San Diego State scored 17 unanswered points over the midway point of the game to erase a 14-7 deficit and cruise to a 38-24 victory over No. 24/25 UTSA in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl on Tuesday night at Toyota Stadium.
Under the direction of Conference USA Coach of the Year Jeff Traylor, the shorthanded Roadrunners saw their most successful season in the program’s 11-year history come to an end in their second straight bowl appearance, finishing with a 12-2 record for the most wins and best winning percentage by any UTSA team.
The Aztecs (12-2) rode the right arm of quarterback Lucas Johnson, who completed 24 of 36 passes for 333 yards and three touchdowns to lead SDSU to 489 yards of offense on the night. Jesse Matthews had 11 receptions for 175 yards and a pair of scores and Greg Bell rushed for 101 yards and a TD on 26 carries.
Playing without more than a dozen regulars, UTSA took an early lead before the Aztecs reeled off 10 unanswered points to close the first half with a three-point lead and then push their advantage to 17 after a score on the first drive of the second half.
The Roadrunners marched 75 yards on seven plays on their opening possession to go up 7-0. Frank Harris, who threw for 271 yards and two scores, hit De’Corian Clark on a 12-yard touchdown pass to cap a drive that was highlighted by a 27-yard rush by Brenden Brady and a 29-yard reception by Zakhari Franklin, who caught eight balls for 89 yards to register the program’s first 1,000-yard receiving season.
The Aztecs knotted the score on a 20-yard TD pass from Johnson to Matthews, but UTSA reclaimed the lead with a 2-yard scoring plunge by Brady with 2:02 left to play in the opening frame before SDSU’s 17 unanswered points.
SDSU tied it up again at the 9:14 mark of the second quarter on another Johnson-to-Matthews connection, this time for 11 yards. The Aztecs then took a 17-14 edge into the break when Matt Araiza kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half.
Kaegun Williams gave SDSU positive field position to start the second half with a 52-yard kickoff return. Six plays later, Bell’s 1-yard touchdown plunge helped give the Aztecs a 10-point lead.
Hunter Duplessis made it a one-score game on the Roadrunners’ ensuing possession, splitting the uprights from 41 yards to make it 24-17. A 35-yard pass from Harris to Tykee Ogle-Kellogg helped set up the score.
SDSU turned the first takeaway of the night — an interception by C.J. Baskerville — into seven points, as Johnson found Tyrell Shavers open in the end zone for a 24-yard scoring connection that pushed the lead to 14.
UTSA cut the deficit to 31-24 at the end of the third quarter when Harris hit Franklin on a 3-yard slant pass, capping a drive that covered 75 yards in eight plays and was keyed by a 4-yard catch by Franklin on fourth down and one from the SDSU 12-yard line.
The Aztecs answered once again as Johnson’s 2-yard quarterback keeper with just under 10 minutes remaining made it a two-score contest.
Brady rushed for 76 yards and a TD on 16 carries while Clark hauled in six passes for 72 yards to help pace the UTSA offense.
Defensively, Denzel Feaster and Jamal Ligon posted eight tackles apiece, while Ken Robinson and Antonio Parks pitched in with seven and six, respectively.
The Roadrunners will open the 2022 season on Sept. 3 when they host Houston at the Alamodome.