SAN ANTONIO – Well, that didn’t go as planned.
On a mission to prove their standout 2018 season was not a fluke, the UIW Cardinals stumbled in a 35-7 loss to the UTSA Roadrunners in front of 26,787 fans at the Alamodome on Saturday night in the season openers for both teams.
UTSA was led by freshman quarterback Frank Harris, who finally made his Roadrunners debut after suffering an ACL tear in spring practice last year. The long wait was worth it as Harris completed his first 13 pass attempts and finished by completing 28 of 36 passes for 206 yards and three touchdowns while breaking the record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 123.
“For him to go out and represent UTSA is a beautiful thing,” UTSA Head Coach Frank Wilson said of Harris’ debut. “It’s why we start our recruitment in this city, to be able to covet the best and brightest players in this city.”
The Roadrunners on the scoreboard in the first quarter after a fake punt by UIW turned into good field position for UTSA. Harris found a wide-open Carlos Strickland in the end zone to make it 7-0 and later Harris would connect with Gavin Sharp for a five-yard score, putting UTSA up 14-0.
UIW’s defense was on the field for a majority of the first half but could not contain Harris, who had a total of 105 yards at the break.
“It’s a great experience coming out there and playing my first college game,” Harris said. “Just knowing I got the trust of the coaches and my teammates, it was amazing. I’m humbled to be out there, and it’s a blessing.”
The Cardinals gave up 490 yards on the night while only mustering 209 themselves, which is far below the 482 yards per game average from 2018. Credit the UTSA defense, who attacked all night long and remained aggressive until the final whistle. UIW had just 28 yards rushing compared to UTSA’s 284.
UIW sophomore quarterback Jon Copeland struggled all night long, completing 15 of 31 passes while running for five yards on seven carries. He was sacked and under pressure from the Roadrunners defense from the second UIW possession and it never let up. The Cardinals lone touchdown of the night was a Copeland 11-yard pass to running back Ameer King to cap off a five-play, 75-yard drive.
“We were never in sync,” UIW Head Coach Eric Morris said. “Frank Harris was the X-Factor today when he breaks out of the pocket and rushes the way he did. But we were never in sync offensively or defensively.”
One thing Morris and the Cardinals coaching staff will look at for their game next week is the minor details. UIW had several missed tackles, careless penalties, and miscommunication all night. This not only kept their defense on the field but extended UTSA’s time of possession, which would end up being 40 minutes compared to 20 for the Cardinals.
“We had a miscommunication as a staff on that fake punt,” Morris said. That falls on my shoulders at the end of the day and I will be correcting that. But I thought it was a great experience for these kids.”
The game was built as the “Hometown Showdown” as UTSA and UIW faced off for the first time on the gridiron. It was only fitting a San Antonio product like Frank Harris that was the main talking point of the game.
“I certainly understand how Frank feels,” Wilson said “I understand how his family feels to be able to finally rejoice after going through so many setbacks early in his career with injuries. Very happy for him and his family.”
UIW: The Cardinals are now 0-1 on the season and will return to the field next Saturday when they welcome Texas Southern (0-1) to Benson Stadium at 6 p.m. Central Time.
UTSA: The Roadrunners (1-0) will now head to Waco for a game against the Baylor Bears (1-0) next Saturday at 3 p.m. Central Time.