SAN ANTONIO – UTSA became bowl eligible for the second consecutive season in spectacular fashion Saturday, edging Marshall 9-7 on a 40-yard field goal by freshman Jared Sackett with two seconds left in the Conference USA game at the Alamodome.
A crowd of 20,148 watched UTSA improve to 6-4 overall and 3-4 in C-USA play. The Roadrunners, who broke out of a two-game skid in their home finale, end the regular season at Louisiana Tech (5-6, 3-4) next Saturday.
"He actually came up to me about a couple series before and said, 'Hey, man, we're going to win this,'" UTSA senior defensive end Marcus Davenport said, referring to Sackett. "And I was like, hey, you kick it, you got it. Honestly, he's a great player. He's a great young player and he's doing good for himself."
The loss was a heartbreaker for Marshall, which had gone up 7-6 with 1:31 left on a 20-yard pass from Chase Litton to Hyleck Foster and extra-point kick by Kaare Vedvik. The Thundering Herd slipped to 7-4 and 4-3
The Roadrunners' stirring victory came on Senior Night. UTSA recognized its 25 senior players in a pregame ceremony.
Sackett, a Fort Worth Timber Creek graduate, was not available for comment because UTSA coach Frank Wilson prohibits freshman from speaking to the media at any time.
The Roadrunners went 6-7 in their first season under Wilson last season, losing to New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl.
While UTSA has the required minimum of six victories to qualify for a bowl game, there is no guarantee they'll get an invitation when bids go out on Dec. 3. Even with a glut of bowls, the competition is always stiff.
In the C-USA, alone, eight schools already are bowl eligible and two more could reach the six-win threshold in the final weekend of the season. One of the three on the bubble is Louisiana Tech, which beat UTSA 63-35 in Ruston, La.
The other two five-win teams, Old Dominion and Middle Tennessee, meet Saturday, so the maximum number of bowl-eligible squads C-USA could have at the end of the regular season would be 10.
UTSA appeared headed for a third consecutive loss before it dug deep to pull out Saturday's victory.
"It feels fantastic," Wilson said. "It feels gratifying. We've competed week in, week out and, unfortunately, a couple of times have fallen on the short end of it, especially these close games. And yet again today, we were tested, and this team responded.
"We're just excited to be going bowling again right now, and we'll be very fortunate or grateful, whatever bowl would have us, and we're looking forward to it."
In the end, it was fitting that Sackett won the game for the Roadrunners.
After all, he had done all the scoring for the Roadrunners in their home finale, kicking pair of 24-yard field goals to put UTSA up 3-0 after one quarter and 6-0 at the half.
Sackett went on the field for a 34-yard field-goal attempt, but he never got to kick the ball because holder Yannis Routsas fumbled the snap. Routsas pounced on the ball at the Marshall 26, but Marshall took over on downs with 4:14 left.
The Roadrunners' 6-0 lead held up until the Thundering Herd put together an eight-play, 74-yard march that took only 2:43 and ended with Litton's TD pass to Foster.
Not to be outdone, UTSA carved out a 10-play, 52-yard drive in 1 minute, 29 seconds on their final possession to set up Sackett's final kick.
Marshall started its TD drive on the possession after the Roadrunners' aborted 34-yard field-goal. As the Thundering Herd moved down the field, UTSA senior quarterback Sturm and the offense huddled on the sideline.
"We had all the faith in the world in the defense, but you have to play the what-if game whenever you get in situations like that," Sturm said. "We had our plays lined out that we were potentially going to run if they did score a touchdown."
Sturm said the offense works on the two-minute drill two or three times in practice each week.
"It's one of our strong points, I think, on offense, so I had all the confidence in the world in my offensive line and my receivers that they were going to make plays," he said.
Davenport said the UTSA offense did what it does in workouts every time it works on the two-minute drills.
"They've gone against us and they've marched it all the way down the field and done the same thing before," he said. "We have the utmost confidence in our offense. It's a team thing. You've got to believe in your team to win."
Starting at their 25 after a touchback on the kickoff after Litton's TD pass, the Roadrunners moved to the Marshall 47 on Sturm's 14-yard completions to senior wide receivers Marquez McNair and Kerry Thomas Jr. on consecutive plays.
After a timeout with 44 seconds left, Sturm hit Thomas again for a 13-yard gain that moved UTSA to the Thundering Herd's 34. Sturm threw incomplete on the next two plays before hooking up with senior wide receiver Josh Stewart, Thomas' brother, for an 11-yard gain, giving the Roadrunners a first down at the 23
Sturm threw incomplete to McNair on first down after a timeout with 12 seconds remaining, and couldn't connect with Stewart on the next play after another timeout with nine seconds left.
Sackett kicked the game-winner twice, but his first attempt was waved off because Marshall had called a timeout with six seconds remaining. He coolly kicked the 40-yarder again, sending it between the uprights for the victory and sparking a wild celebration on the UTSA sideline.
Daniel Portillo's ensuing onside kick bounced off a Marshall player and Mitch Vickery pounced on the ball at the UTSA 40 to seal the victory.
"I think we've just got sole confidence in all of our teammates," Thomas said. "Whoever is out on the field, we know that they're going to get the job done. When Sackett went out there, we knew he was going to make the field goal. Regardless of whatever the situation was, he was going to make the field goal and he did that."
The Roadrunners outgained the Thundering Herd 355-229 in total offense, getting 88 yards on the ground and 267 passing. Marshall gained only 40 yards rushing in 23 attempts and 189 yards passing, all by Litton, who completed 16 of 31 passes and was picked off once ( by senior cornerback Austin Jupe).
Sackett’s first field goal ended a 16-play, 75-yard drive that consumed 8:45 on UTSA’s first possession. The second field goal ended a 14-play, 64-yard march that started after defensive tackle Jim Philistin recovered a fumble by Litton at the Thundering Herd’s 29. The drive took 4:17 off the clock.
Final: UTSA 9, Marshall 7
UTSA 9, Marshall 7
Fourth quarter, 00:02:Jared Sackett kicks a 40-yard field goal, capping a 10-play, 51-yard drive that consumes 1:29.
Marshall 7, UTSA 6
Fourth quarter, 1:31:The Thundering Herd go ahead on a 20-yard pass from Chase Litton to Hyleck Foster and PAT by Kaare Vedvik. The score caps an eight-play, 74-yard drive that takes 2:43 off the clock.
UTSA 6, Marshall 0
Fourth quarter, 4:14: The Roadrunners' 34-yard field-goal attempt goes awry when holder Yannis Routsas fumbles the snap. He pounces on the ball at the Marshall 26, but the Thundering Herd take over on downs.
UTSA 6, Marshall 0
Fourth quarter, 9:16: The Thundering Herd drive from their 19 to the Roadrunners' 37 before a fourth-and-10 pass from Chase Litton to Obi Obialo falls incomplete in the end zone. The incompletion ended a six-play, 44-yard drive.
End of third quarter: UTSA 6, Marshall 0
First-half notes: UTSA outgained Marshall 157-60 in total offensive yardage, getting 22 yards rushing and 135 passing . . . Roadrunners quarterback Dalton Sturm completed 15 of 21 passes for 132 yards, with his longest strike an 18-yarder to wide receiver Kerry Thomas Jr. Thomas had four catches for 34 yards in the first half . . . Marshall finished the half with 29 yards rushing and 31 passing . . . Thundering Herd quarterback Chase Litton completed 6 of 7 p-asses for 31 yards.
Halftime: UTSA 6, Marshall 0
UTSA 6, Marshall 0
Second quarter: 00:07: Jared Sackett kicks a 24-yard field goal, capping a 14-play, 64-yard drive that consumes 4:17. The drive started after defensive tackle Jim Philistin recovers a fumble by Marshall quarterback Chase Litton at the Roadrunners' 29.
End of first quarter: UTSA 3, Marshall 0
UTSA 3, Marshall 0
First quarter, 8:45: Sackett caps the Roadrunners' first possession with a 26-yard field goal. The kick ends a 16-play, 75-yard drive that consumes 8:45.
UTSA GAMEDAY: Roadrunners still need one more win to become bowl eligible
Marshall (7-3 overall, 4-2 Conference USA) vs. UTSA (5-4, 2-4)
When, where: Saturday, 6 p.m., Alamodome
Series history: Marshall leads 1-0
Last meeting: Marshall 34, UTSA 10, Oct. 5, 2013, Huntington, W. Va.
Marshall’s last game: Defeated WKU 30-23, Nov. 11, Huntington, W. Va.
UTSA’s last game: Lost to UAB 24-19, Nov. 11, Alamodome
Notable: UTSA will honor its 25 senior players in a pregame ceremony.
SAN ANTONIO – UTSA reached a milestone last year when it earned a bowl bid for the first time in the short history of its football program.
The Roadrunners will have to win at least one of its last two games to get the minimum six victories to qualify for a bowl again.
UTSA moved within a win of becoming bowl eligible with a victory against UTEP on the last Saturday in October, but it hasn’t moved the needle since that night in El Paso.
Consecutive losses to FIU and UAB the last two weeks have dropped the Roadrunners to 5-4 overall and 2-4 in Conference USA.
UTSA plays Marshall (7-3, 4-2) in its home finale Saturday on Senior Night, and ends the regular season at Louisiana Tech next week.
“I think they want to unleash and play well,” UTSA Frank Wilson said this week, referring to his team’s mindset heading into the home finale. “I think there’s a bitter taste in their mouth. I think they want to send their seniors out the right way, and really use this weekend to become bowl eligible at home.”
The Roadrunners are 2-4 since starting the season 3-0. They have won two in a row and lost two in a row since dropping their first two C-USA games by narrow margins.
Marshall broke out of a two-game skid with a 30-23 home victory against Western Kentucky last week. The Thundering Herd are in a two-way tie with FIU for second in the C-USA’s East Division.
For obvious reasons, UTSA’s seniors will have a little more incentive when they take the field Saturday.
“I think it’ll be a very emotional game for two reasons,” safety Nate Gaines said. “It is Senior Night and it’s another game where we have an opportunity to become bowl eligible.
Former walk-on Dalton Sturm thought he was going to be a wide receiver as a sophomore, and ended up as the Roadrunners’ starting quarterback that season.
“It’s been a great ride,” said Sturm, a graduate of Goliad High School. “Just got to finish it up strong at home this week.”
UTSA wasn’t on defensive end Marcus Davenport’s radar when he was a senior at Stevens High School, but his attitude changed when he made a recruiting visit.
“I didn’t plan none of this, honestly,” Davenport said. “Coming here, the real reason I came is because I met some real good guys on my visit. I was like, I want to be part of this family. The rest just happened to work out because I was surrounded by great people. I feel the older guys laid a foundation for us.
“I remember our shirts said, ‘Leave (A) Legacy.’ They kind of built the stepping stone and we’ve grown from them. I don’t want to say trickle down, but it’s all been built up. It’s great to see. I know this school is going to keep progressing.”
Wilson had plenty of praise for his seniors.
“We couldn’t be more proud of them for the way that they lead our team,” he said. “They exemplify everything we look for in our student-athletes. Great mentors to our younger players and have really bought into the things we’ve asked since we’ve been here and adapted to the things that we think are important.
“They never flinched about it. They’re wonderful young men. I was telling someone the other day the job that Coach (Larry) Coker and his staff did in identifying quality young men who are second to none.”
Wilson succeeded Coker as head coach in January 2016. Coker coached the Roadrunners for their first five seasons.
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