ROADRUNNERS FIGHT 16TH-RANKED TEAM IN COUNTRY TO END, FALL SHORT
Without Head Coach Jeff Traylor because of positive Covid tests and on a day when Sincere McCormick totaled 122 yards on 23 carries to move back into the national lead with 1,467 rushing yards and also surpass Jarveon Williams’ UTSA career rushing yardage record, UTSA lost to No. 16 Louisiana 31-24 victory in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on Saturday at Gerald J. Ford Stadium.
In the program’s second ever bowl game (New Mexico Bowl, 2016), Frank Harris passed for 208 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 91 yards and another score, completing 13 of 21 passes to lead an offense that piled up 431 yards with 223 coming on the ground.
Meanwhile, Zakhari Franklin led all receivers with five catches for 115 yards and a TD — his fourth 100-yard game this season — to help UTSA (7-5) mount a wild comeback in the second half against the Ragin’ Cajuns (10-1), who were led by Elijah Mitchell’s 127 rushing yards.
Trailing 24-7 early in the third quarter, the Roadrunners reeled off 17 unanswered points to tie the game early in the fourth.
UTSA started the rally after turning a fumble that was forced by De’Marco Guidry and recovered by Trevor Harmanson at the 40-yard line into points. Harris had a 15-yard run that helped set up a 29-yard touchdown pass to Franklin. The Cedar Hill High School product’s seventh TD catch of the season helped pull the Roadrunners back to within 10.
The Harris-to-Franklin connection worked again on the Roadrunners’ next possession, as the two hooked up for a 52-yard pass play that helped set up a 10-yard TD pass from Harris to Joshua Cephus, which pulled the sophomore into a tie atop the program’s single-season receptions list. Hunter Duplessis’ PAT made it 24-21 with 4:09 left in the third.
Duplessis split the uprights from 20 yards early in the fourth to knot the score at 24-all. The senior’s 17th field goal of the year capped a nine-play, 82-yard march that was keyed by a 29-yard run from McCormick that put the sophomore from Converse Judson over the century mark for the seventh time this season and 10th for his career.
Louisiana reclaimed the lead midway through the final frame on a 1-yard TD plunge by Trey Ragas. The PAT made it 31-24 with 7:16 left to play.
UTSA made its way into Louisiana territory once again but facing a 4th-and-7 at the 35 with 4:40 left, an incomplete pass turned it over on downs.
From there, the Ragin’ Cajuns gained three first downs to help run out the clock and secure the win in the first meeting between the two teams.
Ragas rushed for 98 yards to help Louisiana tally 265 yards on the ground, while Levi Lewis completed 12 of 22 passes for 146 yards and a pair of TDs.
McCormick became the program’s all-time leading rusher in the second quarter, moving past Williams’ previous standard of 2,393, and he now has 2,450 yards in only 23 games as a Roadrunner. His 1,467 yards in 11 games this season better the previous mark of 1,042 — also set by Williams — by 425 yards in one less game.
Rashad Wisdom paced the UTSA defense with 13 tackles, while Tyler Mahnke and Antonio Parks recorded eight stops apiece.
Louisiana took a 7-0 lead after Lewis hit Jalen Williams on a 15-yard touchdown pass to cap an opening drive that covered 68 yards in eight plays.
The Ragin’ Cajuns threatened to take a 10-0 lead later in the opening frame but UTSA sniffed out a fake field-goal attempt and Harmanson — who finished with five tackles — broke up a pass in the end zone to turn the ball over on downs.
The Roadrunners had a chance to get on the board early in the second quarter, driving 62 yards on 13 plays and chewing 6:31 off the clock, but a 42-yard field-goal attempt by Duplessis sailed wide right.
Louisiana did eventually take a 10-0 lead midway when Kenneth Almenda drilled a 31-yard field goal with 8:27 left until halftime.
Harris capped the ensuing UTSA possession with an 11-yard quarterback keeper into the end zone. Harris had 40 yards on the ground to key the scoring drive, which went 75 yards on nine plays, and Duplessis’ extra point made it 10-7 with 4:33 left in the second frame.
The Ragin’ Cajuns pushed their lead back to 10 right before halftime after Lewis found Kyren Lacy on a 10-yard TD pass.
Louisiana took advantage of a Roadrunners fumble deep on their own territory on the second play from scrimmage of the second half, and Mitchell plunged into the end zone from three yards to help put the Ragin’ Cajuns up 24-7 before UTSA’s rally.