UTSA Prepares For Southern Miss

Photo: Jeff Huehn/UTSA Athletics

UTSA looks to continue its record-setting streak against Southern Miss on Saturday. The Roadrunners will be hosting the Golden Eagles for “Orange Out” in the first of back-to-back home games at Alamodome.

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• UTSA is nationally ranked for the fourth straight week, appearing at No. 15in the AP Top 25 and No. 16 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll.

• The Roadrunners are 9-0 for the first time in school history, also a school record for wins in a season.

• UTSA is riding a program-record nine-game winning streak, tied with Cincinnati for the third-longest active streak in the FBS.

• The Roadrunners have won seven straight home games — a school record — and are 9-1 at the Alamodome under head coach Jeff Traylor.

• UTSA has won eight consecutive conference games, the best stretch in program history.

• UTSA is one of only four undefeated FBS teams along with Cincinnati, Georgia and Oklahoma.

• Jeff Traylor is 16-5 at the helm of the Roadrunners, the best 21-game start for a UTSA coach.

• UTSA has won 12 of its last 13 contests dating back to last season.

• Saturday will mark the eighth meeting between UTSA and Southern Miss.

Setting the scene:

Riding a program-record nine-game winning streak, No. 15/16 UTSA (9-0, 5-0) will host Southern Miss (1-8, 0-5) on Saturday, Nov. 13, for “Orange Out.” Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Alamodome and the game will air on ESPN+ and Ticket 760 AM. The Roadrunners are one of four undefeated FBS teams, along with Georgia, Cincinnati and Oklahoma, and they have won a school-record seven straight home games and a program-best eight consecutive league contests.

UTSA off to record start:

The Roadrunners have stormed out to the best overall (9-0) and conference (5-0) starts in program history and currently are riding a school-record nine-game winning streak, tied with Cincinnati for the third-longest active streak in the FBS. UTSA has broken the program record for wins in a season with nine following the 44-23 road win over UTEP. The Roadrunners join Cincinnati, Georgia and Oklahoma as the only undefeated FBS teams, and they have been victorious in a program-best eight consecutive league contests. The Roadrunners have won 12 of their last 13 contests dating back to last season with the only loss a 31-24 setback to No. 16 Louisiana in the First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26, 2020, in Dallas. The previous best overall start to a season before the first loss came when the 2012 team started 5-0, while the best start to a conference schedule was 2-0 in 2018.

Roadrunners continue climb in national rankings:

UTSA continues to move up in the national rankings, appearing at No. 15 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 16 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll this week. The Roadrunners received 606 votes to jump one spot to No. 15 — their highest ranking ever — in this week’s AP Top 25. UTSA first cracked the AP Top 25 at No. 24 three weeks ago before moving up one position after the 45-16 win at Louisiana Tech and then to 16th on Oct. 31. This also marks the seventh consecutive week and eighth time overall UTSA has received votes in the poll. On Sept. 20, 2020, UTSA collected two votes in the AP Top 25 Poll, a first for the program. The Roadrunners received 525 votes this week to move from No. 18 to 16th in the UTSA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll. UTSA made its first appearance in the top 25 in program annals at No. 25 on Oct. 17 and this marks the ninth straight week the Roadrunners have collected votes in that poll. The Roadrunners were bumped up one spot to No. 15 in this week’s Football Writers Association of America/National Football Foundation Super 16 Poll.

Remember November:

UTSA won all three games in the month of November last season in the debut campaign for head coach Jeff Traylor and is off to a 1-0 start this year following Saturday’s 44-23 road triumph over UTEP. The Roadrunners rolled past UTEP 52-21, outlasted Southern Miss 23-20 on the road and scored a 49-17 triumph over North Texas a year ago this month. UTSA is 20-19 all-time in games played in the 11th month of the calendar year.

Home Sweet Dome:

UTSA has won a school-record seven straight home games dating back to last season’s 27-26 comeback win over Louisiana Tech on Oct. 24. In fact, the Roadrunners reeled off three straight victories at the Alamodome last year to close out Jeff Traylor’s debut campaign and they have come out on top in the first four home contests this fall. UTSA is 35-28 all-time in home games, including 9-1 under Traylor.

UTSA rolls past UTEP:

Sincere McCormick rushed for 169 yards and Zakhari Franklin racked up 114 receiving yards and two touchdown catches to help lead No. 16 UTSA to a 44-23 victory over UTEP in Conference USA action on Saturday night in front of 31,658 fans at the Sun Bowl. McCormick logged his seventh 100-yard performance of the season, tying his own school standard, and UTSA-record 17th of his career on 21 carries, surpassing the 1,000-yard barrier for the second straight season in the process (1,060). The Converse Judson High School product also had a touchdown on the ground and caught a pair of passes for 20 yards. Franklin did his damage through the air, catching 10 passes en route to his fourth 100-yard output of the season, matching his own UTSA record and extending his career mark to nine. Frank Harris directed the offense to its fourth straight game of scoring 40 or more points. The Schertz Clemens High School graduate completed 22 of 34 passes for 286 yards and two touchdowns and he also ran for 76 yards and a pair of scores, helping UTSA tally 562 yards of offense, including a season-best 276 rushing. Rashad Wisdom paced the defense with 10 tackles, including eight solo stops, to go with a pass breakup. Antonio Parks posted a pair of PBUs and three tackles, while Trumane Bell II, Brandon Brown, Jaylon Haynes, Denzel Feaster and Charles Wiley recorded a tackle for loss apiece.

Scouting Southern Miss:

The Golden Eagles fell to 1-8 overall and 0-5 in Conference USA with a 38-14 home setback to North Texas last Saturday. Southern Miss is averaging 13.7 points and 252.0 yards of offense per game while yielding 30.2 points and 367.8 yards per contest. Frank Gore Jr. leads the offense with 608 yards and a touchdown on 142 rushes, while Jason Brownlee is the top receiver with 33 catches for 427 yards and four TDs. Southern Miss has played multiple quarterbacks this season led by Jake Lange, who is 70 of 137 for 843 yards and five touchdowns. Malik Shorts paces the defense with 76 tackles and two interceptions, while Josh Carr has posted a team-high 4.5 sacks. Head coach Will Hall is in his first season at the helm.

Series history:

Saturday will mark the eighth meeting between UTSA and Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles hold a 4-3 edge in the all-time series, which is tied at 2-2 in games played at the Alamodome. The Roadrunners scored a 23-20 road win in the last meeting on Nov. 21, 2020, in Hattiesburg.

UTSA/Southern Miss Series History

Date                Location                                        Score

11/13/14       San Antonio                          W, 12-10

10/17/15       Hattiesburg                             L, 10-32

10/8/16          San Antonio                          W, 55-32

10/7/17          San Antonio                             L, 29-31

10/20/18       Hattiesburg                             L, 17-27

11/16/19       San Antonio                             L, 17-36

11/21/20       Hattiesburg                           W, 23-20

Who’s counting?

Now in their 11th season of play, the Roadrunners will play the 128th game in program history on Saturday when they face Southern Miss at the Alamodome. UTSA is 61-66 all time and 35-28 in home games. By comparison, Southern Miss has been playing football since 1912 and is 602-439-27 all-time.

Celebrating 10th anniversary:

This fall, UTSA is celebrating the 10th anniversary of its inaugural 2011 season. The Roadrunners started their football program from scratch and, following a practice year in 2010, played their first season as an FCS Independent in 2011 before joining the Western Athletic Conference for the 2012 campaign. UTSA moved into its current league home — Conference USA — in 2013 and became a full-fledged FBS member starting with the 2014 season. The Roadrunners set NCAA modern startup program records in 2011 by drawing 56,743 fans to their inaugural game against Northeastern State and by averaging 35,521 fans for their six home contests that season. UTSA made its first postseason appearance at the 2016 New Mexico Bowl in its sixth season of play and registered its first win against a team from a Power 5 conference the following season with a 17-10 victory over Baylor. UTSA now has posted at least six wins in six of the 11 seasons in program history and it has reached the seven-win plateau four times, including in both years of the Jeff Traylor era. This year’s squad has surpassed the 2012 team by winning a program-record nine games, while the Roadrunners finished with seven victories in 2013 and 2020.

Traylor building on first-year success:

Second-year UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor, a member of the Paul “Bear” Bryant Awards Coach of the Year watch list, made history in several ways in his first season at the helm in 2020, and his second campaign is off to a resounding start. The Roadrunners opened the season with the program’s second triumph over a team from a Power Five conference in the 37-30 road win over Illinois and then posted a 54-0 rout of Lamar, the program’s first shutout and largest margin of victory. He became the first coach in program history to post back-to-back 3-0 starts after the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 18. One week later, Traylor guided the Roadrunners to the largest comeback win in school history, as UTSA overcame a 21-0 deficit for a 31-28 road triumph over Memphis. UTSA matched the best start in program history by running their record to 5-0 following the 24-17 win against UNLV and then improved to 6-0 for the first time in school annals following the 52-46 road win over WKU. The Roadrunners logged their second shutout of the season with the 45-0 rout of Rice before winning for the first time in Ruston with a 45-16 triumph over Louisiana Tech. UTSA broke the school record for wins in a season following the 44-23 road win over UTEP, improving to 9-0 overall and 5-0 in Conference USA play, both program best starts. Last fall, he became the first head coach in program annals to win his first three games and to notch seven victories in his debut season. Traylor boasts more than 30 years of coaching experience, including a highly successful 15-year career as head coach at Gilmer High School, where he led his hometown Buckeyes to three state championships and two state runner-up finishes and posted a 175-26 (.871) record. Named the third head coach in UTSA history on Dec. 9, 2019, Traylor previously was the associate head coach and running backs coach at Arkansas (2018-19) and SMU (2017) after two seasons at Texas serving as associate head coach for the offense and receivers coach in 2016 and special teams coordinator and tight ends coach in 2015. On Oct. 31, Traylor agreed to a contract extension that will keep him in San Antonio through 2031.

Harris named Davey O’Brien semifinalist:

UTSA quarterback Frank Harris on Tuesday was named one of 20 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. The senior from Schertz Clemens High School has completed 173 of 254 passes for 2,079 yards and 18 touchdowns against only three interceptions and also has rushed for 346 yards and four TDs on 64 carries, giving him 2,425 yards of total offense and 22 total scores.

High-scoring Roadrunners:

UTSA has emerged as one of the highest-scoring teams in the nation this season, ranking second in Conference USA and ninth in the FBS at 39.9 points per game. The Roadrunners have topped the 30-point barrier in seven games and have surpassed 50 points twice this fall, including in the 52-46 shootout win at WKU on Oct. 9. UTSA has scored 40-plus points in each of the last four contests — a program record — and is averaging 46.5 points over that stretch. With 359 points scored through nine games, the Roadrunners are 20 points shy of the program’s single-season record of 379 points scored in 13 contests in 2016, and they have their sights set on taking down the points-per-game standard of 31.2 established in 12 games in 2012.

Scoring in unconventional ways:

While UTSA might be averaging 39.9 points per game, not all of the scoring has come from the offense. The Roadrunners have found ways to reach the end zone in the other two phases of the game, as well. UTSA ranks third in the FBS behind Nevada and Ohio State with five defensive touchdowns — three interception returns and a pair of fumble returns — to go with one special teams TD this year. The Roadrunners are one of 10 FBS teams to have scored in all three phases in a single game this season. Additionally, UTSA has broken the school record with three interception return touchdowns this season, all of which occurred in back-to-back games in October.

Limiting penalties:

UTSA ranks as one of the least-penalized teams in the nation through eight games this season. The Roadrunners have committed only 39 penalties for 401 yards, league-best figures that stand 10th and 28th nationally, respectively. UTSA’s averages of 4.33 penalties and 44.56 penalty yards per game also lead Conference USA and rank 10th and 29th among FBS teams. The program record for fewest penalties committed in a season is 63 set in 10 games in 2011.

Offense doing damage via air and ground:

Under the direction of second-year offensive coordinator Barry Lunney Jr., the Roadrunners have featured an offensive attack that can do damage on the ground and through the air. UTSA opened the 2021 season by piling up 497 yards of offense with 280 passing and 217 rushing in the 37-30 road win over Illinois. In the 54-0 rout of Lamar, a trio of quarterbacks combined to attempt 32 passes, completing 26 for 321 yards, while the Roadrunners rushed 29 times for 106 yards. In the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee, UTSA piled up 277 passing yards on 26-of-45 passing while running 44 times for 175 yards before posting 205 rushing and 194 passing in the 31-28 comeback win at Memphis. The Roadrunners threw for 278 yards and ran for 104 in the 24-17 victory over UNLV and then logged their top offensive yardage total of the season with 564, including a season-high 372 passing yards, in the 52-46 win at WKU. UTSA rushed for 261 as part of a 403-yard output in the 45-0 shutout of Rice on Oct. 16. The Roadrunners have unleashed a balanced attack in each of the last two games, running for 213 yards and throwing for 193 in the 45-16 road win over Louisiana Tech and then tallying a season-high 276 rushing yards and 286 passing yards for a total of 562 in the 44-23 road triumph over UTEP. On the season, UTSA is averaging 260.3 passing yards and 194.3 rushing yards (2nd/C-USA) per outing to rank third in the league and 23rd nationally in total offense (454.7 ypg).

Sincere success:

After enjoying one of the most heralded seasons in program history in 2020, UTSA running back Sincere McCormick is continuing that success in his third year. The Converse Judson High School product started 2021 off on the right foot by piling up 117 yards on 31 carries in the 37-30 road win over Illinois on Sept. 4. He followed that outing with a two-touchdown performance in the 54-0 rout of Lamar, moving him atop the program’s career rushing TD chart. He posted 105 yards on 23 carries in the 27-13 triumph over Middle Tennessee before breaking his own school record with 41 carries for 184 yards and three TDs in the 31-28 comeback win at Memphis, earning him Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award National Player of the Week accolades. He rushed for 89 yards and a TD in the win over UNLV before rushing for 120 on 23 carries in the 52-46 win at WKU. McCormick gashed Rice for 117 yards on 13 totes, including a career-long 81-yard sprint, before posting 113 yards and three scores on 23 rushes in the 45-16 win at Louisiana Tech. McCormick went for 169 yards on 21 carries, including a 75-yard TD dash on the second play from scrimmage, in the 44-23 road win over UTEP for his school record-tying seventh 100-yard game of the season and UTSA-best 17th of his career. He now has topped the 1,000-yard barrier for the second straight season with 1,060 yards (7th/FBS) and 10 scores on 211 rushes this fall. A preseason All-American by five national publications (Athlon Sports, Phil Steele, Sporting News, USA TODAY and Walter Camp), he has been pegged as the C-USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year and the Best Running Back in the state of Texas by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football. He also appears on preseason watch lists for the Doak Walker, Earl Campbell Tyler Rose, Maxwell and Walter Camp Player of the Year Awards. The honors are nothing new for McCormick, as he earned a long list of accolades in 2020 including being named a second-team All-American by both the Football Writers Association of America and Phil Steele. He was one of five finalists for the Earl Campbell Tyler Rose Award and a semifinalist for the Doak Walker Award after rushing for 1,467 yards and 11 touchdowns on 249 carries, all UTSA records. McCormick was tabbed Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Texas College Player of the Year and an All-Texas College First Team selection, as well as the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team all-conference performer. He led the league and ranked second nationally behind Iowa State’s Breece Hall in rushing yards while posting a conference-best seven 100-yard rushing games.

Rewriting the record book:

With just 32 games as a Roadrunner to his name, Sincere McCormick has rewritten the program’s record book. UTSA’s career rushing leader with 3,510 yards, he currently ranks second among active FBS players in rushes (19.91) and rushing yards (109.7) per game (107.8) and fourth in rushing yards. He owns the best averages for rushing yards per attempt (5.5) and game (109.7) in program annals. His 17 career 100-yard rushing games and 123.1 all-purpose yards per outing also stand at the top of the program’s career chart. McCormick eclipsed David Glasco’s UTSA standard of 20 career rushing TDs with two scores in the 54-0 rout of Lamar on Sept. 11, and he now has 29. He raced past Jarveon Williams’ career rushing attempts mark of 474 earlier this season and now has 637 carries. He also is the program’s all-time leader in points scored by a non-kicker with 180. Last fall, he smashed the school’s single-season standards with 1,467 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs and 249 carries. The 2020 Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year also set single-season marks with seven 100-yard rushing games — which he has tied this fall — and 133.4 rushing yards per contest, and he shattered his own all-purpose mark with 1,598 yards.

QB room loaded with experience:

UTSA is in rare company when it comes to the experience found in the quarterback room. The Roadrunners were one of only 15 teams with three or more QBs who had an FBS start entering the season.Frank Harris has started 23 games under center during his UTSA career and owns a 17-6 record, while Josh Adkins made 20 starts at New Mexico State before transferring to UTSA prior to a 2020 campaign that saw him make one start for the Roadrunners. Lowell Narcisse has earned the starting nod in eight contests over the last three seasons as a Roadrunner.

Overcoming adversity:

Frank Harris has overcome a series of challenging setbacks due to injury over the past half-decade to emerge as one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. A member of watch lists for the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback and Manning Awards, the lefthander has battled back from two knee injuries, including one that knocked him out for the entire 2018 season, and a shoulder injury that ended his 2019 campaign after four games to appear in 24 contests with 23 starts (17-6 record). He opened this season by throwing for 280 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-32 passing, and he also ran for 33 yards and a TD to help UTSA score a 37-30 road victory over Illinois. He followed that by completing 13 of 15 passes for 118 yards in the 54-0 rout of Lamar. Harris passed for 264 yards and a pair of scores and added 56 rushing yards in the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee before hitting on 18-of-28 passes for 186 yards and a TD in the comeback win at Memphis. He completed 80% (24-30) of his passes for 278 yards and two TDs in the 24-17 win over UNLV. Harris turned in arguably his top performance as a Roadrunner in the 52-46 win at WKU, completing 28 of 38 passes for a career-best 349 yards and school-record six touchdowns to earn Manning Award QB of the Week and C-USA Offensive Player of the Week honors. He rushed for 51 yards, giving him the single-game total offense program mark of 400, and he also caught a 23-yard TD pass and forced a fumble on his only interception of the night against the Hilltoppers. After throwing for 318 yards and four TDs and rushing for 106 yards combined in wins over Rice and Louisiana Tech, the Schertz Clemens High School product accounted for 362 yards and four scores in the 44-23 road triumph over UTEP, completing 22 of 34 passes for 286 yards and 2 TDs and rushing for 76 yards and 2 scores. He now has completed 173 of 254 passes for 2,079 yards and 18 touchdowns this fall, and 398 of 595 passes for 4,195 yards and 33 touchdowns as a Roadrunner. He currently owns UTSA career records for completion percentage (.669) and passing efficiency (140.7), while he ranks third in passing yards and TDs.

Targeting this trio:

Joshua Cephus, De’Corian Clark and Zakhari Franklin have teamed up to give UTSA a formidable receiving trio this season, combining for 1,741 yards and 18 touchdowns on 137 receptions through the first nine games. Despite missing the UNLV game, Franklin paces the squad with 686 receiving yards and eight TDs on 55 receptions. Cephus ranks second with 51 catches for 576 yards and five TDs. Clark — whose nickname “J.T.” is short for his middle name, John Thomas — exploded onto the scene in the month of October with 19 of his 31 receptions, 304 of his 479 yards and four of his five scores. Franklin, a Cedar Hill High School product, has become the program’s all-time receiving yardage (1,871), receptions (142) and receiving TDs (18) leader, doing so in just 27 career contests. Cephus, a Houston native who tied the UTSA single-season record with 58 receptions in 2020, now ranks third on the program’s career list with 1,276 yards and fourth with 117 catches. All three receivers were part of UTSA’s 2019 signing class and have seen action in each of the past three seasons.

Making his mark:

UTSA wide receiver Zakhari Franklin is making his mark as one of Conference USA’s top pass-catchers. The third-year wide receiver has registered four 100-yard performances this season and nine for his career, both school records. He opened the 2021 campaign by catching 10 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown in the 37-30 road victory over Illinois and then surpassed the century mark again with 114 yards and a score on eight catches in the 27-13 win versus Middle Tennessee. The Cedar Hill native has topped 100 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns in each of his last two outings, going for 118 yards on five catches in the 45-16 road triumph over Louisiana Tech before catching 10 balls for 114 yards in the 44-23 win at UTEP. Franklin leads the Roadrunners with 55 receptions — three shy of the school record — and 686 receiving yards — just short of his UTSA-best 694 posted in 2020 — and he shares the school standard with eight TD catches this fall, which ranks second in C-USA and 11th nationally. UTSA’s career record-holder for every major receiving category also stands second in the league and 15th in the FBS in receptions per game (6.9) and fifth in the conference and 31st in the country with 85.8 yards per contest.

Experience up front:

UTSA boasts one of the most experienced offensive lines in the country. Entering this season, nine different Roadrunners owned at least two starts, the second-best total in the country behind Minnesota’s 10. Leading the way is the senior trio of Spencer Burford, Kevin Davis and Ahofitu Maka with a combined 106 starts during their UTSA careers. Burford, a San Antonio Wagner graduate and member of the Outland Trophy watch list, has made 38 starts at both guard and tackle. Maka, a Hawaiian who appears on the watch list for the Polynesian College Football Player of the Year, has drawn 32 starts with all but one at center. Those two Roadrunners earned second-team All-Conference USA accolades last fall after helping UTSA set school records for rushing yards (2,585), rushing yards per game (215.4), yards per rush (5.21) and rushing touchdowns (24). Davis a native of Angleton, Texas, has earned 36 career starts, including 14 at center.

Protecting the QB:

UTSA’s experienced offensive line has emerged as one of the best in the nation when it comes to protecting the quarterback. Through nine games, the group has yielded only seven sacks, a conference-best average of 0.84 per game that ranks fourth in the FBS. The Roadrunners have surrendered just one sack in the last five contests while attempting 146 passes over that stretch.

Taking care of the football:

The Roadrunners rank among the best in the nation when it comes to taking care of the football. UTSA has committed only seven turnovers through the first nine contests to lead Conference USA and rank ninth in the FBS in turnovers lost. UTSA has lost four fumbles and thrown only three interceptions, which paces the league and stands sixth in the country. The Roadrunners have been turnover-free in each of the last three games and last turned the ball over in the 52-46 win at WKU on Oct. 9.

Defensive prowess:

Under the direction of co-defensive coordinators Jess Loepp and Rod Wright, UTSA’s defense has emerged as one of the best in the nation in several categories. The Roadrunners are allowing a league-best 84.7 rushing yards per contest to rank third in the nation behind Wisconsin (54.7) and Georgia (80.7). Additionally, UTSA stands third in Conference USA in total defense (338.0 ypg), good for 31st in the FBS. The Roadrunners also have dialed up the pressure throughout the year with 61 tackles for loss and 24 sacks — three shy of the program record — to rank in the top 30 nationally in both categories. In the home opener on Sept. 11, the Roadrunners posted the first shutout in school history in a 54-0 rout of Lamar. UTSA allowed just 122 yards of offense — then a school record — and held the Cardinals to 89 rushing yards and only 33 passing yards. For an encore, the Roadrunners limited Middle Tennessee to 199 yards, including just eight on the ground, which is tied for the third-fewest rushing yards allowed in a game in program annals and the 13th-best performance in the FBS this fall. The Roadrunners surrendered 78 rushing yards in the comeback win at Memphis and yielded only 35 in the 24-17 victory over UNLV, capping a four-game stretch that saw them allow just 210 rushing yards combined. UTSA held Rice to 102 total yards to better the program standard for fewest yards allowed in a game, and they limited the Owls to only 36 yards through the air. The Roadrunners are the only FBS team to hold two opponents — Rice and Lamar — to fewer than 40 passing yards in a game this season. UTSA yielded only 62 rushing yards to Louisiana Tech, the sixth opponent to gain fewer than 100 yards on the ground this fall.

Creating turnovers:

The Roadrunners have displayed a knack for creating turnovers during the Jeff Traylor era. Through the first nine games this season, UTSA has tallied 16 takeaways, the 22nd-best total among FBS teams. The Roadrunners boast an even split with eight interceptions and eight fumble recoveries in 2021. Corey Mayfield Jr. paces the unit with two interceptions while Trevor Harmanson, Clarence Hicks, Jarrett Preston, Jahmal Sam, Dadrian Taylor and Tariq Woolen have one pick apiece. Lorenzo Dantzler is tied for the national lead with three fumble recoveries this fall and Ken Robinson has fallen on a pair of loose balls, while Caleb Cantrell, Lamonte McDougle and Charles Wiley all have one recovery each. Last season, UTSA forced 19 turnovers to lead C-USA and rank 19th in the country. Eleven of those takeaways came via an interception, good for first in the league and 23rd nationally, while the Roadrunners’ eight recoveries ended up 25th among FBS teams.

Experience on the edge:

UTSA boasts a ton of experience throughout its 2021 roster, especially at both outside linebacker positions. The defense made the switch to a 3-4 base alignment prior to the 2020 campaign and the dividends paid off, as the Roadrunners led the conference in sacks (25), tackles for loss (85), interceptions (11), takeaways (19) and turnover margin (+7) a season ago. Most of that production is back this fall. On one edge, a pair of super seniors lead the way at the “Will” spot in Charles Wiley and DeQuarius Henry. Wiley, a native of Stockbridge, Georgia, who transferred from Mississippi last year, earned honorable mention All-Conference USA accolades after posting 43 tackles, a team-high 10 tackles for loss, a pair of sacks and four quarterback hurries. Henry, a Houston native, owns 21 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks in 48 career contests. On the other side at the “Sam” position, super senior Clarence Hicks and the Taylor brothers — senior Dadrian and sophomore Donyai — now boast a combined 31 stops behind the line of scrimmage and four interceptions during their careers.

A disruptive force:

Outside linebacker Clarence Hicks has developed into a disruptive force on the edge for UTSA this season. The super senior has registered 24 tackles, including a team-best 10 tackles for loss and six sacks, and his 0.67 sacks-per-game average ranks third in the conference and 35th nationally. He also owns four quarterback hurries, two pass breakups, one interception and a forced fumble through nine games. A native of Pensacola, Fla., he opened the campaign with three stops, including a TFL, in the 37-30 road victory over Illinois. He notched four tackles, including a sack for a 5-yard loss in the win against Middle Tennessee before turning in arguably his top game as a Roadrunner in the comeback win at Memphis. Hicks led UTSA with six tackles, including three behind the line of scrimmage and a pair of sacks. His strip sack in the fourth quarter led to a 12-yard fumble return by Lorenzo Dantzler that set up the game-tying score, and he was named Conference USA co-Defensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Tigers. Hicks was part of a key sack in the 24-17 win over UNLV, combining with DeQuarius Henry to drop the Rebels quarterback on fourth down in the final minute to seal the win. He made yet another key play in the final minute of a game, picking off WKU’s Bailey Zappe inside the UTSA 5-yard line to secure a 52-46 victory. Hicks recorded 2.5 sacks and a pair of pressures in the 45-16 win at Louisiana Tech. For his UTSA career, he has tallied 95 tackles, 24.5 TFL to rank third in program history, eight sacks, five pass breakups, three forced fumbles and a pair of INTs.

A wily veteran:

UTSA outside linebacker Charles Wiley has emerged as one of the leaders on the defensive side of the ball. The super senior has registered 27 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks, as well as four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. He had three stops and returned a fumble 44 yards for a touchdown in UTSA’s 54-0 rout of Lamar before registering five tackles, including 1.5 sacks for a total of 12 yards, and a pair of pressures in the 27-13 victory against Middle Tennessee. He posted three tackles, including a half-tackle for loss, in the 24-17 win over UNLV and then tallied five stops and a PBU versus WKU and a sack for a 22-yard loss in the 45-0 shutout of Rice. A native of Stockbridge Ga., who transferred from Ole Miss in 2020, Wiley has piled up 127 tackles, including 29.5 behind the line of scrimmage, during his collegiate career with 70 stops, 17.5 TFL and 4.5 sacks coming in his two seasons at UTSA.

Dantzler tops FBS in recoveries:

UTSA super senior defensive lineman Lorenzo Dantzler is tied with seven other FBS players for the national lead with three fumbles recovered this season, all coming during a three-game stretch earlier this fall. The Starkville, Miss., native scooped up a fumble caused on a strip sack by Trumane Bell II and returned it three yards for a touchdown in the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 18. One week later in the 31-28 comeback win at Memphis, Dantzler picked up a fumble caused by Clarence Hicks on a strip sack and rambled 12 yards to the Tigers 7-yard line to set up the tying TD in the fourth quarter. On Oct. 2, he pounced on a loose ball that resulted from a strip sack by Dru Prox late in the third quarter of the 24-17 triumph over UNLV. Dantzler now has four career fumble recoveries, tied for second in school history, and a pair of fumble return touchdowns.

Wisdom in the secondary:

UTSA safety Rashad Wisdom has emerged as one of the unquestioned team leaders during his two-plus years on campus. One of seven current Roadrunners who starred at Converse Judson High School, he has played in 32 games and drawn 30 starts at safety during his career. He landed on preseason watch lists for the Chuck Bednarik and Jim Thorpe Awards after a sensational sophomore season that saw him earn first-team all-conference and Dave Campbell’s Texas Football All-Texas College honors. Wisdom led the Roadrunners and ranked second in C-USA with 95 tackles and he picked off a league-high four passes, which tied the program’s single-season record. He also recorded a team-best 60 solo stops, 2.5 tackles for loss, a pair of forced fumbles and a pass breakup in 2020 and he returned an interception 81 yards for a touchdown for his second career pick-six, which is tied atop the program's all-time list, in the 51-48 double-overtime victory against Texas State last September. He started off his third year as a Roadrunner by making three tackles, forcing a fumble and breaking up a pass in UTSA’s 37-30 season-opening victory over Illinois. He paced the defense with six stops in the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee and then tallied five tackles, including one behind the line, and a PBU in the 31-28 comeback win over Memphis. Wisdom led the Roadrunners with eight stops in the 24-17 victory against UNLV before logging a career high-tying 13 tackles, including matching the UTSA record with 11 solo stops, in the road win over WKU. He led the team in tackles with six in the 45-0 shutout of Rice and turned in double digit tackles for the second time this season and seventh time in his career with 10 in the 44-23 road triumph over UTEP. He paces the defense with 57 total tackles and 42 solo stops to go along with four PBUs, one hurry and a forced fumble this season. Wisdom’s family has captured the hearts of the UTSA football program and the San Antonio community over the past two years by sharing the story of Rashad’s younger brother, Bryce, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2019 and passed away at the age of 17 in July 2020.

Riq the Freak:

Tariq Woolen’s development into one of UTSA’s starting cornerbacks is unique. The Fort Worth native, whose nickname is Riq, started his college career as a wide receiver, catching 24 passes for 263 yards and a touchdown over his first two seasons. Late in his redshirt sophomore campaign, Woolen made the switch to the defensive side of the ball and posted a pair of tackles as a cornerback in the season finale against Louisiana Tech. Prior to the 2020 campaign, Woolen decided to make the position change permanent. That decision paid off as he emerged as one of the team’s top defensive backs with 35 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, five pass breakups and an interception last fall. Earlier this year, he made Bruce Feldman’s annual Freaks List, landing at the No. 6 spot out of 101 college football players after turning in eye-opening numbers during summer strength and conditioning testing. He leaped 11 feet, five inches in the broad jump and clocked a time of 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash, in which he hit 23.33 miles per hour. Woolen started off his senior season with a bang, recording a career-high nine tackles and a pass breakup in the 37-30 road triumph over Illinois. He added his second PBU of the year in the 54-0 shutout of Lamar before posting a TFL and a PBU in the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee and two more stops in the 31-28 comeback win at Memphis. Woolen picked off his second career pass and tallied three tackles in the 24-17 win over UNLV and then registered three tackles in the win at WKU. He is tied for second on the team with four passes defended and his three PBUs this season give him eight for his career.

Veteran corner provides steady presence:

With the most games played (42) and starts (30) among UTSA’s cornerbacks, Corey Mayfield Jr. is one of the leaders in the secondary. A product of North Forney High School, Mayfield has appeared in all nine games and made eight starts this season. He has posted 21 tackles, including 19 solo stops, a team-high two interceptions and a pair of pass breakups. He picked off his first pass of his fourth campaign to go along with two tackles in the 27-13 win over Middle Tennessee. He made three stops in the comeback win at Memphis and logged a season-best five tackles in the 52-46 road triumph over WKU. Mayfield logged his second interception of the season and fourth of his career when he stepped in front of a pass and returned it 49 yards to the end zone in the 45-0 shutout of Rice. The son of former Oklahoma and NFL defensive lineman Corey Mayfield is just outside the UTSA top five in career interceptions and his 17 career passes defended stand one shy of fifth place in program annals.

Tackling machine:

UTSA inside linebacker Trevor Harmanson has emerged as one of the team’s top tacklers during his time as a Roadrunner. The Dickinson High School product transferred to UTSA in 2019 following one season at Blinn College, and he made an immediate impact with 48 tackles, including 8.5 behind the line of scrimmage in his debut campaign. He enjoyed a breakout season in 2020, earning honorable mention All-Conference USA accolades after ranking second on the team with 73 tackles, including nine TFL, to go along with seven quarterback hurries, three pass breakups, an interception, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Harmanson, a preseason all-league pick by Athlon Sports and Phil Steele, opened his 2021 campaign by tying for the team high with nine tackles, which included a team-best seven solo stops, in the 37-30 road win over Illinois. He made a pair of tackles, including being part of a fourth-down stop, in the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee before posting four tackles in the 31-28 comeback win at Memphis. Harmanson logged nine stops during a two-game stretch in wins over UNLV and WKU, before recording a sack and returning an interception 40 yards for a touchdown in the 45-0 shutout of Rice. He has made seven tackles combined in his last two outings and ranks second on the team with 36 tackles this season. Harmanson has recorded 157 total tackles, 20 TFL, eight QB hurries, two interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries in 33 games as a Roadrunner.

D-line factory:

In its short history, UTSA has made a name for itself by producing defensive linemen who have moved on to the professional ranks. Headlining that list is 2018 NFL first round draft pick Marcus Davenport, the 2017 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and a current member of the New Orleans Saints. Several current Roadrunners have their eyes on joining the likes of Davenport, current Detroit Lions defensive linemen Kevin Strong Jr., Eric Banks, Ashaad Mabry, Jason Neill and Brian Price. Leading the way is super senior Jaylon Haynes, a two-time honorable mention all-conference performer with 23.5 tackles for loss — tied for fourth on UTSA’s career chart — and seven sacks in 46 career games. The Roadrunners’ experienced line also includes super senior Lorenzo Dantzler, who earned honorable mention all-league recognition a year ago and boasts 21.5 TFL and 10 sacks in 45 games as a Roadrunner. Brandon Matterson, a fourth-year player from San Antonio Brandeis High School, also made C-USA’s honorable mention list in 2020 and he has logged 69 tackles and nine TFL in 38 career contests.

Dependable Duplessis:

UTSA place-kicker Hunter Duplessis has developed into a dependable option with his right leg. A member of the Lou Groza Award preseason watch list and a Burlsworth Trophy nominee for the second straight year, he started his super senior season by making all three field-goal attempts and going 4 for 4 on extra points in the 37-30 road win over Illinois, earning Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his performance. He turned in his second straight three-field-goal game after connecting from 46 yards twice and again from 41 in the 54-0 shutout of Lamar. Duplessis, who landed on the semifinalist list for the William V. Campbell Trophy for the second straight year, went 2 for 4 on field goals and 3 for 3 on PATs in the win over Middle Tennessee and then made all four PATs and drilled the game-winning 42-yarder as time expired in the 31-28 win over Memphis, earning him his second C-USA weekly award. He made one field goal against UNLV and was good on his only try from 35 yards to go along with tying the UTSA record with seven PATs in the 52-46 win at WKU. He made six extra points and his only FG attempt against both Rice and Louisiana Tech before making all three field goal tries in the road win over UTEP including a career-long 51-yarder that is tied for the second-longest kick in program history. He now has 42 career field goals — seven shy of Sean Ianno’s UTSA record — and a school record-tying 109 extra points for 235 points (2nd/UTSA). He currently leads C-USA with 16 field goals and ranks seventh in the FBS with 1.78 field goals per game. The San Antonio Cole High School product was a Phil Steele honorable mention All-American, Lou Groza semifinalist and first-team all-conference selection in 2020 after he made 17 of 20 field goals and 40 of 41 PATs, marks that both rank second on the school’s single-season chart. Also an excellent student, he was the 2020-21 C-USA Football Scholar Athlete of the Year, a C-USA All-Academic Team selection, a Campbell Trophy semifinalist and a first-team CoSIDA Academic All-District honoree. Duplessis earned his bachelor’s degree as a double major in cyber security and information systems, graduating with a 3.78 GPA in August 2020, and he currently carries a 4.0 GPA in technology management as part of an MBA program.

Punter from Down Under:

In its short history, UTSA has developed consistent success in the punting game with the likes of Kristian Stern and Yannis Routsas, a 2017 Ray Guy Award semifinalist. Lucas Dean has emerged as the next in that strong punting lineage. A product of Prokick Australia and the first Roadrunner from Down Under, Dean has used an Australian Rules Football background to help provide UTSA with a weapon in the kicking game since his arrival on campus in 2019. As a true freshman, he averaged 40.8 yards on 65 punts and booted 12 of 50-plus yards. Dean provided quite the encore in 2020, shattering UTSA’s single-season punting average record with a 46.0 mark to lead Conference USA and rank sixth nationally. A semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award, he was named C-USA Special Teams Player of the Year and a second-team All-American by the Sporting News. Dean registered 27 punts that pinned opponents inside the 20-yard line, including 15 inside the 10 and seven inside the 5, and he recorded 21 punts of 50-plus yards, including a career-best 67-yarder against Florida Atlantic, during his sophomore season. Dean opened his third season by averaging 44.2 yards on five punts with one inside the 20 and a long of 55 in the 37-30 road victory over Illinois. He averaged 50.8 yards on five punts with three inside the 20 and a long of 63 in the 31-28 win at Memphis and 45.6 yards on five punts with three inside the 20 against Rice. Dean, who is on the Ray Guy Award watch list and has been tabbed a preseason second-team All-American by the Sporting News, currently averages 44.1 yards per punt with 12 of his 30 kicks inside the 20.

Jones emerges as punt return threat:

Sheldon Jones has emerged as one of the top punt returners in the nation this season. The New Orleans native currently leads Conference USA and ranks sixth in the FBS with an average punt return of 13.1 yards. Jones, whose nickname is Sticks, has returned 20 punts for 262 yards in 2021. He returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the 54-0 rout of Lamar on Sept. 11 and he had five returns for 68 yards, including 33- and 22-yarders in the second half of the 27-13 victory over Middle Tennessee. He logged a 38-yard return against WKU that prevented UTSA from starting a second-half possession from inside its own 10-yard line and had six returns for 39 yards with a long of 14 in the win over Rice. Jones is just the second Roadrunner to return a punt for a score, joining Kenny Harrison (2012 vs. Texas State). He owns UTSA career records for punt returns (63) and has amassed 381 punt return yards as a Roadrunner, while his current average of 6.0 yards per return ranks fourth on the school’s career chart.

UTSA collects C-USA weekly awards:

Five Roadrunners have earned a combined six Conference USA weekly awards this season. Frank Harris was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Week on Oct. 11 for his record-setting performance in the 52-46 win at WKU. He completed 28 of 38 passes for 349 yards and a school-record six touchdowns while also rushing for 51 yards for a program-best 400 yards of total offense and catching a 23-yard TD pass. On Sept. 27, Hunter Duplessis picked up his second C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week honor of the year after drilling the game-winning 42-yard field goal as time expired while Clarence Hicks grabbed a share of the defensive award after registering six tackles, three tackles for loss, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble in the 31-28 comeback win over Memphis. Trumane Bell II was named C-USA Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 20 after posting four tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, two sacks, a pair of quarterback hurries and a forced fumble to help the Roadrunners hold Middle Tennessee to 199 yards of offense, including only eight on the ground. Sheldon Jones was honored as C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week on Sept. 13 after returning a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in the 54-0 victory over Lamar, while Duplessis received special teams recognition the previous week after going 3 for 3 on field goals and 4 of 4 on extra points in the season-opening victory over Illinois.

Historic win to open 2021:

UTSA’s 37-30 road win over Illinois in the season opener marked the program’s second victory against a team from a Power Five conference and the first against a Big Ten Conference school. The Roadrunners’ first win versus a Power Five program was a 17-10 triumph over Baylor on Sept. 9, 2017, in Waco. UTSA also improved to 9-2 overall in season openers with that victory.

Records fall in home opener:

Several program records fell in the 54-0 victory over Lamar in the home opener on Sept. 11. It marked the first shutout in school history, as the previous standard for fewest points allowed was three done three times, the last against Rice in 2018. UTSA also registered the largest margin of victory, nipping the previous mark of 53 set in the 56-3 win over Northwestern Oklahoma State in 2012. The Roadrunners limited Lamar to just 122 yards of offense, eclipsing the previous program record for fewest yards allowed of 149 established against Southern in 2017 but since broken by surrendering only 102 yards to Rice on Oct. 16. UTSA’s point total in that win over the Cardinals marked the third most scored in a game.

Overcoming deficits:

UTSA’s rally from a 21-point deficit in the 31-28 victory over Memphis on Sept. 25 marked the largest comeback win in school history. In 2011, the Roadrunners overcame a 14-0 deficit in a 17-14 overtime win over Georgia State, which stood as the program record until the come-from-behind victory against the Tigers. UTSA has rallied for a win from a 13-point deficit three times, most recently in a 27-26 triumph over Louisiana Tech last October at the Alamodome. Additionally, the Roadrunners trailed Louisiana by a 24-7 count in the third quarter of the 2020 First Responder Bowl before rallying to tie the score at 24-24 in an eventual 31-24 setback last December.

UTSA pair garners preseason All-America accolades:

Sincere McCormick and Lucas Dean both earned spots on preseason All-America squads. McCormick was named a preseason second-team All-America running back by Athlon Sports, Phil Steele, Sporting News, USA TODAY and Walter Camp, while Dean is a preseason second-team choice at punter by Sporting News.

Nine Roadrunners land on watch lists:

An unprecedented nine Roadrunners landed on preseason watch lists for national awards. Leading the way is All-America running back Sincere McCormick, who appeared on four different watch lists, while Hunter Duplessis, Frank Harris and Rashad Wisdom each made a pair of lists.

A focus on recruiting Texas:

UTSA’s 115-man roster features 90 players — 78% — who hail from the state of Texas. The next-closest state is Louisiana with seven, while there are five players from Mississippi. California and Florida are considered home for three players apiece and two are from Georgia. UTSA has one player each from Iowa, Hawai’i, Tennessee and Virginia, while Lucas Dean is the first Roadrunner from Australia.

Keeping them home:

UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor and his staff have placed an emphasis on recruiting the city of San Antonio and surrounding area. The current roster includes 29 players from Greater San Antonio with a team-high seven hailing from perennial power Converse Judson High School.

UTSA’s 210 Triangle of Toughness:

UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor has installed many new ideas, including his Culture Pillars: Integrity, Passion, Mental & Physical Toughness, Selfless and Perfect Effort. As part of that new culture, the players voted after fall camp on who would earn single-digit jersey numbers, a reward for representing mental and physical toughness on and off the field. The numbers 2, 1 and 0 — San Antonio’s area code — were chosen for the players voted to represent the 210 Brand, the UTSA Triangle of Toughness. Below are the single-digit jersey numbers as voted by their teammates:

0 — Frank Harris, Rashad Wisdom

1 — Jaylon Haynes, Leroy Watson

2 — Joshua Cephus, Charles Wiley

3 — Sincere McCormick, Tariq Woolen

4 — Zakhari Franklin, Antonio Parks

5 — Brenden Brady, Hunter Duplessis

6 — Lorenzo Dantzler

7 — Dadrian Taylor

8 — Josh Adkins, Jamal Ligon

9 — Clarence Hicks

Up next after Southern Miss:

UTSA will host UAB on Saturday, Nov. 20, in the regular season home finale. Kickoff is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at the Alamodome.

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