Instant observations: UTSA hosts Conference USA championship game against Western Kentucky

Photo by Dave Campbell's Texas Football

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The Roadrunners can finally eat the cheese. 

UTSA is making history look pedestrian under head coach Jeff Traylor. Nearly every record in the 11-year history of the program is owned by members of the 2021 football team. Frank Harris set the season-record for passing touchdowns. Clarence Hicks set a record for sacks in a season. Zakhari Franklin is the program’s leader in nearly every receiving category. And running back Sincere McCormick might be the best player in school history. 

The 2021 team added another piece of history on Friday night: A conference championship. The Roadrunners knocked off Western Kentucky 49-41 for the second time this season to claim the Conference USA title 11 years after their first season. From no football to a championship. An amazing ride, and an amazing season. UTSA is 12-1 and headed to its third bowl game. 


UTSA possesses its own set of triplets: The offense runs through the trio of Harris, McCormick, and Franklin. McCormick ran the ball 36 times for 24 yards and three touchdowns. Harris completed 19 of 28 passes for 218 yards and a pair of touchdown throws. He added 81 yards and a score on 11 rushes. Franklin caught six balls for 67 yards and one of those touchdown passes.

Harris and McCormick are San Antonio natives that helped build the in-city momentum that Traylor capitalized on when he arrived prior to the 2020 season. The two were among 11 San Antonio natives on a roster that Traylor inherited. The roster that won a C-USA title contained 29 players from the area. The two, alongside safety Rashad Wisdom, committed to UTSA and stuck out a coaching change to help put respect on the name of football played in San Antonio.

Mission accomplished. 

The defense did enough: UTSA always needed to score nearly 50 points to beat Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers weren’t held to fewer than 30 points in the entire season, and the UTSA defense was up against a tough task. The Roadrunners won’t enjoy the stat line, but the defense did its part in forcing field goals in the first half and coming up with two turnovers in the second. UTSA held Western Kentucky to 13 points in the first half. 

Maybe it is odd to give props to a defense that allowed 577 passing yards, but the mission was to force a few field goals and steal at least two possessions. That is exactly what the Roadrunners did on Friday night. UTSA's special teams recovered a fumble early in the third quarter following a muffed punt. McCormick turned that into a touchdown. A possession later, Antonio Parks picked off Bailey Zappe, and that turnover was converted into another touchdown. 

That gave UTSA a 42-13 lead in the third quarter. Zappe and an incredible Western Kentucky offense made the 40,000-plus fans in attendance sweat, but Jahmal Sam's interception sealed the game in the closing seconds. 

Traylor earned his raise: UTSA stepped up to the plate to give Traylor a two-million dollar raise when its head coach’s name began surfacing for job openings at Texas Tech and TCU. Traylor proved that it was a wise investment with the clinic his staff put on Friday night. The Roadrunners struggled down the stretch, barely beating Southern Miss, narrowly escaping against UAB, and eventually falling to North Texas. 

UTSA wasn’t playing good football since the Nov. 6 win at UTEP. Instead of focusing on the negatives, Traylor went about reminding the team of its successes. He coached with confidence, and his team came up with play after play in crunch time. It’s a staple of his UTSA teams through two seasons. The Roadrunners thrive in close games, and that mettle allowed the program to cement its place within the college football landscape. 


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