Sept. 27, 2010
Ouch. I've made numerous trips to Knoxville over the years. I've even "enjoyed" some of them. I don't think I've ever left feeling the way I did on Saturday afternoon. Watching UAB completely dominate the Vols in the second half made me extremely proud, but it also added to the empty feeling after the double-overtime heart-breaker.
The numbers were truly staggering. UAB outgained the Volunteers 544-287...had eight more first downs...held the ball for 36:07 to Tennessee's 23:53...allowed the Big Orange to convert just 2 of 15 third-downs...limited UT to 42 yards rushing...and gave up a total of 88 yards in the second half and overtime periods. Those are winning numbers. But there were also enough mistakes, in all phases, to account for the loss.
The feeling I got watching the game, after the game ended, and talking with some of the players on Monday was that UAB was the better team on Saturday in Knoxville. Everyone who watched the game knew the Blazers were better, and they also know it wasn't a fluke. There was disappointment, anger, frustration, as you would expect, but I also got the sense the players know, without a doubt, that this can be a good team, capable of playing with anyone on the schedule.
There will be a little extra time to get over the loss and heal some of the bumps and bruises from the very physical encounter. And there's a little extra time to get ready for the next hurdle, a very important Conference USA match-up with UCF in Orlando. The Blazers and the Knights will meet on Wednesday, October 6th, at Brighthouse Networks Stadium, and ESPN will televise the game. The Green and Gold pitched a shutout the last time the teams met in Orlando, and I would expect the defense would be much more confident after silencing the masses in Knoxville for much of the day last Saturday.
The offense should have confidence, as well. Bryan Ellis showed amazing poise and toughness against the Vols. He took quite a pounding, and while he made mistakes, I think he validated the decision to make him the starter. He was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Week for the second straight week, but he didn't rack up the numbers all alone. David Isabelle was also fantastic, and the duo made quite an effective one-two punch. If the Blazers can get that level of play from both quarterbacks all season long, the UAB offense will be a handful.
Everyone knows the kicking game struggled against Tennessee, and I'm sure each player involved with special teams will put in the work over the next week and a half to make sure it becomes a strength the rest of the way.
It's shocking to think we've finished the first third of the season. Safe to say no one wanted to be sitting here at 1-3, but there is hope. I do believe in this team, and I think most who have watched UAB football the last few years would agree this is a much more talented team than ones we've seen recently. The players have played extremely hard, and they've shown they will not go away. Let's hope that fighting spirit continues and more good things will come their way.
Have a great week...enjoy your 'free' weekend...and I hope we'll see some green and gold in Orlando next Wednesday.