To say the vibe in this stadium was electric would be a horrific understatement.
The marching band came out with a crisp spelling of “UAB”, “BLAZERS” and “BHAM” all while staying tight. They knocked out the national anthem, and then the real fireworks began.
Tim Alexander, who hasn’t walked since before his automobile accident, parked his wheelchair at around the 40-yard line and then walked the game ball the rest of the way to midfield.
Sure he had the help of those therapists and other equipment to complete the task, but those details are wholly beside the point. If there’s a better metaphor for the return of UAB football than a man who can’t walk standing up and walking the ball to midfield, I don’t know what it is.
The Blazers stuck to the ground on their first drive, with a 25-yard gallop from James Noble at the heart of a scoring drive that very nearly stalled, but got a fourth down conversion from starting quarterback AJ Erdely on fourth-and one from the AAMU four-yard line, and soon after Erdely kept the ball again for the first Blazer touchdown of 2017.
There was a brief scare as Alabama A&M drove to the UAB 30 on their second drive, and a hit on quarterback Aqeel Glass saw the ball go flying forward and get scooped up for a Bulldog touchdown by running back Jordan Bentley. However, on further replay Glass’ arm was going forward on the hit so and incomplete pass and punt settled that trouble.
The game bogged down for a bit after that, as each team’s front seven had very few sacks, but a lot of success disrupting offensive flow and creating just enough havoc. Erdely, in particular, spent a good bit of time rolling out on the scramble with very few useful outlet options.
The problem with that bog down, which on UAB’s end was entirely a product of the offensive line’s inability to protect Erdely long enough to get through his progressions, means your margin for error is small. With about 2 1/2 minutes left in the first half, Ageel Glass found tight end ROderick Randolph up the seam for a 46-yard touchdown and suddenly the game was tied at 7-7.
Fortunately for the Blazers, a good kick return from Jonathan Haden, a strong run from Carlos Stephens and a facemask penalty got the Blazers into field goal range for Nick Vogel to give the lead right back to UAB.
Som e strong words were no doubt spoken in the locker room, especially to the offensive line, and some of them worked. The run blocking improved, and the pass blocking… improved a little less. The Blazer defense stayed strong out of the gate; the first three Bulldog possessions of the second half saw two runs for a total of minus four yards, and six pass attempts, with the only completion being a pick-six by UAB’s Anthony Rush.
Between Rush and a great grab in the end zone by Sedarian Copeland, the Blazers were suddenly up 24-7 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter. The Blazers cruised from there, as the defense gave up only 32 yards of offense the entire second half and the run game started to find more and more openings. Another touchdown pass from Erdely to Andre Wilson sealed the deal for the Blazers at 31-7.
Another late drive with the backups resulted in a short dive touchdown for Spencer Brown, and a 38-7 score was your final here in Birmingham.
- The run game needed some time to start hitting on all cylinders, but both James Noble and Carlos Stephens looked good to the tune of 150 yards on 28 carries, and even Lucious Stanley had his moments. The Blazers racked up 259 yards on the ground.
- The pass rush was strong, and sideline pursuit was extra impressive as well. The defense looked very active and aggressive.
- Pass blocking was a nightmare. Erdely had a handful of good plays, but overall spent way too much time running from the AAMU defenders. This has to improve immediately.
- The couple of big plays the Blazers allowed. Two passes of 40 and 46 yards to an offense as inept as Alabama A&M bodes poorly for future tougher competition
PS Isn’t it great to have UAB football to talk about again you guys? Actual live football is in the books. Hello 1-0 UAB Blazers. Next week on the road against Ball State.