‘Runners roll in Ruston: No. 23 UTSA picks up first win as ranked team on 45-16 rout over LA Tech


Seva Hester

Ken Robinson celebrates after making a play during a game against UNLV earlier this season. The sophomore from Grand Prairie, TX has followed a freshman season where he was a C-USA All-Freshmen Team with an even better one this year, registering 18 tackles for loss and four passes defended so far this season.

Ryder Martin, Sports Editor

The No. 23 UTSA Roadrunners (8-0, 4-0 C-USA) were on the road this week against the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (2-5, 1-2 C-USA). The ‘Runners were playing in their first ever game as a ranked opponent. With a heady first national ranking, the news that UTSA was switching conferences to the American Athletic Conference and the fact that they had never won on the road in Ruston, LA, the game had all the makings of a classic trap game. To the ‘Runners credit, however, they kept the level head that has seen them orchestrate this momentous start. After a shaky first quarter, the ‘Runners pulled away off the back of a school-record tying six sacks and their fifth defensive touchdown for the season, sealed a dominant 45-16 victory.

LA Tech got the ball to start the game and their offense was rapidly in rhythm. Quickly crossing midfield, Bulldog quarterback Austin Kendall found receiver Smoke Harris on a short crossing route. Harris then made multiple ‘Runner defenders miss and took it to the house for a 47-yard touchdown and an early 7-0 lead. UTSA immediately responded on their first drive of the game. On the second play of the drive, Frank Harris faked a handoff to Sincere McCormick and launched a ball deep down the right sideline that found a wide open Zakhari Franklin, who strode into the end zone for a 75-yard receiving touchdown. After both defenses regained their composure and forced punts on each team’s next two possessions, the LA Tech offense was on the move again. Another long S. Harris reception pushed the Bulldogs into the red zone, but the defense held and forced a 35 yard LA Tech field goal, for a 10-7 Bulldog lead. 

The UTSA offense immediately began a slow and deliberate drive down the field. Early in the second quarter, Joshua Cephus drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone that set the ball up on the two yard line. McCormick punched it in on the very next play, and UTSA took a 14-10 lead that they would never relinquish. LA Tech quickly drove down the field to attempt to respond, but on third down deep in UTSA territory, Kendall was sacked and UTSA forced LA Tech to attempt a 46-yard field goal. Bulldogs kicker Jacob Barnes pushed the attempt wide and the ‘Runners took over in great field position. With an opportunity to seize the momentum heading into halftime, the ‘Runners answered the call. F. Harris engineered a fantastic clock chewing drive and helped by another drawn pass interference penalty by Cephus. F. Harris found Franklin on a 10-yard slant route for the second touchdown of the night for both men. UTSA entered halftime up 21-10. 

The second half started off in a very sloppy way for UTSA, as a muffed kickoff set them up in horrible field position and the offense went three and out, gifting LA Tech with excellent field position at their 44-yard line. With momentum in danger of shifting once again, the UTSA defense came up with another key play. On third and five, Kendall dropped back and threw an out route to try and pick up the first. UTSA linebacker Dadrian Taylor read the route perfectly and jumped the pass, picking it off in stride and taking it for six, to extend the lead to 28-10 and give UTSA their fifth defensive touchdown of the year, tied for the best mark in the nation with Ohio State. On the ensuing drive, the UTSA defense began to tee off on Kendall, sacking him three times and eventually forcing another LA Tech punt. The UTSA offense appeared destined to drive right down the field for another touchdown, but the offense stalled out at midfield and punted. The ‘Runner defense forced another stop at midfield and handed the ball back to the offense in short order. 

Early in the fourth quarter with the ball at midfield, McCormick put the game away. McCormick found a hole in the right side of the line and broke into the open field. With the secondary closing around him McCormick turned on the jets and accelerated away from everyone, sprinting into the end zone for a 47-yard touchdown run and a 35-10 lead. The ensuing kickoff provided the exclamation point for the ‘Runners. LA Tech, desperate to pull off a miracle, tried to return the kickoff, and were summarily stripped for a fumble. UTSA fell on the loose ball and took back over on the Louisiana Tech 21. F. Harris then ripped off a fantastic physical run, being stopped just one-inch short of the goal line. McCormick ran the ball in for his third touchdown of the game on the next play to give UTSA a 42-10 lead. 

With the game well in hand, UTSA was content to just limit the big play, as they let LA Tech drive down the field. Eventually Kendall threw a 21-yard touchdown pass, but a missed two-point conversion kept it a four-possession game at 42-16. With backup quarterback Josh Adkins in the game, UTSA relied on the run game midway through the fourth. The ‘Runners handed the ball off to B.J. Daniels on six straight plays and managed to drive into field goal range. The 38-yard field goal attempt from Hunter Duplessis was good, and UTSA extended the lead to 45-16. With the game over in every way except on the game clock, LA Tech attempted to move down the field quickly for a late score to make the beatdown a little more palatable for the homecoming crowd but still were denied. Backup quarterback Aaron Allen took a shot at the end zone to end the game, but UTSA safety Jarrett Preston made a beautiful diving interception as time expired to put an exclamation point on the victory. 

Continuing his strong play this season, F. Harris turned in another great performance, completing 63.1% of his passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. McCormick surpassed 100 yards on the ground for the sixth time this season and scored three times. Franklin appeared fully healthy for the first time in weeks and picked up where he left off earlier in the season, catching five passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. Franklin also became UTSA’s all-time leader in receptions during the game. 

In Conference USA related news, the UAB Blazers (5-3, 3-1 C-USA), UTSA’s premier competition for the Conference USA’s West division this season, suffered a surprise loss at home 24-30 against Rice (3-4, 2-1 C-USA). The loss by the Blazers left UTSA alone in first place in the West division. UTSA will be on bye this week and will be back in action on Saturday, Nov. 6, in El Paso, TX, to take on the UTEP Miners (6-1, 3-0 C-USA). The game is scheduled for kickoff at 9:15 p.m. local time. The game will be available to watch on ESPN2.