Date: Saturday, November 27, 2021
Time: 1:00 PM (CT)
Location: Apogee Stadium; Denton, Texas
Radio: (UTSA) Ticket 760 AM
(UNT) KHYI 93.5 FM; KGAF 1580 AM; KNTU 88.1 FM
Providers: (UTSA) iHeartRadio
UTSA (11-0), Conference USA. Last game: win over UAB 34-31
UNT (5-6), Conference USA. Last game: win over FIU 49-7
Series is tied (4-4)
When UTSA joined CUSA in 2013 the Roadrunners had little history and no major rival besides Texas State—a non-football rival built from UTSA’s time in the Southland Conference. The Roadrunners needed a football rival, one that would bring out the competitive spirit in both teams, from the players to the fanbase.
Enter the North Texas Mean Green from Denton. UNT was in the midst of a resurgent 2013 season and on the cusp of winning the CUSA West title that year. They were on a five-game winning streak and had beaten Rice two weeks prior, who would go on to win the CUSA title. And on the second to last week of the season they met the Roadrunners in Denton on a cold and chilly November afternoon with serious momentum on their side.
What happened next created an instant conference rivalry. UTSA walked out of Denton with a 21-13 victory and ended UNT’s comeback attempt with an endzone interception. The loss knocked UNT out of the CUSA championship game and the program never recovered under head coach Dan McCarney, posting back-to-back losing seasons before the Mean Green hired head coach Seth Littrell.
UNT would repay the favor in 2017. Hosting the Roadrunners again in Denton, North Texas saw itself facing another loss to UTSA and a possible series record of 1-4. Then, with less than a minute remaining the Mean Green drove the length of the football field and quarterback Mason Fine found an open wide receiver in the end zone to complete a 29-26 “upset” win. The victory not only helped propel UNT to the CUSA title game but it seemed to completely derail UTSA. Before the loss UTSA had a 9-8 record under head coach Frank Wilson. The Roadrunners would go 10-21 through the rest of Wilson’s tenure behind a sluggish offense, and would not beat North Texas again.
Regardless of these teams’ overall record, come Saturday none of it will matter. When these teams meet nearly all statistical predictions become irrelevant. This is a rivalry in the purest sense of the word and each player treats the game accordingly. UTSA is having a transcendent 2021 season and has overcome every obstacle in its path so far, but if there is a team that would upset UTSA regardless of the talent level it would be UNT.
The Roadrunners are coming off their best win (again) in 2021. Each and every “best win” UTSA has had this season deserves to be recognized as a statement win in program history but nothing will likely top UTSA’s last-second home win last week against the defending CUSA champion UAB Blazers. With the win UTSA locked up the CUSA West title and kept its perfect season alive. Talent wise UAB was the last team to challenge UTSA in every facet of the game, and overcoming the Blazers is a testament to the culture instilled by head coach Jeff Traylor.
Quarterback Frank Harris continues to lead a strong UTSA offense. His dynamic playmaking with both his legs and arm has helped lead the Roadrunners when all-conference running back Sincere McCormick is held in check by an opposing defense. Harris has not seemed as crisp or effective the past two weeks but even when it appears he plays a sub-par game the Roadrunners continue to win. He still threw for over 300 yards and accounted for 3 touchdowns without a turnover last week.
But critically, Harris has always stepped up in hostile road environments. He was key to UTSA’s wins over Illinois, Memphis, and Western Kentucky. Harris should continue that stellar play in Denton and will need to do so to match what will likely be an intense and hard-hitting UNT defense.
In fact, expect Harris to be the primary focus of UTSA’s offense. Last season the Roadrunners ran McCormick straight through UNT’s defense. He accounted for a career-best 251 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries in a game where the entire offense amassed 624 total yards. The Mean Green know how dangerous McCormick can be and will probably focus their attention on stopping the running game. Harris will be called upon to ensure UTSA’s offense does not become stagnant.
Ultimately, there is little UTSA hasn’t done to deserve its national ranking. The offense is hard to stop and the defense continuously makes plays when it counts. The Roadrunners seem to find a way to win regardless of what happens during a game and it is hard to bet against Traylor having this team prepared on Saturday.
But that won’t stop North Texas from trying. The Mean Green started off the 2021 season 1-6, with the only win coming over FCS opponent Northwestern State in week 1. They were typically blown out and the closest loss was against Louisiana Tech by seven points.
Since then, UNT has won four games straight, with its last win an absolute decimation of eastern conference opponent FIU on the road, 49-7. The Mean Green have settled on their quarterback—sophomore quarterback Austin Aune—and have seemed to turn a corner on defense, holding teams to 24 points or less. Aune has thrown for over 200 yards in his last three games and only need six attempts to reach the 200-yard threshold against FIU. None of UNT’s wide receivers have reached the 1000-yard threshold on the season but Roderic Burns is the man to watch. He accumulated 106 yards on 3 receptions against FIU and nearly had another 100-yard game the week prior. Meanwhile, running back Deandre Torrey, who has amassed 1,106 yards for the season, continues to pace the Mean Green’s running game.
UNT needs this win to be bowl eligible. Expect the Mean Green to play harder than they have all season. With the season on the line and a hated conference opponent coming to Denton the Mean Green should bring out every possible gameplay they have to win. UTSA showed it can be vulnerable to an unexpected offensive game plan when the Roadrunners faced Southern Miss. North Texas will likely look to replicate that success.
Even so, this Roadrunners team is playing on a completely different level this season. They need one more win to complete the elusive perfect season and know that North Texas needs the win to be bowl eligible. UTSA rarely plays unprepared and have yet to play an entire game below their capabilities. No matter what has been thrown at them, the Roadrunners win. North Texas is just not the team to stop that trend this year.
UTSA 35, UNT 24