SAN ANTONIO — Something will have to give when the UTSA Roadrunners take the field at Orlando's Exploria Stadium Friday afternoon.
Riding a 10-game winning streak but winless in three prior bowl-game appearances – including a 38-24 defeat to San Diego State a year ago – No. 22 UTSA is not lacking for motivation as it prepares to face No. 23 Troy in the Cure Bowl. With a win, the Roadrunners can further bolster their case as a new Texas football powerhouse as they prepare to join a new conference.
At the same time, the Trojans have had just as successful a season as the 'Runners. Both teams enter Friday's game with 11-2 records, and both have won 10 straight games. Adding another touch of coincidence: Both programs won their respective conference championships with near-matching final scores; Troy defeated Coastal Carolina 45-26, while UTSA downed North Texas 48-27.
And while the Trojans don't have the chip on their shoulder of being winless in bowl games – boasting a 5-3 record in those matchups – the program also hasn't been to one since 2018. By comparison, UTSA's roster is full of bowl-experienced players who have endured heartbreak each of the last two seasons.
Chief among them is quarterback Frank Harris, who has emerged as one of the most dynamic playmakers in FBS action this year. Harris ranks fourth nationally in total offense with 342.5 yards per game, and has accounted for 31 UTSA touchdowns in 2022. All in all, he's tallied nearly 4,500 total yards of offense.
He'll face a tough test in the Troy defense, which has allowed just 325 total yards of offense per game to opponents this year—good for 19th in college football. Harris's Cure Bowl success will depend partially on keeping Carlton Martial off-balance; the Trojans linebacker's 63 tackles ranked second in Sun Belt play this season.
Troy's success represents a rapid turnaround for the program under first-year head coach Jon Sumrall. They went just 5-7 last year, and will finish with an above-.500 mark for the first time since 2018.
But UTSA has embraced a grit in recent weeks that could play in their favor. Each of its last two wins, against UTEP and UNT, took comeback efforts to secure. On Friday Jeff Traylor's team will find out if it has enough grit for one more 2022 victory—and a chance to celebrate Triangle of Toughness pride once again.
“They don’t blink, they really don’t," Traylor said following UTSA's C-USA Championship victory. "They just keep playing the next play. That’s just the way they’re wired.”
The Cure Bowl kicks off at 2 p.m. from Orlando, and will be available to watch on ESPN.
You can also go to a local watch party. Click here for the list.
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