The UTSA Roadrunners scored three first-quarter touchdowns and coasted to a 41-7 win over the Rice University Owls in cold and rainy conditions Saturday at Rice Stadium in Houston.
By beating Rice, the Roadrunners (9-2, 7-0 Conference USA) officially claimed their spot in the Conference USA championship game as well as hosting duties for that game, set for Dec. 2. Rice (5-6, 3-4 Conference USA) still needs one more win to reach bowl eligibility and will get that chance next week at the University of North Texas.
“Our defense set the tone and you could tell early that Frank Harris wouldn’t be denied,” Head Coach Jeff Traylor said. “He was special today. Our kids compete and they know how to win.”
The Roadrunners had been a quarter away from shutting out the Owls for a second straight season, having defeated Rice 45-0 last year in San Antonio. But the Owls scored 12 seconds into the fourth quarter to cut UTSA’s lead to 41-7 and snap the scoreless streak.
UTSA had to punt on its first possession, but touchdowns came on the second, third and fourth drives. Quarterback Frank Harris opened the scoring with a 63-yard touchdown run at the 8:26 mark of the first quarter.
“It means a lot. We clinched home-field advantage (in the conference championship game),” Harris said. “We are definitely blessed and we don’t take it lightly. Our best football is still out there.”
Rice’s next drive was costly for the Owls. It ended when UTSA’s Kelechi Nwachuku sacked Owls quarterback Wiley Green and forced a fumble. UTSA outside linebacker Donyai Taylor scooped up the ball at the Owls 23 and returned it to the Owls 15. Green left the game with an arm injury and did not return.
Harris took advantage of the good field position for the Roadrunners. On the first play of the drive, Harris kept the ball and ran for the 15-yard touchdown to put UTSA up 14-0 with 5:41 left in the first quarter.
The Owls fumbled again on their next drive and UTSA recovered at the Rice 35-yard line. Seven plays later the Roadrunners were up 21-0 after Harris threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Zakhari Franklin.
UTSA went up 28-0 in the last minute of the second quarter when Harris threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end Oscar Cardenas. It was Cardenas’ first touchdown this season.
A pair of Jared Sackett field goals and a 16-yard touchdown run by Harris in the third quarter were UTSA’s last scores of the game. Then came the Owls’ touchdown in the fourth when Rice quarterback AJ Padgett connected with wide receiver Bradley Rozner from the UTSA 43-yard line.
Since losing the first three in the series, UTSA pushed its win streak over Rice to seven in a row.
UTSA will close out the regular season Nov. 26, when it hosts the University of Texas at El Paso at 2:30 p.m., but its winning record earned the Roadrunners the regular-season title in Conference USA for the second season in a row. After the game, the Roadrunners were presented with the regular-season champion trophy.
UTSA also reached nine wins in a season for the second year in a row and will take an eight-game winning streak into the regular season finale next week. For the second season in a row, UTSA went 5-1 in its six road games.
“It’s hard to win in college football,” Traylor said. “You have to enjoy it when you can.”