Dec 19, 2023; Frisco, TX, USA; Marshall Thundering Herd running back Ethan Payne (28) scores a touchdown during the first quarter against the UTSA Roadrunners at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Dieb-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA handles Marshall for first bowl win ever

Owen McCown completed 22 of 31 passes for 251 yards and two touchdowns, and UTSA earned the first bowl victory in program history by beating Marshall 35-17 in the Frisco Bowl on Tuesday night in Frisco, Texas.

McCown, a redshirt freshman and the son of longtime NFL quarterback Josh McCown, got the starting nod because decorated starter Frank Harris sustained a shoulder fracture on Nov. 24 – an injury that was revealed just hours before kickoff Tuesday.

Joshua Cephus hauled in seven receptions for 102 yards and a touchdown for the Roadrunners (9-4). Robert Henry ran for two touchdowns and 37 of UTSA’s 135 rushing yards.

Marshall quarterback Cole Pennington, son of program legend Chad Pennington, completed 15 of 33 passes for 258 yards. Rasheen Ali gained 92 yards and a touchdown on nine carries for Marshall (6-7).

Pennington was shaken up on a big third-down sack during the fourth quarter, with Marshall trailing 28-17. Colin Parachek relieved Pennington on a fourth-and-14 attempt and threw to his left, where Kam Alexander made a leaping interception and returned it 57 yards to the Marshall 17-yard line.

Rocko Griffin stormed into the end zone on the next play to put UTSA up 35-17 with 8:39 to go.

Mike Green had two of the Marshall defense’s six sacks, and Micah Abraham and Eli Neal intercepted McCown during the first quarter.

While McCown took his lumps early, Marshall jumped out to a 14-0 lead.

Ethan Payne scored on a 1-yard rush following McCown’s second pick for the first points of the game. Ali burst away for a 64-yard touchdown sprint on the first play of the second quarter to make it 14-0.

Henry responded for UTSA with a 3-yard scoring run on the next drive. Then, Cephus caught a pass in the right flat and navigated the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown to tie the game with 8:53 left in the half.

After Rece Verhoff put Marshall ahead with a 44-yard field goal, UTSA conducted a 13-play, 75-yard drive to take a 21-17 lead just before halftime. Henry’s 1-yard rushing score capped off the march.

With 4:49 remaining in the third quarter, McCown used play action to reach David Amador II on his left, and the freshman receiver took it 19 yards to the end zone for his first career touchdown and a 28-17 advantage.

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA; UTSA Roadrunners quarterback Frank Harris (0) throws a pass during the first half against the Tulane Green Wave at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Hinton-USA TODAY Sports

A Frisco Bowl win would carry extra meaning for Marshall, UTSA

Marshall had to survive a five-game losing streak in order to clinch bowl eligibility, but the Thundering Herd aren’t through the adversity just yet.

The program will turn to redshirt freshman quarterback Cole Pennington when Marshall takes on UTSA in the Frisco Bowl on Tuesday in Frisco, Texas.

Marshall (6-6) ended its skid by winning two of its last three games, including a 35-21 triumph over Arkansas State in the regular-season finale, to reach the important six-win plateau.

Starting quarterback Cam Fancher finished his season with 2,162 passing yards, 11 touchdowns, 11 interceptions and four rushing scores before entering the transfer portal. Marshall coach Charles Huff told a local TV station that Fancher’s decision didn’t surprise him since “there isn’t a lot of money for NIL (at Marshall) and the fans hate him. The kid has been miserable.”

Huff received blowback for the comments, including from Fancher’s mother.

“I was asked a question by a reporter and I inserted my opinion over facts about a situation, which ultimately created a little bit of a sandstorm,” Huff said. “It was truly based on my opinion of a small minority of fans, and I actually generalized the entire fan base. That was wrong. I take full responsibility for that.”

Fans may have been rankled by the coach’s faux pas, but now they will get to root for the son of a program legend. Pennington’s father is Chad Pennington, who parlayed a decorated career at Marshall into a long NFL career.

However, Cole Pennington had a 0-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio in three games filling in for Fancher this season.

“Bowl games are special in themselves,” Pennington said. “They’re just a great way to extend your time with the guys that you built a culture with and a chemistry with the whole season.”

Marshall’s weapons of note are running back Rasheen Ali (1,043 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Jayden Harrison, who has two kick return touchdowns and an FBS-high 31.9 yards per return.

UTSA (8-4) is heading to its fourth straight bowl game under coach Jeff Traylor, but the Roadrunners have yet to win one in the program’s brief FBS history.

The bowl appearance streak includes a trip to the 2021 Frisco Bowl, where No. 24 San Diego State beat UTSA 38-24.

“It’s important for us,” Traylor said. “There’s only a few things left in this program that we haven’t done, and this is one of those things we haven’t done, so for us it takes on a level of importance that’s probably more than most programs.”

UTSA made the move to the American Athletic Conference this season and found immediate success, winning seven straight conference games before a 29-16 loss to Tulane in the regular-season finale.

The Roadrunners offense relies on a pair of first-team All-AAC players, quarterback Frank Harris (2,506 passing yards, 323 rushing yards, 22 combined touchdowns, eight interceptions) and wide receiver Joshua Cephus (82 receptions, 1,049 yards, nine TDs).

“It’s my last (game), you know?” Cephus said. “I’ve been here all my time in college. I can’t miss an opportunity to go out and play with my teammates again. I’ll never have a chance to play college football again, so I’m trying to go out with a bang.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 17, 2022; Frisco, Texas, USA; North Texas Mean Green wide receiver Jordan Smart (15) catches a pass against the Boise State Broncos in the first half at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Big second half carries Boise State past North Texas in Frisco Bowl

Freshman running back Ashton Jeanty rushed for a career-high 178 yards and the eventual game-winning touchdown Saturday night as Boise State exploded for 29 points in the second half for a 35-32 Frisco Bowl win over North Texas in Frisco, Texas.

Jeanty’s 1-yard scoring plunge with 12:05 left in the game gave the Broncos (10-4) a 35-24 lead. The Mean Green (7-7) pulled within three points at the 8:17 mark on Ikaika Ragsdale’s 5-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion.

North Texas had a final chance to tie or win the game when it got possession at its 15 with 1:20 left and no timeouts. But Austin Aune’s fourth-down pass from his 16 with 52 seconds left fell incomplete, securing the outcome.

Aune completed 17 of 32 passes for 238 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. Boise State quarterback Taylen Green finished with 256 total yards, hitting 13 of 22 passes for 137 yards and a touchdown while rushing for 119 yards and two scores on 12 carries.

Green gave the Broncos the lead for good with a 19-yard touchdown run with 25 seconds left in the third quarter. It capped a period where the teams combined for 36 points after scoring only 16 points in the first half.

Playing under interim coach Phil Bennett after Seth Littrell was fired on Dec. 4, North Texas’ defense held up well in the first half, neutralizing Boise State’s running game and limiting the Broncos to 24- and 37-yard field goals from Jonah Dalmas.

Meanwhile, the Mean Green did just enough on offense to earn a 10-6 lead at halftime. They ate up 5 1/2 minutes on the game’s opening drive, going 60 yards to set up a 27-yard field goal from Ethan Mooney.

North Texas took advantage of a short field for the half’s only touchdown, driving 65 yards and scoring on Ragsdale’s 1-yard run with 7:38 remaining in the second quarter.

The Mean Green earned a 195-133 advantage in total offense in the half, allowing just two third-down conversions by Boise State in seven tries.

–Field Level Media

Dec 21, 2021; Frisco, TX, USA; San Diego State Aztecs quarterback Lucas Johnson (7) looks to pass in the first quarter against the UTSA Roadrunners during the 2021 Frisco Bowl at Toyota Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Lucas Johnson guides No. 24 SDSU past UTSA in Frisco Bowl

Senior Lucas Johnson passed for a career-high 333 yards and accounted for four touchdowns to lead No. 24 San Diego State to a 38-24 victory over UTSA on Tuesday night in the Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Texas.

Johnson matched his career best of three touchdown passes and also ran for a score as the Aztecs (12-2) set a program record for wins in a season. Junior receiver Jesse Matthews caught two touchdown passes while recording career highs of 11 catches for 175 yards.

Greg Bell rushed for 101 yards and a score on 26 carries and Tyrell Shavers had a touchdown reception for San Diego State. Johnson completed 24 of 36 passes as the Aztecs outgained UTSA 489 yards to 388.

Frank Harris completed 22 of 36 passes for 271 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Roadrunners (12-2). Zakhari Franklin and De’Corian Clark had scoring receptions, and Brenden Brady rushed for a touchdown.

UTSA played without star runner Sincere McCormick, who opted out of the bowl game and declared for the NFL draft last week.

Ray Guy Award winner Matt Araiza of San Diego State averaged 46.7 yards on three punts and finished the season with an FBS-record 51.28-yard average. He broke the mark of 50.98 set by Texas A&M’s Braden Mann in 2018.

San Diego State moved ahead 24-14 on Bell’s 1-yard run with 11:59 left in the third quarter.

Hunter Duplessis booted a 41-yard field goal to get UTSA within seven, but Johnson connected on a 24-yard scoring pass to Shavers to make it 31-17 with 2:39 left in the quarter.

The Roadrunners moved back within seven on Harris’ 3-yard scoring pass to Franklin on the final play of the quarter. Johnson scored on a 2-yard run with 9:51 left in the game to restore the 14-point advantage, and San Diego State closed it out.

Johnson passed for 222 yards in the first half as the Aztecs built a 17-14 lead.

The Roadrunners struck first when Harris tossed a 12-yard touchdown pass to Clark just 2:24 into the game. San Diego State tied the score nearly 7 1/2 minutes later when Johnson threw a 20-yard scoring pass to Matthews.

UTSA took a 14-7 lead when Brady scored from the 2 with 2:02 left in the opening quarter. The Aztecs knotted it up on Johnson’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Matthews with 9:14 left in the second quarter and took a 17-14 lead on Araiza’s 33-yard field goal as time expired in the half.

–Field Level Media

Oct 15, 2021; San Jose, California, USA; San Diego State Aztecs kicker Matt Araiza (2) gestures before the game against the San Jose State Spartans at CEFCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

UTSA seeks first bowl win, faces No. 24 San Diego State

Two of the top non-power conference teams in the nation square off Tuesday night when No. 24 San Diego State opposes UTSA in the Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Texas.

Both programs are enjoying big campaigns even though they operate outside the national spotlight.

UTSA (12-1) of Conference USA is in just its 10th season as an FBS program and is looking for its initial bowl victory. The San Antonio-based school could also notch a rare 13th victory.

San Diego State (11-2) of the Mountain West is looking to win 12 games for the first time in the school’s Division I history. The school also won 11 games in 1969, 2015 and 2016.

The Aztecs, though, are limping their way to Texas after being clobbered 46-13 by Utah State in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 4.

That type of beating was a stunner as San Diego State allowed 16 or fewer points on seven occasions this season.

“We are 11-2, and many football teams would like to be 11-2, but we would rather be 12-1, but that is where we are right now,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “We can also set the school record for wins. We have an opportunity to still play for that.”

San Diego State received one break when Roadrunners star running back Sincere McCormick decided to skip Tuesday’s game as he prepares to enter the NFL draft.

McCormick received multiple All-American honors after setting school records for rushing yards (1,479) and rushing touchdowns (15) and earning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors. McCormick had eight 100-yard rushing efforts this season.

“To the city of San Antonio, UTSA and Meep Meep nation, I am so grateful for the support you have shown not just me, but the entire football program over the last three years,” McCormick said in part during his announcement.

McCormick’s exit is a blow to an offense that averages 37.9 points per game and scored 44 or more points on six occasions.

But the team’s confidence is high after the stellar campaign under second-year coach Jeff Traylor. UTSA’s lone blemish was a 45-23 road loss against North Texas on Nov. 27 but now the focus is on playing well in the school’s third-ever bowl game.

“It’s always fun to win. We don’t like to talk about it very much, but we’ve experienced that other thing this year and we don’t want to do that again,” Traylor said. “That is what is most important, for our kids to leave on a good note. In the history of the program, we’ve never won a bowl game. …

“Why not us? Some team is going to be the first to win a bowl game in the history of this school. Why not us?”

San Diego State features a star linebacker in Cameron Thomas (20.5 tackles for loss) but its most intriguing player is Matt Araiza, nicknamed “Punt God.”

Araiza won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and his current 51.4 average would surpass Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (50.98 in 2018) as the best in FBS history.

Araiza also is a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in both 1992 and 1993.

Araiza placed 36 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, and has six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards. The 86-yarder against San Jose State came with San Diego State backed up on its own 11-yard line and Araiza standing in his own end zone to field the snap.

“I think that one rolled about 20 yards,” Araiza said. “Someone downed it at their 3.”

The Frisco Bowl is San Diego State’s 11th bowl berth since 2020. The Aztecs split the other 10.

UTSA lost 23-20 to New Mexico in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl and 31-24 to Louisiana in the 2020 First Responder Bowl in its previous two bowl opportunities.

–Field Level Media

Nov 21, 2020; Hattiesburg, Mississippi, USA; UTSA Roadrunners running back Brenden Brady (5) runs the ball while defended by Southern Miss Golden Eagles defensive back Josh Perry (8) in the second half at M.M. Roberts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Frisco Bowl canceled; UTSA moves to First Responder Bowl

UTSA will play in the First Responder Bowl following the cancellation of the Frisco Bowl on Tuesday.

The Roadrunners were scheduled to meet SMU in the Frisco Bowl to kick off 2020 bowl season Saturday in Frisco, Texas. SMU was forced to pull out of the game because of COVID-19 issues within its program. As a result, the Frisco Bowl will not take place.

UTSA doesn’t know its opponent in the First Responder Bowl, which is set for Dec. 26 at Gerald J. Ford Stadium on the SMU Campus near Dallas. ABC will televise the game.

This will be the first bowl appearance for the Roadrunners (7-4, 5-2 Conference USA) — second in program history — since their loss in the New Mexico Bowl in 2016.

“What an awesome opportunity this will be for our program to play on network TV in the First Responder Bowl,” first-year coach Jeff Traylor said. “I said this two days ago and I will say it again: I’m just so thrilled for our players, coaches and staff to be playing in a bowl game … on a national stage.”

In a school statement, SMU (7-3, 4-3 American Athletic Conference) said the Mustangs had “a number of positive cases of COVID-19 involving student-athletes and staff members.” Because of contact tracing, the team didn’t have enough players to practice this week and play in the game.

“Since the beginning of this pandemic, many student-athletes across the country have had the unfortunate experience of missing out on opportunities to compete in any number of athletic events, with many missing out on entire seasons,” said SMU athletic director Rick Hart said.”Our team deserved to play another game. I’m disappointed for our fans, and even more disappointed for our players, that we will be unable to play in a bowl game this season. I’m also sad that many of our seniors played their final collegiate games, not knowing at the time that that was their last time on the field. I want to applaud our team for their efforts this season and to acknowledge the personal sacrifices they all made to make this season possible.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 14, 2020; Tulsa, Oklahoma, USA;  Southern Methodist Mustangs head coach Sonny Dykes on the sidelines during the game against the Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Skelly Field at H.A. Chapman Stadium. Tulsa won 28-24. Mandatory Credit: Brett Rojo-USA TODAY Sports

SMU set for second try at Frisco Bowl victory

Southern Methodist University won’t be traveling too far to compete in a bowl game this month.

The Mustangs on Wednesday accepted an invitation to the Frisco Bowl, which will be played Dec. 19 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, less than 30 miles from SMU.

SMU, which went 7-3 with a 4-3 record in the American Athletic Conference, will be making its 18th bowl appearance and second trip to the Frisco Bowl. The Mustangs lost the inaugural Frisco Bowl to Louisiana Tech in 2017.

SMU’s opponent, which will likely be a team from Conference USA, will be determined at a later date.

“We are excited to extend an invitation to SMU to play in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl,” the game’s executive director Sean Johnson said in a statement. “We are happy to have a local team with a great fan base and look forward to an exciting game next week at Toyota Stadium.”

The Mustangs haven’t won a bowl game since their 2012 win over Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.

The Frisco Bowl noted in its statement that there would be “very limited” attendance for its game because of COVID-19 concerns.

–Field Level Media