37-35 against the University of Houston at the Alamodome. Credit: Bria Woods / San Antonio Report

Since last season, the new rule for overtime has been that from the third overtime on, both teams have one play from the opponent’s 3-yard line to attempt a two-point conversion.

Once again Houston had the ball on offense first. Tune broke from the Roadrunner pressure and ran, leaping over a Roadrunner and into the end zone to put Houston up 37-35.

UTSA had one chance to keep the game going, but Harris’ pass attempt into the end zone fell incomplete.

“We have to come back tomorrow and look at everything, good and bad, and get ready for next week,” Harris said.

The Roadrunners (0-1) will travel to West Point next week for a game against the Army Black Knights. Houston (1-0) will be on the road at former Southwest Conference rival Texas Tech next week. 

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