Donovan Smith threw for two scores, the Houston defense stymied UTSA's high-powered offense, and the Cougars won their first game as a Big 12 member by toppling the in-state Roadrunners 17-14 Saturday in Houston.
In the season opener for both teams, Smith, a junior, completed 22 of 34 for 233 yards without a turnover. He outdueled UTSA's seventh-year southpaw quarterback Frank Harris.
Samuel Brown caught six passes for 106 yards. Joseph Manjack IV snared six for 67 yards and a touchdown.
Sporting light blue jerseys similar to the ones made famous by the hometown Houston Oilers, the Cougars intercepted Harris three times in the third quarter while leading 10-7.
In their first game as a member of the American Athletic Conference, the Roadrunners (0-1) saw Harris go 18 of 36 for 209 yards with a touchdown pass and rush for 45 yards.
Kevorian Barnes rushed for 103 yards on 16 carries and one score. Joshua Cephus recorded a career-high 123 yards on nine receptions with a touchdown.
Both teams averaged over 36 points per game in 2022, but with such explosive expectations in the matchup, the contest was dictated mostly by defense and special teams.
Houston set itself up on its third series after Malik Fleming's 48-yard punt return to the UTSA 22 midway through the first quarter.
Three plays later, Smith struck Manjack over the middle from 8 yards for a 7-0 lead at 6:54.
But UTSA's offense cranked up on its third possession, traveling 80 yards in eight plays before Barnes bulled in on a 4-yard run at 3:26 for a 7-all tie.
After missing from 51 yards earlier, Houston's Jack Martin redeemed himself with a 31-yard field goal to end the half after the drive was aided by a late hit on the previous play.
Treylin Payne thwarted the second half's first drive with a diving interception of Harris at the Houston 17. Fleming added two more picks of Harris, with the second setting up Matthew Golden's 6-yard touchdown catch at 3:54 to make it 17-7.
Cephus' 20-yard TD grab with 5:42 remaining capped a 94-yard drive to make it 17-14, but the Cougars ran out the clock.
—Field Level Media