Bolstered by a stiff defense and balanced offensive attack, UTSA remained in a tie atop the American Athletic Conference standings with a 34-14 victory over Rice on Saturday night at the Alamodome.
The Roadrunners held the Owls to 229 yards of offense while countering that with 199 rushing yards and 182 through the air to improve to 7-3 overall and 6-0 in the league. UTSA pushed its winning streak to six games and improved to 17-0 at home versus conference opponents under fourth-year head coach Jeff Traylor.
Jamal Ligon paced the defense with seven tackles, all unassisted, while Trey Moore registered a pair of sacks to match Marcus Davenport’s career program record of 22.0.
Offensively, Rocko Griffin rushed for a game-high 81 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts, good for 6.8 yards per carry, while Robert Henry piled up 63 yards and a score on 19 totes. Frank Harris added 31 yards on the ground to go with 175 yards and a TD on 15-of-24 passing.
Armed with a slim 10-7 advantage at the half, the Roadrunners scored back-to-back touchdowns in a one-minute, 45-second span in the third quarter to make it 24-7.
After the defense opened the third quarter by forcing a three-and-out, Henry’s 1-yard TD plunge capped a nine-play, 63-yard march that was keyed by three Joshua Cephus receptions for a total of 35 yards.
On Rice’s next possession, UTSA dialed up the pressure. Trey Moore posted sacks on consecutive plays to force a punt, which was returned 50 yards for a touchdown by Chris Carpenter, his second career return TD and the first punt return for a touchdown since Sheldon Jones brought one back 76 yards versus Lamar on Sept. 11, 2021.
The Roadrunners made it a 21-point quarter when Griffin capped a quick five-play drive with a 1-yard TD run, which followed back-to-back rushes of 26 and eight yards by the sophomore transfer from Vanderbilt.
UTSA pushed the lead to 34-7 at the 5:09 mark of the final frame when Tate Sandell split the uprights from 47 yards, his first career field goal.
Rice scored a late touchdown on a 22-yard pass from AJ Padgett to Landon Ransom-Goelz with just over a minute left to play.
Padgett, who started at quarterback in place of the injured JT Daniels, completed 17 of 28 passes for 182 yards and the two TDs. Luke McCaffrey had six catches for 68 yards and a score, while Dean Connors was held to 34 rushing yards.
UTSA struck first on a 28-yard field goal by Chase Allen at the seven-minute mark of the first quarter.
The Roadrunners padded their lead with a 6-yard touchdown catch by Cephus in the final minute of the first half.
Rice responded with a quick scoring drive right before the half, covering 75 yards in only four plays, the last a 27-yard TD reception by McCaffrey.
The Roadrunners will stay home to host South Florida (5-5, 3-3) on Friday, Nov. 17. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. at the Alamodome