UAB Blazers (4-2, 2-1) at Charlotte 49ers (0-7, 0-3)
Location: McColl-Richardson Field, Charlotte, NC
Time: 5:30 CT
TV: beIN Sports
Line: UAB -7.5, O/U 49.5
History: First ever meeting. Duh.
Do you remember the last time the UAB Blazers were a touchdown favorite on the road? I certainly don’t. So how on earth do you handle yet another first, which is the first time you’re going into a road game with everyone expecting you to win?
Earlier this season we talked about a couple of n00bs facing each other when UAB and Coastal Carolina met. UAB had just played their first game in almost three years against an FBS opponent (Ball State), while the Chanticleers had just played their first game against an FBS opponent in five years (UMass).
Coastal played well, but UAB got three interceptions, two of which produced short-field touchdown drives, and that wound up enough to win a close game that wasn’t quite as close as the final score. This week should be similar, if not quite as close.
Now, the Blazers get to face an even younger and less experienced team, the Charlotte 49ers team that didn’t exist until 2013, and then jumped up to FBS for the 2015 season when the conference needed a team to replace the Blazers on, shall we say, short notice.
The weakness of the program and the accelerated timeline are rearing their ugly head again this season. Did you know the 49ers have yet to win a home game against an FBS opponent? True story. They’re 16-37 all-time, and those wins are split evenly between home and road, but all four of their wins against FBS opponents have happened on the road.
They’ve been close; their last two home finales were one score affairs (31-38 to MTSU last year, 27-30 to UTSA in 2015) and FAU and Rice both won by a single point. But this year’s team makes last year’s Larry Ogunjobi, lightning-in-a-bottle defense look a million miles away right now.
Charlotte is one of only fourteen teams that have yet to crack 1,000 passing yards for the season, and that list shrinks even further if you remove run-heavy offenses like the service academies. The 49ers are one of only eight teams to have not reached 1,000 passing yards or 1,500 rush yards yet this season.
Last week was a bit of an anomaly, as their offense was without both Benny LeMay and Hassan Klugh due to injury and illness, but it’s not as though they were lighting the world on fire before that. Charlotte has had five instances of a player rushing for 100+ yards, and three of 150+ yards, but they’re still only averaging 188 rushing yards per game.
There is no pass offense to speak of, so the 49ers have no ability to come from behind, which has been evident for most of the season. UNCC has played seven games, scored a first-quarter touchdown in five of those games, and scored a second-quarter touchdown in three of them (with FIU being the only opponent two surrender two TDs in each of those frames). Unfortunately, the mad second-half comeback against FCS North Carolina A&T accounts for 21 of their 27 second-half points this season.
I guess this means they should get down by multiple touchdowns on purpose? It boggles my mind that this is somehow C-USA’s fourth worst offense.
This is good.
The Blazers busted their butts and despite a few small errors, they found a way to win again. The defense showed up, and after giving up a 75-yard touchdown drive in only three minutes to open the game, they surrendered only 319 yards and three field goals the rest of the game. One bad punt allowed this game to be much closer than it should have been, but winning can help smooth over some edges even when you’re 3-1 in one-score games in the last month.
Spencer Brown broke the freshman single-game rushing record that he just set the week before with another 167 yards, and he has now climbed to 26th nationally in rushing yards after his third game of 150+ yards in the last five. A.J. Erdely continues to find opportunities with his feet, though he was never really able to find a rhythm in the passing game that would let the Blazers build any real momentum.
I’m sure that Bill Clark is reminding these guys of what has happened so far this season on the road (giving up 97 points to UNT and Ball State) and the defense has looked much better up front now that everyone is healthy, which will come in handy against a run oriented offense.
I would assume nothing considering the close games the Blazers have tended to play lately, but of their FBS opponents to date only Coastal Carolina rated lower than 105 in defensive S&P+ and only Ball State was rated outside the top 90 in both offensive and defensive S&P+. Charlotte ranks in the bottom ten in both categories.
Charlotte has faced mostly pass-dominant offenses outside of Kansas State and has fared poorly, and they’ve struggled to avoid productive turnovers (five defensive touchdowns surrendered in seven games). Against an aggressive UAB defense, that’s a recipe for disaster, especially considering this will be the best rushing offense the 49ers have faced so far this season.
I think there’s a decent chance that Spencer Brown re-establishes the record once more, and an even better chance that the Blazers come back to Birmingham victorious. That said, they’ll need to avoid the random big plays that Charlotte tends to find (they average 3-4 plays of 20+ yards per game and one of 40+ yards) in order to win this one comfortably rather than sweating it out until the end.
UAB Blazers 31, Charlotte 49ers 13