Give UAB credit.
When the Blazers needed a big play in their Conference USA football game Saturday night, they got it.
In particular, UAB’s offense had lots of third-and-long situations. It didn’t convert all of them, but got enough to prolong drives, to help put a few points on the board, to keep Southern Miss off the field and to win the game at M.M. Roberts Stadium, 30-12.
The record states that Southern Miss converted 5 of 17 third downs. It also says that UAB converted 10 of 19 of theirs.
“Their quarterback, he got out of pressure a few times, he made some plays, kept some plays alive,” said coach Jay Hopson, whose Golden Eagles had a three-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in Conference USA. “We didn’t wrap up a couple times, but give them credit. They won the game, they deserved to win the game.”
UAB turned a couple of third downs into first downs on its first possession of the game on passes by quarterback A.J. Erdely, a former Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College player. The drive ended with a touchdown, giving the visitors a 7-6 lead with 3:49 to go in the first quarter.
Erdely ran around left end on a key possession in the third quarter and that drive wound up with Erdely rushing for a score from 1 yard out, for his 10th rushing touchdown of the season. That put the Blazers ahead for good, 13-12, with 3:59 remaining in the third quarter.
Ironically, on a long drive late in the third quarter, UAB converted three third downs but didn’t score, as a 52-yard field goal attempt by Nick Vogel, who spent a semester at Southern Miss after UAB shut down its program in 2013 and then transferred back to UAB when it re-started its program, hit the crossbar and bounced back.
But even when it was 23-12 in the fourth quarter, UAB was still converting third downs.
Erdely finished the game for the Blazers (5-3, 3-2) with 208 yards passing on 16 of 29 attempts.
“We’ve got to make sure we finish the play and get the quarterback on the ground,” Southern Miss defensive lineman Xavier Thigpen said. “Help our (defensive backs) out. We had great energy, we’ve just got to execute.”
UAB freshman running back Spencer Brown wound up with 209 yards rushing on 33 carries. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the season.
“I just run, run, run until something pops and eventually it did,” Brown said. “It feels good, but I owe it all to my O-line. Everything starts with them. You can’t run or pass without them blocking for you.”
The Golden Eagles will play at Tennessee at 6:30 p.m. next Saturday.
“We’ve got to get ready to go and have a better week of practice, have a better game,” Hopson said.