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Roadrunners hang on, collect first win

September 23, 2018

UTSA got the quick start it had desperately sought Saturday at the Alamodome.

It also won the turnover battle for the first time.

It almost wasn’t enough.

The Roadrunners built an early lead over Texas State and held on to win 25-21 despite an offense that was ineffective for much of the night, a late special teams miscue and the solid play of their opponent’s third-string quarterback.

“We did enough to win the game,” said UTSA coach Frank Wilson, whose team opened the season with consecutive losses against Power 5 conference opponents Arizona State, Baylor and Kansas State. “(Wins), they’re hard to come by, and you take them how you can get them in any form. So to get the first one of this season is big for our football team, for their morale, for their esteem, for their confidence going forward.”

It was UTSA’s first win after opening the season with losses to Power 5 conference opponents Arizona State, Baylor and Kansas State.

The Roadrunners (1-3), who improved to 3-0 against their Interstate 35 rival, got the decisive play they needed when defensive lineman Kevin Strong Jr. tackled Texas State third-string quarterback Tyler Vitt in the end zone for a safety with 1:49 left.

The safety came on the first play after UTSA punter Yannis Routsas’ 53-yard punt pinned the Bobcats at their own 2-yard line.

“We were able to punt the ball back down and pin them at the 2-yard-line and then really pin our ears back and say, ‘You know what, let’s go get them,’ “ Wilson said. “That safety was the turning point to seal the victory for our team.”

Texas State (1-3) pulled to within 23-21 with 5:08 left when Vitt, a MacArthur graduate who came on after starter Willie Jones III was injured early in the first quarter and backup Jaylen Gipson was ineffective, found wide receiver Hutch White, a junior from Kerrville Tivy, for a 13-yard touchdown pass. Vitt passed for 192 yards and two scores and ran for another.

White’s TD reception was set up when Texas State blocked a punt and recovered at the Roadrunners’ 14 and came five minutes after UTSA had taken a 23-14 lead on kicker Jared Sackett’s 44-yard field goal, his third of the game. He had converted from 40 yards with 13:31 left.

Sackett’s field goal was a response after the Bobcats pulled within 17-14 with 2:03 left in the third quarter when Vitt connected with tight end Keenan Brown for a 21-yard TD pass.

The Roadrunners led 17-7 at halftime, scoring in the early and late stages of a first half dominated by defense. Sackett’s 40-yard field goal with 40 seconds left concluded the first-half scoring.

UTSA led at the intermission despite mustering only eight first downs and 146 yards, but its defense snared two interceptions and recovered a fumble.

Texas State wasn’t much better offensively with nine first downs and 163 yards but received a spark from Vitt, who helped the Bobcats overcome an early two-touchdown deficit to pull to within 14-7 after one quarter. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Vitt scored on a 1-yard run to conclude a six-play, 64-yard drive in which he showcased his talent. He threw a 23-yard pass and added a 7-yard run and a 29-yard reception on the scoring drive, which was set up when UTSA wide receiver Kirk Johnson Jr. fumbled immediately after being hit by Texas State linebacker Frankie Griffin.

UTSA scored twice in the game’s first seven minutes, once on offense and the other on defense.

The Roadrunners built a 14-0 margin with 7:56 left in the opening quarter when quarterback Cordale Grundy got off a pass in the face of a pass rush and connected with freshman wide receiver Tykee Ogle-Kellogg on a 7-yard scoring toss at the back of the end zone.

UTSA needed only 53 seconds to strike first, taking a 7-0 advantage when Lorenzo Dantzler scooped up a fumble and raced 27 yards for a score.

Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa caused the turnover when he hit Texas State quarterback Willie Jones III on a third-down blitz.

It marked the first time this season the Roadrunners have led. They trailed 14-0 against Arizona State in their Sept. 1 season opener, 10-0 vs. Baylor in their Sept. 8 home opener and 7-0 last week vs. Kansas State.

“I knew we needed a big play on the first series,” Dantzler said. “I saw the ball and I just scooped it and took it the other way.”

tthomas@express-news.net

Twitter: @en_terrence

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