UTSA and UIW are only separated by about 18 miles of city highway. Rooted in San Antonio’s north side, both schools just recently established Division I football over the last decade; UIW launching in 2009 and UTSA in 2011. Locales have always thrown around a “what if” potential matchup, and on Saturday the city finally got to see the siblings square off against one another.
Unfortunately for UIW, the caliber difference from FCS to FBS proved true as UTSA’s young offense cruised to a comfortable win behind the special talent that is redshirt sophomore quarterback Frank Harris. In his first start at the helm, Harris quite literally did it all with 206 yards through the air on 28 for 36 passing and three touchdowns, while also earning 123 yards on the ground as the team’s leading rusher. That mark earned him a new record at UTSA for rushing yards by a quarterback.
It was Harris’ first live-game action since 2016 when he was a senior at Clemens HS. UTSA stuck with him through two ACL tears since then and he appears to be worth every bit of the waiting. It’s also worth noting that two of his incompletions were dropped touchdown passes from well over 25 yards out.
From escapability and speed out of the pocket to remarkable arm strength and accuracy, Harris was a one-man wrecking crew to UIW’s defense. On top of his talent, he showed impressive poise for his youth. The Roadrunners may have finally found their answer at quarterback.
Yeah, Frank's fun. #BirdsUp pic.twitter.com/EaUN9ftWWr— UTSA Football (@UTSAFTBL) September 1, 2019
The first half was busy with action. After holding UTSA to a three-and-out on the game-opening possession, UIW was feeling some momentum. Perhaps too much, as a daring decision to fake a punt on fourth and ten in their own territory proved to be just as foolish as it sounds. The dice roll cost the Cardinals as UTSA took over on downs at the 40 and Harris hit tight end Carlos Strickland for a 16-yard touchdown pass only five plays later. UIW answered with their own three-and-out and ended up not converting a single third down the entire game (10 attempts).
The Roadrunners were then able to orchestrate two elongated touchdown drives; one 14-play, 78-yard and another 10-play, 65-yard for a form of offensive output rather foreign to UTSA fans as of late.
These drives gave a glimpse of UTSA’s highly faceted run attack. Aside from Harris’ scrambling, UTSA also pushes three serious weapons at tailback between true freshman Sincere McCormick, sophomore Brenden Brady and junior BJ Daniels. The trio combined for 144 yards of their own between 25 total carries. McCormick brings a next level speed to the unit and Daniels provides more brute force, while Brady brings in a very cerebral, sound attack. Brady and McCormick also led the team in catches with five apiece, most coming out of the backfield on designed screens.
He Sincerely has a different gear. #BirdsUp pic.twitter.com/T0el0ni5El— UTSA Football (@UTSAFTBL) September 1, 2019
Between those drives was UIW’s sole score: a combination of completions from quarterback Jon Copeland for 45 yards and then 11 yards for the touchdown which irked quite a loud celebration from the UIW consensus filling out the Alamodome. At 14-7 it was a one possession game and any pre-existing woes about UTSA’s secondary were quickly worrying Roadrunner fans. UIW ended the first half on an interception and was to have possession coming out of halftime. It was still anyone’s game.
UIW did a great job upfront against UTSA. The Roadrunners weren’t getting the push at the line of scrimmage that one would expect, especially on offense. A big part of Harris’ 123 rushing yards was the Cardinals forcing him to run out of a collapsing pocket. It was more UIW’s offensive inability to help their defense out. On top of not converting a single third down, Copeland was sacked four times and UTSA amassed another seven tackles for loss.
A fairly balanced defensive share was led by junior defensive end Lorenzo Dantzler’s two sacks and four total tackles. Junior safety Savion Harris, cousin of quarterback Frank Harris, also had four tackles and helped secure the win with an interception following UTSA’s turnover on downs in the second half. The Roadrunners opted to go for it on fourth and four at the 22 yard line with 28-7 lead rather than attempting a field goal. It’s not certain but that could symbolize a lack of confidence in the placekicking game from the coaching staff.
If Roadrunner fans need some perspective for how big of an offensive turnaround this was, take this into consideration: 490 total yards versus a season-high of 400 last year, five total touchdowns versus a season-high of three last year, 123 rushing yards from Harris versus not a single 100-yard individual rushing performance last year. Sure, it was against FCS competition, but an ept offense nonetheless.
Sure, that output will take a step back as UTSA goes on the road to Baylor next week, but this young core of skill players could be one that puts C-USA on notice.