UTSA forced three turnovers and Frank Harris broke his own school record for rushing yards in a game by a quarterback to lead the Roadrunners to a 41-7 victory over Rice, capturing the Conference USA regular season title on a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon at Rice Stadium.
With their eighth consecutive win, the Roadrunners have clinched the right to host the C-USA Championship Game for the second straight year. That contest is now set for 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 2, at the Alamodome against an opponent to be determined.
Harris carried seven times for 124 yards and a program record-tying three touchdowns to eclipse his own school standard of 123 set in his UTSA debut against UIW in 2019. It also marked the fifth straight game with a 100-yard rusher for the Roadrunners, who ran their record to 9-2 overall and 7-0 in the league for the second year in a row.
The Roadrunners came up with three takeaways on the day via fumble recoveries by the Taylor brothers, Dadrian and Donyai, as well as an interception by Clifford Chattman, giving UTSA eight forced turnovers combined over the last two contests.
Kelechi Nwachuku paced the defense with six tackles, a tackle for loss, one pass breakup and a forced fumble, while Trevor Harmanson had five stops, including a TFL, to help the Roadrunners hold the Owls (5-6, 3-4) to just 230 yards of offense, a season low for an opponent. UTSA racked up 10 tackles for loss and surrendered just five rushing yards, the fourth fewest for an opponent in team history and the sixth time allowing fewer than 10 rushing yards.
The Roadrunners stormed out to a 21-0 lead through the first quarter and never looked back.
Harris got loose on a scramble and sped down the left sideline for 63 yards to the house to get the visitors on the board first with 8:26 left in the opening frame.
On the Owls’ next possession, Nwachuku’s strip-sack caused a fumble that was scooped up by Donyai Taylor and returned eight yards to the 15-yard line. On the next play, Harris scored on a QB keeper to push the lead to 14-0.
UTSA again took advantage of a turnover, this one a fumble recovered by Dadrian Taylor that was forced by Jamal Ligon. Zakhari Franklin then capped a seven-play, 44-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown reception, his 10th of the season.
The Roadrunners made it 28-0 after Oscar Cardenas hauled in a 16-yard TD pass from Harris with 59 seconds left in the opening half.
Jared Sackett drilled a 30-yard field goal early in the third quarter that came after an interception return from Clifford Chattman for the second straight game. Chattman also had a pair of PBUs and four total tackles on the afternoon.
Harris called his own number on the next possession, scoring his third rushing touchdown of the day on a 16-yard scamper midway through the third to make it 38-0.
Sackett split the uprights from 36 yards later in the period to push the lead to 41 points before Rice broke the shutout on a 43-yard pass from AJ Padgett to Bradley Rozner early in the fourth quarter.
The Roadrunners will return home to host UTEP next Saturday, Nov. 26. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m.