College Football around Alabama: UAB Bowling in the Bahamas
As families across America gear up for a big Christmas holiday weekend, one squad from the Yellowhammer State will strap on the pads one more time for 2017.
Outside of the College Football Playoff selection process, UAB’s rapid rebound from dormancy to college football respectability has been one of the most compelling stories during the 2017 season.
In 2014, Bill Clark took over a UAB football program that was in utter disarray thanks to nine consecutive losing seasons under Watson Brown, Neil Callaway and Garrick McGee.
Despite a 6-6 season in Clark’s first year with the Blazers, UAB decided to drop football as a varsity sport before deciding to reverse course and resume the program.
After a two-year layoff, Clark will coach UAB in their first bowl game since 2004 with an 11:30 AM kickoff against Ohio on ESPN.
After splitting their first four games to start the season, the Blazers have won six of their last eight games to finish the regular season at 8-4 overall including a 6-2 mark in Conference USA.
The Blazers have been guided offensively by the steady hand of junior quarterback A.J. Erdely. The Cumming, Georgia native has recorded a total of 29 touchdowns including a team-high 13 rushing touchdowns and has scored at least one touchdowns in every game this season.
In addition to Erdely, freshman running back Spencer Brown has burst onto the scene as the third leading rusher in Conference USA with 1,292 rushing yards.
Defensively, UAB has the second best pass defense in the conference surrendering 188 yards per game through the air.
Individually, senior cornerback Darious Williams is second in C-USA with five interceptions including one pick-six.
On the opposing sidelines, the Ohio Bobcats limp into the Bahamas on a two-game losing streak. Ohio lost 37-34 at Akron and 31-24 at Buffalo to close the regular season.
Frank Solich still roams the sidelines in Athens, Ohio, as the former head coach at Nebraska will finish his 13th season as the head coach of the Bobcats.
Ohio has been one of the most consistent programs in the MAC in recent years as they have won eight or more games seven times since 2009 and have appeared in three MAC Championship Games in that same span.
The key to Ohio’s 8-4 has been their efficiency on offense. In their eight wins, the Bobcats have scored at least 38 points in seven games while failing to reach 30 points in three of their four losses this season.
On the ground, Frank Solich’s squad has the top rushing offense in the MAC (244.2 yards per game) while also possessing the conference’s best rushing defense allowing just 111.4 yards per game.
Alabama Flavor at Ohio U
The Ohio Bobcats have two players with Alabama ties in the 2017 roster.
Freshman wide receiver Isaiah Cox played his high school football at Walker High School in Jasper while sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke has made an impact at quarterback.
Rourke came to Ohio University from Fort Scott Community College but played his senior season of high school at Elmore Academy outside of Wetumpka, Alabama.
The sophomore quarterback has shown some ability in the passing game with over 2,000 yards through the air but has displayed his skills in the running game.
The Edgewood Academy alum has five 100-yard rushing performances this season and leads the MAC with 21 rushing touchdowns on the season.
Weekend Bowl Schedule
Friday, December 22
UAB vs. Ohio 11:30 AM (ESPN) (Bahamas Bowl: Nassau, Bahamas)
Central Michigan vs. Wyoming 3 PM (ESPN) (Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Boise, ID)
Saturday, December 23
Texas Tech vs. South Florida 11 AM (ESPN) (Birmingham Bowl: Birmingham, AL)
San Diego State vs. Army 2:30 PM (ESPN) (Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Fort Worth, TX)
Appalachian State vs. Toledo 6 PM (ESPN) (Dollar General Bowl: Mobile, AL)
Sunday, December 24
Fresno State vs. Houston 7:30 PM (ESPN) (Hawaii Bowl: Honolulu, HI)