The Roadrunners are hoping their third game in a bowl will be the charm as they close out a historic season.
SAN ANTONIO — As the weather steadily cooled in San Antonio this fall, the UTSA Roadrunners’ status as a potential Texas powerhouse has warmed. Soon they will be competing to cement that reputation.
After fighting its way through a dominating regular season that saw the program win its first 11 games, finish 11-1, appear in the AP Top 25 poll and claim its first Conference USA title over West Kentucky, head coach Jeff Traylor’s team will head north to take on San Diego State at the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
While the Dec. 21 game won’t be the first glimpse of bowl-playing action that UTSA football has seen in its 11-year history, the ‘Runners are still looking for their first victory in bowl game. Here’s how the team fared in their previous invites, which the Roadrunners lost by a combined 10-point margin.
2016 New Mexico Bowl
After finishing his freshman year under Frank Wilson with a 6-7 record, UTSA traveled to neighboring Enchantment for a date with University of New Mexico hometown Lobos. The ‘Runners scored first, with Victor Falcon nailing a 23-year-old field goal to put UTSA up, 3-0.
But it was also the last time they had an advantage. The Lobos raced into the end zone from 1 yard to take the lead later in the first frame and would eventually hang on for the win in a clash largely on the ground; the teams combined for 465 rushing yards to just 195 passing yards.
UTSA would make UNM work for the win, however, keeping the game close and bringing the Lobos within 3 in the fourth quarter when JaBryce Taylor carried a 6-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Sturm with less than a minute on the clock. New Mexico claimed the triumph after recovering an ensuing onside kick, beating UTSA 23-20 in front of a crowd of nearly 30,000 despite losing on offense.
2020 First Responder Bowl
Originally slated to play Southern Methodist in the 2020 Frisco Bowl, UTSA instead capped off a successful debut campaign under Traylor by battling with the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns after a COVID-19 outbreak forced SMU to pull out. Having himself tested positive for the coronavirus in the days leading up to the First Responder Bowl, Traylor did not travel with the team to Dallas, and assistant coach Barry Lunney Jr. filled in for the game.
The Roadrunners were coming off a 7-4 season heading into the Dec. 26, 2020 game, having finished on a three-game winning streak. Their opponent was even hotter; the Ragin’ Cajuns have lost only one game all season, in mid-October.
Louisiana asserted itself in the first half of the game, building a 24-7 lead in front of a pandemic-era crowd of just 3,500. Eventual MVP Elijah Mitchell punctuated his team’s early success by reaching the end zone to start the third quarter.
UTSA participates in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl
That’s when the Roadrunners kicked it into another gear. UTSA quarterback Frank Harris threw a pair of touchdown passes over the next few minutes, and Hunter Duplessis tied the game at 24-24 with a field goal early in the fourth.
The Roadrunners’ comeback offer would sputter there. Louisiana responded with a one-yard touchdown run that was more than six minutes behind, and Ragin’ Cajun’s defense tightened up to keep UTSA from creating more drama. Louisiana won a classic, 31-24, as UTSA fell to 0-2 in all-time bowl play.
UTSA will be hoping for a different outcome as they prepare to travel to Dallas for a bowling game for the second year in a row. Standing in their way is a San Diego State Aztec team that amassed an 11-2 record but just suffered a 46-13 beating at the hands of Utah State in the Mountain West title match.
Something will have to give when the Roadrunners and Aztecs meet at Toyota Stadium. UTSA is solid offensively, scoring 37.8 ppg this season (12th in college football) while SDSU’s iron defense has given up just 19.5 ppg (17th).
The Dec. 21 game will be the first meeting between the Roadrunners and San Diego State.