by JASON GORDON
UTSA made a statement Saturday in the first gridiron matchup in history between its I-35 rival.
The Roadrunners jumped out to an early lead and never looked back in a 38-31 win over Texas State in front of nearly 40,000 fans in the Alamodome.
“It’s an exciting win for our program,” said Larry Coker, who previously coached the University of Miami to a national title. “I told our players that sometimes you play your whole career and don’t get to play in an electric atmosphere like the one today.”
Texas State head coach Dennis Franchione said his Bobcats just couldn’t keep up with UTSA in a hard-fought battle.
“I thought (UTSA) played a heck of a game,” Franchione said. “They ran the ball and threw the ball well. Offensively, we just couldn’t quite keep up with them.”
The first quarter was an offensive explosion with 24 total points coming in the first 15 minutes. The Bobcats’ biggest play was a 57-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Rutherford to Isaiah Battle.
Despite the long touchdown pass, Kenny Harrison’s 79-yard punt return for a score and Cole Hubble’s 29-yard TD pass from Eric Soza staked UTSA to a 17-7 lead after the wild first quarter ended.
Late in the second quarter, Rutherford’s 17-yard run set up his 2-yard touchdown dive to make it 17-14, but the Roadrunners came right back and took a 24-14 lead into the locker room when Kenny Bias snared a 5-yard TD pass from Soza with 29 seconds left in the second quarter.
After a Rutherford fumble helped the Roadrunners take a 31-14 lead to begin the third quarter on Soza’s 2-yard run, the Texas State defense helped keep the Bobcats in the game.
Bobcat defensive end Jaimie Clavell-Head picked off his second pass of the season and took the ball to the 39-yard line of UTSA. Will Johnson connected on a 23-yard field goal on the ensuing drive to make it 31-17 with just under five minutes to play in the third quarter.
On the Roadrunners’ next drive, Darryl Morris intercepted a Soza overthrow and returned it to the UTSA 49-yard line. Rutherford then drove the Bobcats down inside the 10-yard line and Terrence Franks scored on a 6-yard run to cut the gap to 31-24.
Down 38-24 in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Texas State made one final run, as Brandon Smith grabbed a 15-yard touchdown pass from Rutherford with 1:40 remaining in the game but UTSA recovered the ensuing onside kick and was able to run all but the final 35 seconds of the clock off from there.
The loss was the fifth in a row for the Bobcats (3-8, 1-4 Western Athletic Conference). UTSA improved to 8-4 overall and 3-3 in the WAC.
Next up for the Bobcats will be New Mexico State on Saturday. It will mark the final game of the first season in the Football Bowl Subdivision for Texas State and the final game in the WAC. The Bobcats will join the Sun Belt Conference next season.
Kickoff Saturday against New Mexico State at Bobcat Stadium is scheduled for 3 p.m.