Sept. 17, 2007
I'll take nine copies of this past Saturday, please. What a great day for college football, especially if you are a Blazer. The weather was absolutely amazing. We had a great crowd at Blazer Village for all the pre-game festivities. UAB finally got to enjoy playing in front of the home fans, and the crowd of roughly 22,000 is a wonderful starting point for our attendance at home this year. To cap off a fine football Saturday, the Green and Gold ended an eight-game losing streak and picked up win number one here in 2007. It was also win number one for Neil Callaway. Oh, by the way, it was also the Blazers first shutout in almost eight years. The 22-0 victory over Alcorn State provided any number of reasons to be happy.
It was nice to see the team take that next step...to go from improving to winning. It was even more enjoyable to see the smiles on the faces...players and coaches, alike. The win also came at a great time. With the only open date of the regular season coming this Saturday, a loss to the Braves would have meant a LONG two weeks for everyone.
We got to see some new faces in the line-up on Saturday, and we also got to see some familiar faces in old places. I think everyone now knows why the coaches were so excited about Brandon Thornton. The transfer from Mississippi State saw his first action of the year, as a starter, no less, in the UAB backfield, and the Birmingham native wasted little time in providing a spark for the running game. Wide receiver Mario Wright also introduced himself to the Blazer fans. The freshman is a big target and has big-play potential. He, too, got off to a quick start. Mario caught a pass from Sam Hunt on UAB's first snap, good for a 10-yard gain...Thornton then followed with a 12-yard run...not a bad start for those two gentlemen in their first action for the Green and Gold.
The most commonly-asked question through pre-season drills and the first two weeks was, "When will we see Joe Webb at quarterback?" The answer came Saturday night, late in the first quarter. Joe's numbers at quarterback weren't necessarily overwhelming, but it was good to see him under center, and it also gives the rest of UAB's opponents something to worry about.
What a night for Swayze Waters! His perfect game (5-5 field goals, 1-1 extra points) netted him 16 points and helped earn him Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week honors. He's now 9-for-10 in field goals this year, and he's perfect from 50-plus, including his career-best 52-yarder against Alcorn State. Not only did he make every kick, I don't think any were even close to the uprights. The ball seemed to explode off his foot, and each kick looked about as "textbook" as a player or coach could want. Having solid special teams is one thing...having a true weapon is quite another.
So, plenty to be excited about...no major injuries, lots of playing time for lots of different guys, a shutout, etc. Was it perfect? No. Too many penalties...too many missed opportunities (we all like Swayze, but I'll take 5-5 on extra points and 1-1 on field goals). Congrats to coach Callaway on his first win as a head coach. We're very lucky to have him leading this program. Congrats to the coaching staff and the players. I hope you celebrated well and wisely on Saturday. But now it's time to go back to work. The start of the conference slate comes in less than two weeks with a tough trip to Tulsa. It has been fun to watch this team grow and improve in three short weeks. I for one can't wait to see how much progress will be made before the first-ever meeting with the Golden Hurricane.
I hope you'll join us this, and every Thursday, for "Blazers All-Access." We broadcast live from Full Moon BBQ in Hoover from 6-7 PM. Coach Callaway will be there, and we take your calls, comments and questions at 866-883-0405. You can also email your comments and questions to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great off week, and GO BLAZERS!!!