Frank Harris passed for a school-record 414 yards and Jamal Ligon registered a season-high 10 tackles to lead UTSA to a 45-30 victory over Middle Tennessee in the Conference USA opener for both teams on Friday night at Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium.
The defending conference champion Roadrunners ran their record to 3-2 on the season while piling up 590 yards of offense against the Blue Raiders, who fell to 3-2 and 0-1.
Harris completed 27 of 36 passes and tossed two touchdowns while also rushing for 31 yards and a pair of scores to break his own program records for passing yardage (392) and total offense (423) set last week against Texas Southern. The senior from Schertz Clemens High School also became the program’s career leader in passing yards with 7,017, surpassing Eric Soza’s school standard of 6,952 set from 2011 to 2013.
Harris completed passes to eight different receivers, led by De’Corian Clark’s eight receptions for 139 yards. Joshua Cephus hauled in seven passes for 91 yards and Zakhari Franklin had 98 yards and a pair of touchdowns on five catches.
Meanwhile, Brenden Brady nearly reached the century mark on the ground, rushing for 98 yards and a key 25-yard TD in the fourth quarter that provided the final margin on 19 carries to help UTSA churn out a season-best 167 rushing yards.
Ligon paced a UTSA defense with 10 tackles including four solo stops, while Kelechi Nwachuku and Trevor Harmanson registered eight and seven tackles, respectively. The Roadrunners limited the Blue Raiders to only 84 rushing yards and came up with four tackles for loss, including a 10-yard sack by Trey Moore.
UTSA struck quickly, covering 80 yards in only four plays, the last a 43-yard touchdown pass from Harris to Franklin that put the visitors on the board first.
Jared Sackett split the uprights from 28 yards on the Roadrunners’ next possession to push the advantage to 10-0 with 6:26 left in the opening period.
The Blue Raiders cut into the UTSA lead on the first play of the second quarter when Chase Cunningham hit Yusuf Ali on a 38-yard scoring connection.
The Roadrunners responded with another quick scoring drive, this time moving 75 yards in just five plays capped with Franklin’s second TD catch of the night, this one good for 28 yards to push the lead back to 10.
Middle Tennessee pulled back to within three on the next possession after Darius Bracy broke free for 53 yards to the end zone.
Trelon Smith capped a 73-yard march with a 2-yard touchdown plunge to help put the Roadrunners up 24-14 with 9:53 left until halftime.
The Blue Raiders then made it a one-score game midway through the second stanza on a 31-yard field by Zeke Rankin.
UTSA used a key fourth-down conversion to extend the lead to 31-17. Facing fourth-and-6 at the MTSU 39, Harris found Franklin for a first down and later scored on a 5-yard keeper that was set up by a 25-yard pass to Clark.
Rankin drilled a 34-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to make it 31-20.
Harris capped the opening drive of the second half with a 1-yard dive into the end zone to help push the lead to 38-20.
Rankin hit his third field goal of the night early in the fourth quarter to pull MTSU to within 38-23.
The Blue Raiders made it a one-possession game with 10:32 left to play when Jordan Branch returned an interception 37 yards for a touchdown, but Brady’s touchdown dash with fewer than two minutes remaining sealed the victory for the Roadrunners.
Cunningham passed for 368 yards and Jaylin Lane caught 10 passes for a game-high 179 yards to lead MTSU to 452 yards of offense.
The Roadrunners will return home to host Western Kentucky next Saturday, Oct. 8. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. at the Alamodome.