AUSTIN — One school played its first football game in 1893. The other in 2011. Nearly 130 years of lore-rich history collided with not quite a dozen and a big body crush, the 0 jersey emerged, the UTSA quarterback with “210” tattooed on his left calf.
Frank Harris showed poise, grit and moxie on Saturday. He raced and passed the Roadrunners to a 17-7 lead over Texas, the nation’s 21st-ranked team, stunning Darrell K. Royal-Memorial Stadium at nearly I-can’t-believe-this-is-happening the silence.
When Texas roared, Harris looked down. When the Longhorns blitzed, Harris danced. When the defenders rushed in, Harris slipped away, carrying Roadrunner Nation’s hopes on his shoulders. But then the receivers dropped balls and Harris threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown. As the game progressed, his pocket crumbled, and with it, the dream of a program-defining upset.
In front of a crowd of 102,520 who bled two shades of orange, Texas won a game as they were supposed to, 41-20. Harris dazzled for one half. And UTSA held on until Texas running back Bijan Robinson decided to take over and Longhorn’s defense stiffened.
Robinson ran three yards for a score, 78 for second, 41 for third. He jumped and spun, dropped his shoulder, knocked down defenders and burst through open turns, sprints and safeties all the way to the end zone. Robinson slashed the Roadrunner defense, not strong against the run, for 183 yards on 20 carries. He added a reception for 19 and that was not all.
After treating a sore shoulder from the Alabama game, undergoing an MRI and leaving some wondering if he would play, Robinson got electrified with sudden stops and a change of direction and started the race for the trophy again Heisman.
UTSA also couldn’t stop Robinson’s backup. Roschon Johnson bulldozed 83 rushing yards. He caught three assists for 23 others. He scored a touchdown. The Roadrunners showed as much Triangle of Toughness as anyone would expect, dropping Robinson for losses and holding him to short wins early in the game. In the end, they couldn’t stop perhaps the best combination of running backs in the country.
“It’s going to be a great game to learn from,” said UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor, whose team fell 1-2. “Incredible effort. We played against a very good football team and went with them for as long as we could.
The Roadrunners thought they could cause an upset. They drove north on I-35 to face a battered Longhorn crew. Texas (2-1) lost starting quarterback Quinn Ewers to a collarbone injury to Alabama. Substitute Hudson Card limped off the pitch due to a leg injury. Robinson injured his shoulder. Texas lost a game they felt they had to win – by one point. And one question hung over the team: How could Texas rise to a Conference USA team after nearly beating a No. 1-ranked team?
Whatever emotional or psychological advantage UTSA might have had, the Roadrunners took advantage of it early on. After forcing Texas to throw their first possession, Harris led UTSA down. He fired a 45-yard touchdown pass to Joshua Cephus only to see the score nullified by an illegal substitution. Still, a 12-point underdog took a 3-0 lead on Jared Sackett’s 24-yard field goal.
Although Texas reclaimed the lead 7-3, Harris pushed UTSA back in control. He led them to two touchdowns, a 10-point lead and, for a moment, made Roadrunner Nation believe. Believing he could win the biggest game in program history.
Harris threw with laser precision early on. Leading running back Brenden Brady provided solid support. He ran two yards for a touchdown and passed 35 yards to Zakhari Franklin for another. But it was Harris who kept UTSA in contention. He found catcher after catcher, often on the run, and scared the Texas crowd. The off-season LASIK surgery gave Harris 20/15 vision, and it seemed like he was seeing all the men open. Until the rush at Longhorn Pass escalated and he started taking a beating.
“We have a lot of football left,” Harris said. “Of course we wanted to win this one. But we’re going to watch the movie and grow from that.
Trailing 24-20 late in the third, Harris fell back. He fired a pass, it got deflected, Jahdae Barron intercepted it and returned it for a touchdown. When UTSA regained possession, the pocket began to collapse. Harris found himself on the grass, leveled by a DeMarvion Overshown tackle that was ruled targeting.
Harris left the match shaken. He finished with good numbers, completing 24 of 35 passes for 222 yards. He ran for 38 yards on 10 carries. The effort was strong, the performance valiant, but it was not enough. Texas brought too much Bijan Robinson, too much defense, too much talent. And a game that once seemed to crack in favor of UTSA, has cracked the other way.