UTSA survived a furious second-half rally from Western Kentucky in an instant classic with to win the Ryan Conference USA Championship Game 49-41. In doing so, the Roadrunners captured their first conference championship since starting a football program in 2011.
The Roadrunners jumped out to a 42-13 lead in the third quarter in a game that looked all but over, but the nation's leading passer -- Bailey Zappe -- put together a performance for the ages to get WKU back into the game. Zappe threw for for 577 yards and four touchdowns to set C-USA title game records and had a drive to tie the game with one minute remaining. However, his Hail Mary was intercepted to end the game.
Instead, the night belonged to star running back Sincere McCormick, the heart of UTSA's rebuild. McCormick rushed for 204 yards and three touchdowns in a performance that will be remembered forever in San Antonio. Defensively, Clarence Hicks completed his outstanding season with two sacks down the stretch that derailed Hilltoppers drives.
In addition to Zappe, the nation's leading passer, receiver Jerreth Sterns caught 10 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a sensational performance, including a leaping two-point conversion to make it a one-score game in the fourth quarter. While it did not end in victory, Zappe and Sterns' transfer from Houston Baptist helped drive one of the biggest turnarounds in college football.
While the Roadrunners' dreams of an undefeated season were dashed in a shocking loss to North Texas the week before, the conference championship cements UTSA as one of the great stories of the 2021 college football season. Coach Jeff Traylor turned down interest from Power Five jobs to sign an unprecedented 10-year, $28 million contract as UTSA prepares to enter the American Athletic Conference.
Prior to Traylor's arrival, UTSA had just two seasons of seven wins or more. Both came during the transitional period in 2012 and 2013 when Larry Coker had major scholarship advantages. Traylor has led the program to an 18-6 record over the past two seasons. Over the previous two, the Roadrunners went just 7-17.
CBS Sports was with you throughout the night on Friday bringing you live updates and highlights from the 2021 Ryan Conference USA Championship Game.