Before the start of the fourth quarter, UTSA played a montage of moments celebrating a decade of Roadrunner football. They rolled out the program’s first coach Larry Coker for a wave and a hello. Not since that first game where UTSA packed in 56K into the Alamodome has there been as much enthusiasm for the program. The Roadrunners took another step to immortality, by escaping with a win over defending champion UAB with a last-second toss from Frank Harris to Oscar Cardenas for the win.
UTSA is now 11-0 and guaranteed to host the title game in the Alamodome on December 3rd. It could be the powerful offense of WKU or the quality Marshall program. Whatever the matchup, there is a lot to live up to. This game was incredible.
UAB came into this game looking to do another “Marshall Plan” — that is get some scores early and control the game with defense and the run game. That mostly worked, as the UAB offense dominated the first half with 349 yards of offense and a 24-17 lead. Dylan Hopkins played an outstanding game while UTSA’s Frank Harris had some struggles, fumbling and getting sacked five times. While UTSA struggled, they hit on some big throws to Franklin and were helped out by crowd forcing UAB into some penalties. Still, it was a clear UAB win through the first set of quarters.
In the second half, UTSA scored 10 unanswered in the third to take the lead. Both teams’ defense put on a show and while UAB was keeping UTSA from running away with it, UTSA never let the Blazers get back to even. The teams traded huge defensive stops, with both sets of fans feeling on edge with every punt.
The final sequence was this: UAB scores on a 16-yard run from Dewayne McBride helped UAB get 7.8 per carry and UTSA turned the ball over on downs on a pass short of the first. UAB ran the ball, but in the end, Bill Clark chose not to run one more time at 4th and inches at midfield. UTSA lined up with a minute to go from their own 23 yard line.
Harris fond Cardenas for 28 yards. Then he found Clark for 6. Then he hit Clark again for 33 yards to the left sideline down to the UAB 10. Then Harris scrambled up to the one-yard line, nearly scoring. UAB tried some gamesmanship and played hurt for a bit. Then the next two plays were a Harris throw to Cephus incomplete, followed by a play action pass to Cardenas with :03 left.
UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor said “it was a simple play-action pass, that we bobbled the snap on. Then Frank tried one of his funny little shovel passes and the linebacker was able to get back and get a hand on it.”
The crowd erupted. The deafening sound shrieked with joy and coaches and players on the sideline hugged and sprinted around. UAB players began walking off, unaware that there was still a couple more plays to go.
Afterward, players took pictures and hugged and jumped and laughed while the Blazers walked somberly to the lockeroom. The Alamodome has a long walk around and under the bleachers before the team can get to their room. Along the way the typical sounds of frustrated athletes could be heard. The Blazers were one inch short.
Meanwhile, the Roadrunners beat the champions and have a shot to become league champions. First comes a meaningless game vs North Texas followed by a Friday championship game against either WKU’s Bailey Zappe or Marshall’s Grant Wells. Jeff Traylor said the president allowed the team to plan on a plane trip instead of the usual bus ride back from Denton.
The Roadrunners have the juice right now. What an incredible game for the program, and the league. Given another set of circumstances, this could be a rallying point instead of simply a preview of two teams leaving the for another league.