The Roadrunners and Hilltoppers might not have scored as many points on Saturday as they did last December in the conference championship game, but the teams gave those in the Alamodome crowd their money’s worth. Most of that crowd left happy after UTSA held on to beat Western Kentucky 31-28.
The win improved the Roadrunners’ record to 4-2 overall and more importantly, 2-0 in Conference USA. Western Kentucky fell to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in Conference USA.
“The first four [games] are just preparing us. We learned a lot about ourselves. It forced us to clean some things up,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said of the Roadrunners at the halfway point of the season. “The great thing about playing a good opponent again, we’re going to get better from this video.”
UTSA limited a Western Kentucky offense that was averaging over 40 points a game to just 28 points. The Roadrunners had chances to put the game away, but the Hilltoppers kept hanging around.
The Roadrunners twice went up by 10 points in the second half — first when the Roadrunners scored on their first offensive possession of the third quarter to go up 24-14 and again after WKU had cut the lead to 24-21 and went for an onside kick. UTSA’s Kyle Wakefield recovered the onside kick at the Hilltoppers 42. Two plays later, UTSA quarterback Frank Harris connected with De’Corian Clark for a 12-yard score that put UTSA up 31-21 with 11:46 left in the final quarter.
WKU answered on its next drive with a 33-yard touchdown run by Kye Robichaux to cut the Roadrunner lead back to three, 31-28, at the 8:58 mark of the fourth quarter.
It was an even match between two high-powered offenses, even if the score didn’t reach the heights of the two meetings last season that finished with UTSA winning 52-46 in Bowling Green and 49-41 in the Alamodome.
WKU quarterback Austin Reed finished with 373 yards and two touchdowns on 35 completed passes out of 49 attempts. Reed also ran for 43 yards and a touchdown. His top target was Malachi Corley, who finished with 131 yards on 11 catches.
UTSA’s Harris was limited by the WKU defense to 273 yards and one touchdown on 24 completed passes out of 35 attempts. Harris also ran the ball for 61 yards and a touchdown. The Roadrunners’ leading receiver was Zakhari Franklin with 95 yards on six receptions.
“They were playing real soft, not giving us a lot of throws,” Harris said. “We had to run the ball. I think [Brenden] Brady and [Trelon] Smith did a great job. O-line did a great job of giving those guys some lanes to run through.”
The Roadrunner offense had its best running game of the season, finishing with 273 yards on 45 attempts. Brady led the Roadrunners rushing with 82 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Smith had 67 yards on 12 carries.
UTSA will now turn its attention to a trip to Miami next Friday night to take on Florida International. The FIU Panthers are 2-3 overall after losing to Connecticut on Saturday. FIU lost its conference opener 73-0 against Western Kentucky on Sept. 24.