When the UTSA Roadrunners have taken the field in the past four seasons, one thing is almost a guarantee. No. 0 is suiting up to play quarterback.
Frank Harris, who dons that signature number, has risen to status as a program icon during his seven years at UTSA. When Harris first graced the campus in 2017, the Roadrunner program was launching its sixth season of FBS membership and seventh season of fielding football overall.
But with Harris at quarterback, the Roadrunners have continued to push the envelope of what the program is capable of. UTSA is fresh off back-to-back Conference USA titles, piecing together an aggregate 23-5 record in 2021 and 2022 — infiltrating the AP Poll on numerous occasions. Harris is a two-time all-conference selection and claimed CUSA MVP honors in 2022, but on Friday night, the Roadrunners did not enjoy the luxury of the quarterback’s talents.
Harris, dealing with a toe injury, was in a walking boot during warm-ups — ruled out of a home non-conference matchup versus Army. The star quarterback’s rare absence created a vacancy in the lineup for redshirt sophomore Eddie Lee Marbuger’s first collegiate start. It snapped UTSA’s streak of 36 consecutive games featuring Harris as the starting quarterback.
While the Roadrunners were victims of a 37-29 at the Alamodome, Marburger pieced together a respectable starting debut. He completed 17-of-25 passes for 239 yards, firing three touchdowns without committing a single turnover.
“I was very proud of the kid,” head coach Jeff Traylor said. “He stepped up and played his tail off. Eddie Lee Marburger wasn’t the reason we lost the ball game, I promise you that.”
It wasn’t the fastest start for Marburger, but the quarterback settled into the game after a momentum-swinging play to conclude the first half. Positioned 46 yards away from the end zone and trailing 20-7 in the waning seconds of the second quarter, the sophomore flung the pigskin toward the end zone. Wide receiver Tykee Ogle-Kellogg leapt out of a pile to snag the ball and he crossed the goal line for an unlikely UTSA touchdown.
From that point onward, Marburger looked like a poised veteran Friday night.
“I feel like that brought Eddie confidence, it gave us momentum,” wide receiver Joshua Cephus said. “Tykee made a great play, and I think it gave him more confidence throughout the game as well.”
In the second half, Marburger helped the offense strike from long-distance on two additional occasions, and he finished with three passing touchdowns exceeding 40 yards. He sent a screen toward Cephus in the third quarter, and the longtime UTSA wideout sprinted upfield for a 44-yard touchdown. Then in the fourth quarter, Marburger unleashed his cannon arm for a 72-yard bomb to wide receiver Devin McCuin. He connected on a 2-point conversion pass seconds later, slicing a 16-point deficit to one-score in the snap of a finger.
“I saw great confidence,” Cephus said. “Throughout these last couple weeks, fall camp, he just sits back, pays attention to Frank, takes all the mental reps. Whatever read Frank is making, he’s going through as well. So I think that showed tonight.”
Marburger has been with the program since 2021. The quarterback made two appearances in 2021, six in 2022, and checked in toward the tail-end of Week 2’s 20-13 victory over Texas State. Working alongside Harris over the years, he has absorbed plenty of information and honed his skillset, staying ready in case an opportunity ever arose.
“Eddie puts in a lot of work,” strong safety Rashad Wisdom said. “There’s times I’ll come up there during the summer, he’s out with his dad, and they’re hanging up tires on the goal posts. Literally Eddie’s dad has three baskets full of footballs, and he’s just out there throwing, throwing, throwing. He was ready for this moment, and he made the most out of it, for sure. He had a great game.”
Marburger may be days away from recording start No. 2, as UTSA concludes its non-conference slate Saturday in one of the nation’s largest stadiums. The Roadrunners trek to SEC country to battle Tennessee, hoping to stun the Volunteers in front of 100,000 fans decked in bright orange. Regardless of who lines up under center, UTSA plans to rally around the quarterback in Knoxville to pull off the upset.
“Whether it’s Frank, Eddie, or Owen (McCown), we’re rolling with those guys, and each one of them is ready to step up when their time is called,” Wisdom said. “We’ve got some depth in that QB room for sure, but Eddie played a great game.”
As far as Harris’ status, Traylor hinted that the star quarterback might return for UTSA’s first-ever AAC matchup against Temple on Oct. 7, as opposed to next Saturday’s game at Tennessee.
“No doubt,” Traylor said, when asked if conference play vs. non-conference play factors into Harris’ timetable for return. “We’ve got Tennessee next week. We got an open week the next week. When we go to Temple, we’re going to be 0-0, and America is going to write us off because we’re not a very good football team right now. So we’ll be a pissed off, healthy football team when we go to Philadelphia, we hope.”