Frank Harris accounted for 226 yards of offense but No. 18 Tulane took advantage of five UTSA turnovers in a 29-16 victory in American Athletic Conference action on Friday afternoon at Yulman Stadium.
With the win, the Green Wave secured a spot in the AAC Championship Game next Saturday, Dec. 2 against either SMU or the Roadrunners, who fell to 8-4 overall and saw their debut campaign in The American end with a 7-1 record. UTSA also lost for the first time against a league foe in two years, snapping their winning streak in conference play at 17 games.
The Roadrunners outgained the Green Wave (11-1, 8-0) with 375 yards compared to 352, but the defending AAC champions scored 17 points off UTSA turnovers to earn the right to host the championship game next weekend.
Harris passed for 198 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 28 to lead the offense, while Joshua Cephus caught six balls for 83 yards to get to 1,049 receiving yards for the season. Kevorian Barnes paced the ground game with 92 yards on 12 attempts.
Defensively, Jamal Ligon registered seven tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a forced fumble, while Rashad Wisdom posted seven stops, including six unassisted.
Tulane struck first thanks to an interception deep in UTSA territory when a tipped pass was grabbed by Bailey Despanie at the 10-yard line. Three plays later, Michael Pratt found Chris Brazzell II open over the middle for a 7-yard touchdown pass.
The Roadrunners responded with a touchdown of their own off a turnover. Ligon’s strip-sack forced a fumble that was scooped up by Donyai Taylor and returned 19 yards to the Green Wave 30-yard line. Two plays later, Rocko Griffin dashed untouched 23 yards to the end zone to help knot the score at 7-all.
UTSA took a 10-7 lead early in the second quarter when Chase Allen split the uprights from 40 yards.
Tulane tied things up again on a 47-yard field goal by Valentino Ambrosio. He later connected from 26 yards to give the Green Wave a 13-10 advantage with 5:40 left until halftime.
Tulane took advantage of another takeaway to push its lead to 20-10 with 3:27 remaining in the half after a 2-yard TD rush by Makhi Hughes.
Ambrosio added another field goal as time expired in the half to provide a 13-point edge for the Green Wave.
Following a scoreless third quarter, both teams traded touchdowns in the final frame. Tulane claimed a 29-10 lead after a 3-yard TD catch by Brazzell with a little more than five minutes remaining.
Harris hit Oscar Cardenas on a 9-yard touchdown pass with 1:33 left to cap a 14-play, 75-yard drive, but the two-point conversion attempt failed and Tulane recovered the ensuing onside kick to seal the win.
Pratt passed for 125 yards and two TDs and added 50 rushing yards, while Hughes led all rushers with 166 yards on 26 carries. Brazzell had five receptions for 93 yards and Jesus Machado recorded a game-high 10 tackles to help lead the Green Wave.