Three fourth-quarter takeaways by the University of Texas at San Antonio defense helped secure a 27-17 victory over Southern Mississippi on Saturday, preserving the Roadrunners’ unbeaten record.

After trailing late in the third quarter, UTSA (10-0 overall, 6-0 in Conference USA) scored 10 unanswered points to break a 17-17 tie in the fourth quarter, but it was key defensive plays that made the comeback possible.

With the Roadrunners clinging to a 20-17 lead with 4:39 remaining in the game, cornerback Corey Mayfield Jr. sacked Southern Miss quarterback Antavio Willis, who lost the football. Linebacker Charles Wiley recovered the fumble and returned it 8 yards to the 9-yard line to give UTSA a chance to put the game away. On the next play, running back Sincere McCormick scored to make it 27-17 with 4:19 remaining.

“Defense has got to get it done, and again they got it done tonight,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said. “It says a lot about who we are. We know who we are — our defense had to do that.”

The Golden Eagles (1-9, 0-6) were led by running back Frank Gore Jr., who rushed for 123 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries and also took some snaps in the Wildcat offense. Southern Miss managed only 52 passing yards in the game.

Quarterback Frank Harris completed 17 of 30 passes for 227 yards and two touchdowns. After having thrown only three interceptions all season, he was picked off twice by the Golden Eagles. Wide receiver Joshua Cephus posted 106 yards and a touchdown on eight catches for UTSA.

UTSA, No. 15 in the AP Top 25 poll, is now one of only three unbeaten teams in the nation and have earned double-digit wins in a season for the first time in program history. 

It was a slow start before a crowd of 30,105 at the Alamodome as the Roadrunners fell behind in the second quarter after Gore ran for a 9-yard touchdown and a field goal gave Southern Miss a 10-3 lead with 2:19 left before halftime.

The Roadrunners answered with a 40-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Cephus to tie the game at 10 at halftime. 

In the third quarter, Southern Miss defensive back Natrone Brooks picked off Harris and returned the ball 34 yards for a touchdown to put the Golden Eagles up 17-10. However, UTSA was able to respond again with a 24-yard touchdown pass from Harris to tight end Leroy Watson to tie the game at 17 before heading into the fourth quarter. 

Jaylon Haynes forced Willis to fumble with 6:39 remaining to set the Roadrunners up on the Southern Miss 35 yard line. UTSA had to settle for Hunter Duplessis’ 24-yard field goal to take the lead with 4:39 to play. UTSA went on to force two more takeaways, including Mayfield’s sack and an interception by safety Antonio Parks to seal the win for the Roadrunners. 

“It was one that I needed,” Parks said of the interception. “It was one that our team needed, so it was super important to get that interception and seal the deal.”

UTSA is set to host the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the defending Conference USA champion, next Saturday at the Alamodome. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.

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Alejandro Martinez

Alejandro Martinez is a San Antonian studying finance at the University of Texas at San Antonio.