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UTSA falls short in season opener at Houston

HOUSTON Kevorian Barnes posted his sixth career 100-yard rushing game, Joshua Cephus had a career-high 123 receiving yards and Trey Moore and Donyai Taylor combined for five tackles for loss, but it was not enough as UTSA dropped a 17-14 decision at Houston in the season opener on Saturday night at TDECU Stadium.

Playing in their first game as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the Roadrunners displayed a balanced offense with 208 rushing yards and 209 passing yards against the Cougars, who were making their Big 12 Conference debut. Barnes rushed for 103 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, averaging 6.4 yards per tote. Dating back to last season, it marked the third straight 100-yard output for the redshirt sophomore from San Augustine, Texas.

Cephus caught nine passes in registering his top receiving yardage total and fifth 100-yard game as a Roadrunner. The senior from nearby Dekaney High School hauled in a pass over the middle late in the contest, juked a defender and found the end zone to help pull UTSA within 17-14 with 5:42 left to play.

Taylor, a senior from Shiner, Texas, recorded five total tackles with three behind the line, including one of three sacks turned in by the visitors. Moore, a sophomore out of Smithson Valley High, also made five stops with two TFLs and one sack.

Kam Alexander paced the defense with six tackles along with a pass breakup and quarterback hurry in his UTSA debut, while Avery Morris, Ken Robinson and Rashad Wisdom contributed five stops apiece. The Roadrunners held the Cougars to 334 yards of offense, including only 101 on the ground.

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Cephus’ score brought UTSA within three points after trailing by 10. Houston converted a third-down-and-three with a 6-yard pass from Donovan Smith to Mike O’Laughlin. Faced with another third-and-three with the clock winding down to fewer than three minutes, Smith scrambled up the middle and initially was ruled short of the line to gain. However, replay review changed the spot of the ball and the Cougars were awarded a first down following a chain measurement to seal the win.

Houston got on the board first after Smith found Joseph Manjack open in the end zone for an 8-yard touchdown reception. The score was set up by 48-yard punt return by Malik Fleming down to the UTSA 22-yard line.

UTSA answered with an eight-play, 80-yard drive to knot the score at 7-7. Frank Harris completed passes of 16 yards to Chris Carpenter and 17 to Dan Dishman on back-to-back plays before a David Amador II jet sweep around the left end for 20 yards set up a 4-yard TD plunge by Barnes.

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The two teams traded missed field goals early in the second quarter, but Jack Martin gave Houston a 10-7 halftime advantage when he split the uprights from 31 yards as time expired in the half.

Houston upped its lead to 10 points late in the third quarter when Matthew Golden hauled in a 6-yard touchdown pass from Smith at the 3:54 mark.

The Roadrunners will return home to host Texas State (1-0) next Saturday, Sept. 9. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at the Alamodome and the game will air on ESPN+ and Ticket 760. Tickets are on sale now by calling 210-458-UTSA (8872) or visiting goUTSA.com/tickets.

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