UTSA, Frank Harris come back to life in I-35 Rivalry Game win over Texas State

Photo by Blake Purcell

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SAN ANTONIO, TX -- The I-35 rivalry series between Texas State and The University of Texas at San Antonio is alive and well, albeit, still one-sided as far as wins and losses go. 

On Saturday, the Roadrunners ran away with the series, now 5–0 all-time against the team, “just up the road.”

It was a different vibe for the Bobcats when behind enemy lines. The week before, they were one of the darlings of the national media, earning their first Power Five win as a program against Baylor. They looked looked like a portal success story for the ages in week one. 

In week two, the Bobcats looked human. So did their quarterback, TJ Finley, who threw for 211 yards, but was 16-for-30 on the day. More troubling for head coach GJ Kinne's aerial attack, Finley was held scoreless in the air due to the consistent pressure by UTSA’s unrelenting defense. 

The mystery the entire game was the health of UTSA’s star quarterback, Frank Harris, who looked to bounce back from a week one loss to Houston that saw him throw three interceptions. 

"These are the wins that you live and die by," Harris said. "The grit that we showed, the toughness that we showed throughout the whole game, the four man offense that we performed, we didn't give the ball back to those guys.  It's a credit to the defense getting the ball to us and the offense just killing the clock."

Harris was sidelined for the end of the second quarter, and Texas State took full advantage. The Bobcats evened the score 10-10 with a three-yard touchdown rush by Jahmyl Jeter and a field goal to end the half.

But even with the touchdown from Jeter, Texas State couldn't overcome its issues in the ground game. Five rushers, including Finley, combined for a total of 31 yards on 29 attempts. The glaring stat line - Finley’s negative 28 yards on the ground. 

“They didn’t do a lot of things different than what we thought,” Kinne said. “They’re just really good physically up front. I thought we struggled running the ball, which hurt us. And when we get those opportunities to win on one one-on-ones, we got to throw it and catch it better. But it’s not on the players. We got to do a better job as coaches, everyone involved.” 

Harris, albeit physically limited by the left knee he had four surguries on in the offseason, was in his element. He threw for 214 yards on Saturday on a 70 percent completion rate, including a 20-yard touchdown pass to Willie McCoy. 

The backfield was Harris’ saving grace on Saturday when he didn’t feel like testing the Texas State defense by putting more pressure on his already injured leg. The running back committee of Kevorian Barnes, Robert Henry and Rocko Griffin combined for 159 yards and a touchdown. 

It wasn’t all bad for Texas State, however. The Bobcat defense had flashes of greatness, led by linebacker Brian Holloway and defensive end Ben Bell, who combined for 22 total tackles and 2.5 sacks. 

“I would say we beat ourselves,” Holloway said. “We just didn’t do the simple things right that we normally do. Hats off to UTSA, they’re a good team. It was a dog fight.”  

The entire game was chippy and raw. The Alamodome posted a total gameday attendance of 49,342, the biggest away crowd the Bobcats have played in front of since 2019, and now the second-highest attended game for the Roadrunners. 

And while it hasn't been a back-and-forth affair historically, the rivalry can tear families apart. Throughout the day, fans in both UTSA and Texas State gear stood side by side, sometimes in the same tailgate spot. 

Culturally, Texas State might as well be playing a future version of itself. All week, people asked about the relationship between UTSA Head Coach Jeff Traylor and Kinne. Traylor first coached Kinne at Gilmer High School, then later at SMU.

But in the last four minutes, the teacher pulled away from the student, as UTSA handed the ball off and ran out the clock. Final score: 20-13.

“He just told me how proud he was of me, Kinne said. “I told him really good game and like I said credit to those guys, it’s a really good team.”

A lot of the guys from each team know each other. It was a pure moment for people who enjoy down-home Texas football. And it isn't going away either, the Bobcats and Roadrunners have game contracts that go through 2031. So, there are at least eight more meetings in the future.

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