Blazers Play Home Opener Saturday Vs. Northwestern State

UAB is back in action after an open date last weekend.

Sept. 20, 2013

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- After its first bye week of the 2013 campaign, the UAB Blazers are back in action Saturday, playing a home game for the first time this season as Northwestern State visits Legion Field.

The Blazers and Demons will kick off at 2 p.m. with UAB anxious to get into the win column after road defeats at Troy (34-31 in OT) and LSU (56-17) in its first two games of 2013.

UAB (0-2) and NSU (2-1) will be meeting for the first time. The Blazers are playing host to an opponent from the Southland Conference for the second straight year. UAB defeated Southeastern Louisiana, 52-3, last October.

The Demons won their first games this season before being beaten 66-9 at Cincinnati last Saturday.

Saturday's game will be carried on the Blazer IMG Sports Network in Birmingham.

Northwestern (La.) State at UAB
Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013
2:00 p.m. CT • Blazer IMG Sports Network
Legion Field (72,000)

Quick Hits
• UAB had an open date last weekend -- one of two this season -- after playing its first two games of the 2013 season on the road. The Blazers fell 34-31in overtime at Troy Aug. 31 as the Trojans scored 17 unanswered points to close out the game, including a game-winning 30-yard field goal in the OT. UAB dropped its second contest, losing at then No. 9-ranked LSU a week later, 56-17.
• UAB is playing its first home game of the season. This is the second-latest home opener the Blazers have played in the 23-year history of the program. The only season that UAB played a later home opener than this Saturday's first game was in 1999 when the Blazers hosted Houston on Sept. 25.
• UAB head coach Garrick McGee is his second season at the helm of the Blazers' program.
• Junior receiver Jamarcus Nelson had a breakout game vs. Troy to open the 2013 season. Nelson finished the Troy game with 10 receptions for 199 yards and two receiving touchdowns. He also had 168 yards on four kickoff returns, including a 97-yard return for a score. Nelson finished the game with 367 all-purpose yards -- best in the nation for the opening weekend. On Sept. 2, he was named the Conference USA Special Teams Player-of-the-Week.
• The Blazers have four new assistant coaches on the staff this season: Eric Evans (Running Backs), Joe Henry (Tight Ends), Kevin Peoples (Defensive Line/Recruiting Coordinator) and Matt Sanders (Special Teams/Assistant Secondary).
• Junior running back Darrin Reaves, a first-team All-Conference USA performer in 2012, enters 2013 as the only returning back in the nation who eclipsed 1,000 yards and 40 receptions a year ago.

Series Information
• UAB and Northwestern State are meeting for the first time Saturday.

The Coaches
• UAB: Garrick McGee (Oklahoma, '96) is in his second season as the head coach at UAB and has a record of 3-11 with the Blazers. McGee took the helm of the Blazers' program after four seasons on the staff at Arkansas, his last two campaigns as the offensive coordinator. McGee was a finalist for the 2011 Broyles Award that is presented to the nation's top assistant coach. He also served on the coaching staffs at Northwestern (2004-07), UNLV (2003), Toledo (2002), Jacksonville Jaguars (2000-01), Northern Iowa (1999) and Langston (1996-98).
• Northwestern State: Jay Thomas (Southern Miss, '88) is his first season as head coach at Northwestern State. Thomas was defensive coordinator and assistant head coach at Missouri Southern last year. Thomas spent 14 seasons at Nicholls State, including his final six there (2004-09) as the head coach. He led Nicholls to a Southland Conference championship in 2005.

Last Game
• UAB played its second straight game on the road to open the 2013 season when the Blazers took on No. 9-ranked LSU on Sept. 7.
• The Tigers scored the first 28 points of the game before the Blazers rallied with 17 second quarter points.
• The Blazers finished with 296 offensive yards, tallying 160 on the ground and 136 more through the air. RB Darrin Reaves finished with 84 rushing yards on only 14 attempts while true freshman added 60 yards on 14 carries.
• QB Zach Mettenberger was 16-19 passing for 282 yards with five touchdown passes. Odell Beckman had 136 receiving yards and three receiving scores while adding a touchdown on a missed field goal return. Beckman finished the game with 231 all-purpose yards.

Eleven Blazers Have Seen First Collegiate Action This Season
• The Blazers had nine players see their first collegiate action in last Saturday's season-opening game at Troy. Five players on the offensive side of the ball, three on defense and one special teams performer were included in the group. Of the nine to see action, three were true freshmen, four were redshirt freshmen and two were junior college transfers. <>br>• Two additional Blazers -- defensive lineman Jose Casanova and tight end Tristan Henderson-- saw their first collegiate action in the game vs. LSU two weeks ago.

23rd Season Of UAB Football; 18th At I-A Level
• UAB has a young football program compared to most of its opposition. The Blazers went through their first intercollegiate football season in 1991 as a member of NCAA Division III.
• The Blazers moved to Division I-AA two seasons later in 1993, remaining at that level three years before making the transition to Division I-A during 1996 season.
• The 2013 season represents the 23rd season of football for UAB.

Next Week
• Following Saturday's home opener vs. Northwestern State, UAB will be back on the road for its third road game of the month when the Blazers travel to Nashville, Tenn. to take on SEC foe Vanderbilt on Saturday, Sept. 28. The contest vs. the Commodores will kick off at 6:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on FSN.

Blazers On Preseason Watch Lists
• The Blazers had three players named on Preseason Watch Lists this summer.
• Junior kicker Ty Long was tabbed to the Watch List for the Lou Groza Award, presented annually to the nation's top collegiate kicker. Long connected on 14-of-17 field goals last season and is now 30-of-36 in his career. His career accuracy mark of 83.3 percent is the highest in UAB history. Long also kicked the two longest field goals in Blazer history -- 54 (vs. Ohio State) and 53 yards (Southeastern Louisiana) in 2012.
• Junior punter Hunter Mullins was one of 25 punters nationally named this summer to the Watch List for the 2013 Ray Guy Award, given each season to the nation's outstanding college punter. Mullins, in his first season as UAB's regular punter, averaged a school record 44.8 yards per kick in 2012. He had 14 punts inside the 20-yard line and had 12 punts that were 50 yards or more.
• Junior running back Darrin Reaveswas tabbed to the preseason list for the 2013 Doak Walker Award, presented to the nation's top collegiate running back. Reaves became the fourth 1,000-yard rusher in Blazer history last season when he ran for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. The Birmingham native also recorded 41 receptions for 302 yards in 2012. Reaves is the only running back in the country entering the 2013 season who surpassed 1,000 yards rushing and 40 catches last fall.

RB Reaves Named Preseason All-Conference USA By Coaches
• UAB running back Darrin Reaveswas named to the 2013 Preseason All-Conference USA first team in a vote by the league's head coaches. Reaves ran for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns last season. His 13 rushing touchdowns in a season is a Blazer single-season record. Nine of his touchdowns came in the final six games of the season. He also was adept as a pass-catching back as he recorded 41 receptions during the year.

D.J. White Sees First Action Since 2011 Season
• One Blazer who had to be especially excited to get back on the field in the season opener was fifth-year senior linebacker D.J. White. White missed all of the 2012 season after suffering a knee injury during spring practice. White finished the game Aug. 31 at Troy with three tackles.

"Local" Linebackers Lead Way On Defense In Opener
• UAB's top three tacklers in the game vs. Troy were all sophomore linebackers from the metro-Birmingham area.
Jake Ganus, who attended Chelsea High School., finished the contest with a team-best and career-high 11 tackles, including a pair of tackles for loss and one forced fumble.
Destin Challenger, a product of Spain Park High School, had seven tackles in the game for second-best on the team against the Trojans.
• Derek Slaughter, a graduate of Pelham High School, registered four tackles and also posted a tackle for loss and one fumble recovery.

New Faces
• The 2013 UAB coaching staff has four new faces, two on offense and two on defense. Eric Evans is the Blazers' new running backs coach after spending five years at the University of Albany. Joe Henry, a former tight end at Arkansas who was a graduate assistant on the Razorbacks' staff last season, is the tight ends coach.
Kevin Peoples joins the staff as UAB's defensive line coach and recruiting coordinator. Peoples most recently has been on the staff at Arkansas but spent eight seasons as the defensive line coach at Arkansas State prior to going to Fayetteville. Matt Sandersis also a new member of the Blazers' staff and will serve as UAB's special teams coach, as well as assist in the secondary, working with the cornerbacks.

Blazers Had Pair Of 100-Yard Receivers In Opening Game
• UAB had a pair of 100-yard receivers (Jamarcus Nelson - 199 yards, Jamari Staples - 103 yards) in the season-opening game at Troy, the first time the Blazers have had two 100-yard pass catchers in the same game since Nick Adams (119) and Jackie Williams(143) achieved the feat vs. Tulane last season.

Staples' Blazer Debut A Success
• UAB wide receiver Jamari Staples, a 6-4, 190-pound product of Lineville, Ala., had a successful collegiate debut at Troy Aug. 31 as he posted six receptions for 103 yards and one touchdown. Staples' touchdown catch came on a 42-yard pass from quarterback Austin Brown midway through the first quarter.