The Roadrunners (11-3), who are ranked No. 22 in the USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll, were able to get on the board first via a bad snap by the Trojans going out of the end zone. They were able to capitalize with the next possession as Frank Harris found Zakhari Franklin for a touchdown to cap a 15-play drive. Troy’s Kimani Vidal scored a rushing touchdown with 50 seconds to go in the first half to get the Trojans on the board. Then Gunnar Watson found RaeJa’ Johnson for an 11-yard touchdown to get the lead with 2:43 left in the third quarter.
It was the first bowl appearance for the No. 24 Trojans (12-2) since 2018 in the first season of the Jon Sumrall era. Troy extended its bowl win streak to five games while extending its current win streak to 11 games, the third longest in the FBS. The Trojans’ 12 wins are the most they have had at the FBS level.
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Defense plays stingy
Going into the game, Sumrall had high praise for the Roadrunner offense but his defense was able to corral the fast-paced offense. The Trojan defense had five turnovers, including a stretch of four straight drives with one. The unit held QB Frank Harris to 198 yards passing and a touchdown and 12 rushing yards and UTSA to 345 total yards. The Trojans defense stopped the Roadrunners on fourth-and-goal and fourth-and-9 in the fourth quarter to hold on for the win.
FBS career tackles leader Carlton Martial led the way with 14 tackles while Richard Jibunor forced two turnovers and had a sack.
First half struggles on offense
In addition to the third down struggles, the Trojans were held scoreless for over 29 minutes of the first half. Troy was held to 66 yards in the first half and only crossed the 50-yard line on its second-to-last drive of the half. The touchdown drive went across 80 yards but had 34 yards of penalties on UTSA and an interception that was fumbled and recovered by Troy gained 23 yards for the Trojans.
The Trojans recorded three three-and-outs and had four drives starting inside its 10-yard line. The offensive line allowed four sacks to a defense that came into the game with just 19.
Third-down mistakes hurt offense early
The Trojans made mistakes on each of their first four third-downs of the game. The first was a RaeJa’ Johnson drop that would have given the Trojans a first down and more. The second drive stalled after Deshon Stoudemire was unable to bring in a pass and he dropped a pass on the fourth one. The third mistake was a bad snap that went out the end zone for a safety.
For the game the Trojans went 3 of 13, including an interception, on third down.