Oscar Cardenas caught a touchdown pass from Frank Harris with three seconds left to lift No. 15 UTSA to a 34-31 victory over UAB, clinching the Conference USA West Division title on Saturday in front of a season-high 35,147 at the Alamodome.
Trailing by four points with one minute and six seconds left and no timeouts remaining, the Roadrunners (11-0, 7-0) drove 77 yards for the winning score to push their school-record winning streak to 11 games and their league winning streak to 10, and secure the right to host the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game at 6 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 3. UTSA also won for the program-record ninth straight time at home in the fifth-largest crowd in school annals.
Cardenas also had a 28-yard reception on the second play of the final drive that moved the ball from the UTSA 23-yard line out to midfield. Harris then completed consecutive passes to De’Corian Clark for six and 33 yards, setting up the Roadrunners at the UAB 10. Harris, who threw for 323 yards and three TDs on 25-of-36 passing, scrambled down to the 1-yard line only to be stopped short with nine seconds left on the clock. Following an incompletion on second and goal, Harris scooped up a low snap and found Cardenas, who hauled in the game-winner after a deflection near the back of the end zone.
Hunter Duplessis — who made a pair of key field goals — drilled the extra point to give UTSA a three-point cushion and then Dadrian Taylor made the game-clinching tackle on the ensuing kickoff to end the game.
The defending conference champion Blazers (7-4, 5-2) took a 31-27 lead with 5:19 remaining on a 15-yard TD run by Dwayne McBride, who rushed for 114 yards on 24 carries.
That score came after UTSA took its first lead of the day at 27-24 on a 49-yard field goal by Duplessis with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
Harris broke the school’s single-season touchdown passes record with his three today, as the senior from Schertz Clemens High School now has 23 on the season.
Clark logged his third 100-yard receiving game of the season with 106 on six catches, while Zakhari Franklin had 97 yards and two TDs on six receptions, moving into sole possession of first place on the program’s single-season TD receptions list with 10.
Rashad Wisdom paced the defense with 10 tackles and a pass breakup, while Jamal Ligon registered eight stops and his first career interception, as UTSA held UAB to 125 yards of offense in the second half. Clarence Hicks made all three of his tackles in the backfield, including a pair of sacks, while Trevor Harmanson and Jahmal Sam had six and five tackles, respectively.
UAB struck first as Dylan Hopkins found Tre Shropshire open for a 74-yard touchdown pass on the second play from scrimmage.
UTSA tied things up later in the first quarter, marching 73 yards on 12 plays capped by a one-handed catch in the end zone by Franklin on a 15-yard pass from Harris.
The Blazers took a 14-7 lead after Hopkins connected again with Shropshire, this time for a 40-yard scoring connection late in the opening frame.
The Roadrunners responded with another long drive, going 75 yards in 11 plays to knot the score at 14-14 after McCormick’s 8-yard TD run at the 10:24 mark of the second stanza.
UAB took a 21-14 lead after Hopkins’ 8-yard keeper with 5:41 left to play in the first half.
Duplessis pulled the home team to within four points when he split the uprights from 51 yards, matching his career long set two weeks ago in the road win over UTEP.
Matt Quinn booted a 23-yard field goal to give the visitors a 24-17 halftime advantage.
UTSA wasted little time tying things up to start the second half, as Harris hit a wide-open Franklin on a deep route over the middle for a 54-yard TD pass.
Shropshire had a game-high 130 receiving yards on just three catches, while Hopkins completed 15 of 22 passes for 254 yards for the Blazers.
The Roadrunners will travel to Denton to face North Texas next Saturday, Nov. 27. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. at Apogee Stadium.