At halftime against perennial Conference USA contender Louisiana Tech, UTSA coach Jeff Traylor took out his crystal ball.
Down 19-6 against a Bulldogs team fresh off a 10-win season, he told his Roadrunners exactly what was going to happen. UTSA was going to win the football game and star running back Sincere McCormick was going to score the game winning touchdown. Simple as that. Go out and make it happen.
Even after quarterback Frank Harris threw a pick-six and Louisiana Tech blocked a field goal, nothing changed. Traylor knew he had his superweapon. McCormick had already carried the ball 28 times by the time the fourth quarter started with UTSA still down two touchdowns. It didn’t matter.
“I teased him the other day, I think Earl Campbell carried the ball 40 times one time and Bum Phillips was asked about it afterwards and said, ‘ball’s not that heavy, is it?’” Traylor said.
On the first drive of the fourth quarter, Harris hit a long pass that helped set up a 6-yard touchdown scamper by McCormick; it was his second score of the game on his 30th carry, the first time any running back reached that mark in program history. After forcing a three-and-out, Traylor knew it was time.
Facing 3rd-and-2 at the Louisiana Tech 45-yard line, UTSA lined up in a singleback shotgun set. McCormick took the handoff from Harris, faked to the boundary and darted to the left tackle. The tight end made one perfect block, McCormick sent the safety spinning and it was off to the races. Game over, a perfect 45-yard touchdown run. UTSA picked off La. Tech on the next drive and kneeled the clock out, just like Traylor predicted.
“I will give Coach Traylor credit for that one,” Harris said with a smile. “Anytime Sincere touches the ball, he might get hit a few times and still break one. It’ll be like, man, that’s crazy….I’m like his No. 1 fan. After he scored, I told him he’s the best back in the country.”
When you have a running back like McCormick in the backfield, looking like a genius suddenly becomes a whole lot easier. McCormick finished his afternoon at the Alamodome with a career high 37 carries, nearly matching Campbell's legendary performance. His 165 rushing yards ranked sixth-best in program history and his three scores in the 27-26 victory tied a program record.
After the game, the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award named Sincere McCormick its Player of the Week.
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When offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr. joined UTSA’s staff, it wasn’t clear what the roster could do well. This was a unit that ranked bottom 25 nationally in total offense. Two years ago, the unit was dead last. Losing an entire spring of practice and evaluation time made the task even harder.
Lunney liked what he saw on tape, but translating it to the field in a run-first offense like Arkansas ran was no guarantee, especially without camp and offseason training. Was this production sustainable? It took one game to find out.
“It really wasn’t until the first game,” Lunney said. “Our time with him was so limited, we just scrimmaged a couple times and didn’t really feature him to make sure he was ready to go for the season.”
If there were any questions, his opening rivalry game drive against Texas State answered all of them. McCormick took the first handoff from Harris, broke through the line and ran 58 yards before Texas State’s defense even knew what happened. Even as he dealt with conditioning issues, McCormick dominated and finished with a program record 197 yards in an overtime win.
“The workload doesn’t matter,” McCormick said. "It’s a mentality thing at the end of the game... all gas, no breaks, that’s what Rashad Wisdom always says.”
After 60 carries and 330 yards over the next three games, it became clear: McCormick is a cheat code for playcallers, especially for an offensive staff that has found such creative ways to utilize talent. Whether it's getting McCormick inside, outside, running counter, catching screens, fielding tosses, it doesn't matter. He makes it work.
Four different quarterbacks have played major snaps because of injuries. No matter who is starting under center, game planning meetings start with the running game. McCormick's consistency has been central to UTSA's rise from No. 11 to No. 6 in an offseason with a first-time coaching staff.
“It gives you something to build around,” Lunney said. “We definitely build our plans around the running game and to complement it, not the other way around. That’s my personal belief of how it should be done.”
Over the past two seasons, McCormick averages 5.8 yards every time he touches the ball in either the pass or rush game, far outpacing the 5.0 yards per play of the rest of the offense. The year before McCormick joined the roster, UTSA averaged just 3.9 yards per play.
Harris’ declaration of McCormick being the nation’s best running back wasn’t just bluster. Heading into Week 9, the sophomore McCormick leads the entire nation with 867 rushing yards. His 5.6 yards per carry ranks top 20 among players with at least five appearances, and his volume is unmatched.
“Our team takes great pride in it,” Traylor said. “They all know. We really brag to them about being a part of that. We just talk to the team about it, but never to him individually about it – but I have a feeling he knows.”
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When McCormick was weighing his decisions coming out of Converse Judson, he had options. A handful of Power Five schools offered, along with Group of Five powers like running back factory Memphis. However, the opportunity to stay home with a few of his closest friends and build something new was too much to pass up.
UTSA’s program only sprung into existence a decade ago. Another hometown star – first round NFL Draft pick Marcus Davenport – helped the program take some important first steps. McCormick wanted to be part of that. It didn’t hurt that Schertz Clemens grad Harris lobbied hard to get McCormick into his backfield.
“Being home, they always talk about going to these big-name schools,” McCormick said. “It doesn’t really matter what school you go to, it’s if you can make a name for yourself...we know the ultimate goal is to put UTSA on the map.”
McCormick’s biggest impacts on this program are still yet to come. His relentless work ethic and humility coming out of Converse Judson helps set the tone for his teammates. Seeing McCormick’s success also helps energize the entire program. The run-first mentality bleeds throughout the offense and his success helps everyone.
“He understands the bigger scale of life and he’s very grateful,” Traylor said. “I wish I could give you a little dirt on him, but there’s no dirt – he’s just a good boy with a beautiful smile who shows up every day grateful to be here. You can’t have enough of those guys in your locker room.”
Being part of such a young program has some big advantages. The history books in San Antonio are brand new. Already, McCormick has four of the top 10 rushing performances in UTSA history. Now, he’s 133 yards away from becoming the second Roadrunner to clear 1,000 rushing yards in a season.
“I think he definitely has the ability to play football beyond college – there’s no doubt about that,” Lunney said. “We’re in Week 7 and we’re just starting to see the best of Sincere right now. As we get familiar with our team and understand his strengths and how we can best play complementary football, the future’s really bright for him.”
If he keeps up this torrid pace, McCormick could even threaten Jarveon Williams’ career rushing record with multiple years of eligibility still remaining. McCormick can't just rewrite the UTSA history books. If he can continue his trajectory – and if Traylor's Roadrunners complete their drive to a bowl appearance – UTSA will have to start a whole new book.
“I say it all the time, to have the opportunity to build your own program in your city is a very special thing,” Traylor said. “The local kids who stay here and help build this thing will alway be remembered for helping to get this program going.”
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