Jared Sackett kicked a field goal with four seconds left to give UTSA its first lead of the game as the Roadrunners completed a 24-point comeback to beat the University of Texas-El Paso Miners 34-31 Saturday at the Alamodome.

The 24-point deficit was the largest comeback victory in UTSA football history, beating the previous record of 21 points set last season against Memphis. The win also capped an undefeated Conference USA regular season for the Roadrunners (10-2 overall, 8-0 C-USA), who will host the University of North Texas in the conference championship game Friday.

UTSA quarterback Frank Harris passed for 382 yards and three touchdowns, completing 16 of 22 passes. Wide receiver Zakhari Franklin caught seven passes for 126 yards and a touchdown and Tykee Ogle-Kellogg had four receptions for 142 yards and a touchdown.

The Miners (5-7, 3-5) scored on their first four possessions of the game. UTEP scored two touchdowns in the first quarter, both passing scores from Calvin Brownholtz. The first was a 15-yard pass to fullback James Tupou and the second was a 45-yard pass to wide receiver Tyrin Smith, who attended Cibolo’s Steele High School.

UTSA was able to limit UTEP to a field goal on the Miners’ third possession but the Miners went up 24-0 with 7:03 left in the second quarter when Brownholtz scored on 23-yard run.

“Obviously we were just getting physically whipped up front on the O-line and D-line [and’ weren’t fitting correctly in our backers and safeties,” UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor said. “UTEP had a great game plan and they executed very well.”

The Roadrunners began to cut into the deficit on their next possession. After converting a fourth-and-1 play at their own 34, the Roadrunners struck with a 65-yard touchdown pass from Harris to wide receiver Joshua Cephus. Sackett’s extra point made the score 24-7 with 5:15 left in the second quarter.

On the next drive UTEP drove down field and looked ready to score again. The Miners’ drive was ended when UTSA linebacker Dadrian Taylor intercepted Brownholtz’s pass at the UTSA 27 and returned it 73 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 24-14 with 1:34 left in the second quarter.

UTEP got the ball to start the second half and the drive appeared to have ended when UTSA forced the Miners to punt. But UTSA was flagged for roughing the kicker, although Traylor said the Roadrunner player had been blocked into the kicker by a UTEP player. 

“The officials did not agree with my opinion,” he said. “That was a killer.”

The Miners took advantage of the fresh set of downs and scored three plays later to go up 31-14 with 11:56 left in the third quarter.

Harris began the comeback on the Roadrunners’ next drive. On the sixth play of the drive Harris threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Franklin to cut the Miners’ lead to 31-21 with 9:49 left in the quarter.

UTSA’s Sackett added a 51-yard field goal later in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 31-24.

After forcing UTEP into its second punt of the game, UTSA needed just one play to tie the score. Harris threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Ogle-Kellogg to even the score at 31 on the final play of the third quarter.

Neither team was able to score in the fourth quarter until Sackett stepped up for the 28-yard game winner with four seconds left in the game.

By overcoming the 24-point deficit, UTSA completed its second 10-win season in a row. Going undefeated in conference play is a first for the program.

“It means a lot — first time in program history being 8-0,” Harris said. “Who would have ever thought? First coming, having losing seasons, having last season as a very successful season to now. It just means a lot. Just a testament to Coach Traylor and his staff, changing the culture.”

The Roadrunners will now turn their attention to Friday night, when they host the conference championship game for the second year in a row. A year ago UTSA beat Western Kentucky before a crowd of 41,000 people to win the C-USA championship game, and this year Traylor is hoping for a similar crowd.

“We worked hard to get that home field,” he said. “We can’t waste it, man. We cannot waste it. We need to get this place packed. We should be shooting for the [attendance] record. I mean, c’mon, it’s the second conference championship at home. This is hard to do, man.”

UTSA defeated North Texas at the Alamodome 31-27 on Oct. 22. The rematch between the two teams is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday and will be televised nationally on CBS Sports Network. 

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Stephen Whitaker

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