Winning conference championships in college football is becoming the norm in San Antonio. UTSA claimed its second straight Conference USA title on Friday night with a 48-27 win over rival North Texas in front of more than 41,000 fans at the Alamodome.
The Roadrunners became the third program in the Alamo City to claim conference titles in 2022, joining Trinity (Southern Collegiate Athletic) and Incarnate Word (Southland). UTSA (11-2) is now 23-4 since the start of 2021. Only one of those losses came against C-USA squads, and that was the Mean Green late in 2021.
Weapons: The difference between the two teams was obvious from the start. UTSA trots out offensive playmakers such as Frank Harris, Zakhari Franklin, and Kevorian Barnes. North Texas didn’t. Harris led the way by completing 32 of 37 passes for 341 yards and four scores. He added 49 yards and a touchdown as a runner to clinch MVP honors. The night ended with the team – and head coach Jeff Traylor – chanting “one more year” at the star quarterback who holds more than 30 school records.
Franklin, a senior, caught 10 passes for 144 yards and three scores. No North Texas receiver caught more than three passes for 58 yards. Barnes ran the ball 28 times for 175 yards and a touchdown. The Mean Green’s two leading rushers – Ikaika Ragsdale and Ayo Adeyi – combined for 158 yards on 29 attempts.
Traylor triumphs: UTSA was 45-61 in the nine seasons before the East Texas native arrived in San Antonio as the head coach. The program’s only bowl berth came in a six-win 2016 season. The only times the program finished the year with winning records were the first two years – 2012 and 2013. Traylor is about to lead his team to a third straight bowl game. He is now 30-9 in three seasons. That includes two C-USA titles and a 15-1 conference record since the start of 2021.
Winning is what the DCTF Cover Man does, dating back to his days leading Gilmer High School – his alma mater. He was 175-26 with three state titles and 12 district crowns in 15 years in charge. He’s at over 200 combined wins in his career. UTSA signed him to a 10-year, $25-million-dollar extension after last season and that feels like a bargain. He’s put the Roadrunners on the national map, and he’s elevated the prestige of Texas high school football coaches.
A forward step: Moral victories won’t subdue the painful feelings felt in Denton following the Mean Green’s second loss to UTSA in 2022. Turnovers and a poor defensive effort will hurt well into the offseason. But that doesn’t take away from what Seth Littrell’s squad accomplished over the last 14 months. A 7-6 regular season with a trip to the conference title game and a sixth bowl trip in seven years is nothing to sneeze at for the North Texas faithful.
The Mean Green were 1-6 following a home loss to Liberty on Oct. 23 of 2021. They won five straight conference games, including a victory over a then-undefeated UTSA squad, to reach a bowl game and end the regular season at .500. North Texas started 2022 with a road win over UTEP in front of a sold-out Sun Bowl. The team is 11-3 in its last 14 conference games. Two of those losses are in San Antonio. The other was on the road against UAB.
Littrell will return in 2023 as North Texas moves into the AAC with a new athletic director. The defense needs to improve after allowing more than 30 points a game. Losing in blowouts to future AAC opponents SMU and Memphis is also a worry. But the overall trajectory of the program is at an all-time high and the Mean Green is in solid position to compete right away in a new scene next season.
This article is available to our Digital Subscribers.
Click "Subscribe Now" to see a list of subscription offers.
Already a Subscriber? Sign In to access this content.