UTSA quarterback Eric Soza had the option to pass or run on the touchdown that put the Roadrunners ahead to stay in their 31-24 victory against McNeese State in a nonconference game Saturday at the Alamodome.
Rolling to his right on the 12th play of UTSA's first possession of the second half -- and McNeese ahead 10-7 -- Soza tucked the ball and ran for the pylon on third-and-goal from the 4. As he approached the goal line, he hurdled safety Chris Raggett and was flipped sideways after barreling into the end zone.
If there were any lingering doubts about Soza's injured right hip, he put them to rest with the highlight-reel play.
"I was hoping he went low," Soza said, smiling. "We all sacrifice our bodies for the betterment of the team. I guess that was my way of doing that. We needed a touchdown and I tried to do whatever I could to get into the end zone. I saw I could get the edge, so I went in there."
Soza's 4-yard TD capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive for the Roadrunners, who snapped a four-game losing streak and improved to 6-4 in their second season.
A crowd of 25,784 watched UTSA assure itself of at least a .500 season after finishing 4-6 in its inaugural campaign.
UTSA plays at Idaho in a Western Athletic Conference game next Saturday, and ends the season against Texas State on Nov. 24 at the Alamodome.
Soza, a junior, also threw for two touchdowns while completing 21 of 33 passes for 262 yards. He had scoring strikes of 23 yards to Evans Okotcha and 36 yards to Brandon Armstrong, a Roosevelt graduate.
Coker: 'I knew he was going to score'
Soza, the Roadrunners' starting quarterback the past two seasons, sustained a fracture in his right hip against Rice on Oct. 13 and missed two games before returning to action last week.
UTSA coach Larry Coker has become accustomed to seeing Soza make big plays.
"I knew he was going to score," Coker said when asked about Soza's TD run. "But I didn't know it was going to be like that. That's toughness and that's the difference between a field goal and a touchdown.
"He is a playmaker. He's very smart and he has skills that make up a quarterback. This year he has gotten better and has been special for us."
McNeese, which beat the Roadrunners 24-21 last year, dropped to 6-4. The Cowboys play in the Southland Conference and compete in the NCAA's Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Division I-AA.
UTSA is making the transition this season to the Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly Division I-A.
The victory was the Roadrunners' first since Sept. 29, when they ran their record to 5-0 by beating New Mexico State 35-14 in their Western Athletic Conference opener in Las Cruces, N.M.
UTSA went 0-4 against FBS teams Rice, San Jose State, Utah State and Louisiana Tech and was outscored 185-82 during its losing streak.
"I am really proud of our team today, especially with our outstanding second half," Coker said. "I told them that I didn't know if I have been around a group of tougher guys."
UTSA cashed in on two McNeese turnovers
Okotcha, a junior running back, scored on a 9-yard run to give UTSA a 21-10 lead with 3:43 left in the third period.
The Roadrunners capitalized on a fumble by running back Marcus Wiltz on the Cowboys' next possession to widen their lead. Strong safety Cody Berry jarred the ball loose from Wiltz and free safety Triston Wade recovered at UTSA's 30 with 1:50 left in the third quarter.
It took the Roadrunners eight plays to go the distance, with Soza's TD pass to Armstrong on a screen ending the 70-yard drive with only 50 seconds gone in the final period.
Cornerback Crosby Adams, also a Roosevelt graduate, intercepted a pass on McNeese's next possession to set up a 31-yard field goal by Kristian Stern that put UTSA up 31-10 with 9:55 left.
"We forced two turnovers and did not turn the ball over," Coker said, citing a key factor in the Roadrunners' victory.
Down 31-10, McNeese scored two TDs on back-to-back possessions in the final 6:18 to keep things interesting.
Cody Stroud's 6-yard TD pass to Dylan Long on the possession following Stern's field goal cut the Cowboys' deficit to 31-17.
UTSA recovered the onsides kick at the McNeese 49 on the ensuing kickoff, but had to punt after only three plays. The Cowboys drew even closer with a seven-play, 86-drive that was capped by Wiltz's 3-yard run. Josh Lewis' conversion kick left the Roadrunners holding to a precarious 31-24 lead with 3:05 left.
Reeves, Anaya had key sack for Roadrunners
Things got a little more dicey for UTSA on the next kickoff when Armstrong was tackled at the 7. The Roadrunners made a critical first down on a 4-yard pass from Soza to wide receiver Earon Holmes on third-and-four from the 13.
But UTSA lost 5 yards on the next three plays, leaving the Roadrunners staring at a fourth-and-15. The Cowboys crowded the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block Stern's punt, but he boomed a 49-yarder that was fair caught by Darius Carey at the McNeese 39 with six seconds left.
"They sold the farm and went after him," Coker said of the Cowboys' effort to block Stern's punt.
Stroud had time to heave one last pass, but free safety Brian King deflected the ball as time ran out.
Stroud completed 34 of 46 passes for 346 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cowboys outgained the Roadrunners 439-358 in total offensive yardage. UTSA finished with 96 yards rushing and 262 passing.
McNeese scored on the game's first possession, mounting an 11-play, 68-yard drive that ended with Stroud's 12-yard TD pass to Wes Briscoe with 9:38 left in the opening period.
Soza's scoring throw to Okotcha tied the game with 2:53 remaining in the first half.
McNeese went ahead 10-7 on the ensuing possession when Lewis kicked a 36-yard field goal with 16 seconds left.
The Cowboys drove from their 20 to the UTSA 11 on their third possession, but a personal-foul penalty pushed them back to the 26. After Stroud hit Diontae Spencer for a 12-yard gain on a second-and-21 play, linebacker Brandon Reeves and end Franky Anaya sacked Stroud for a 6-yard loss to the 20.
The 13-play drive fizzled when Lewis missed a 46-yard field-goal attempt with 12:41 left in the second quarter.
"It feels good to get back on track and get another win under our belt, and get back to what we know," Okotcha said.