Blazers Head To Nashville To Take On Vanderbilt

RB Darrin Reaves leads Conference USA in rushing.

Sept. 27, 2013

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ---- The UAB Blazers will play their final non-conference game of the regular season Saturday when they make the trek north up I-65 to Nashville, Tenn. to meet the Vanderbilt Commodores.

The Blazers and Commodores will be meeting for only the second time when they kick off Saturday (6:30 p.m.) at Vanderbilt Stadium. Fox Sports will televise the game with Bob Rathbun, Tim Couch and Elizabeth Moreau calling the action.

Vandy won the only previous matchup between the teams, taking a 31-15 win in 1996 at Nashville in the Blazers' first season playing at the Division I-A level.

UAB (1-2, 0-0 Conference USA) is coming off its first victory of the 2013 season as the Blazers downed FCS foe Northwestern (La.) State, 52-28, last Saturday at Legion Field. UAB featured a balanced offensive attack in the win over the Demons, rolling up 242 yards on the ground and 212 through the air.

Running back Darrin Reaves rushed for 178 yards on only 17 carries in the game. Wide receiver Jamarcus Nelson returned a punt 63 yards for a touchdown and also was on the receiving end of a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Austin Brown.

Vanderbilt (2-2, 0-2 SEC) posted a 24-7 victory on the road at Massachusetts last weekend. Both of the Commodores' losses thus far have come in league play (to Ole Miss and South Carolina).

The Commodores led only 10-7 through three quarters at UMass before scoring a pair of final period touchdowns to put the game away.

UAB at Vanderbilt
Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013
6:30 p.m. CT
Fox Sports Net • Blazer IMG Sports Network
Vanderbilt Stadium (40,330)

Quick Hits
• UAB posted its first victory of the 2013 season last Saturday, downing FCS foe Northwestern (La.) State, 52-28, at Legion Field. The Blazers had 242 yards on the ground -- led by the 178-yard performance by junior Darrin Reaves -- and threw for 212 more.
• When UAB plays at Vanderbilt Saturday, the Blazers will be playing their third road game in the first four of the season. UAB is wrapping up its non-conference slate with the game vs. the Commodores.
• UAB head coach Garrick McGee is in 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 Vanderbilt will be meeting for the second occasion when the two schools meet Saturday night in Nashville. The Commodores won the only previous meeting, 31-15, in the Blazers' inaugural season at the D-I level when former Vanderbilt standout Watson Brownwas UAB's head coach. • UAB will be playing a team from the Southeastern Conference for the 12th season in a row and second time in 2013. The Blazers played at LSU on Sept. 7 and are 2-8 all-time vs. the SEC.

The Coaches
• UAB: Garrick McGee (Oklahoma, '96) is in his second season as the head coach at UAB and has a record of 4-11 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).
• Vanderbilt:James Franklin (East Stroudsburg (Pa.), '95) is in his third season as the head coach of the Commodores. He has guided Vandy to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in school history. The Commodores finished with nine wins in 2012, tying school record dating back to World War I. Franklin has a record of 17-13 thus far in his Vanderbilt career.

Last Game
• UAB posted its first win of the season Saturday at Legion Field with a 52-28 victory over Northwestern (La.) State. <>br>• The Blazers used rushing, passing and special teams to put points on the board. UAB scored three touchdowns on the ground, three more through the air and one on special teams (63-yard punt return by Jamarcus Nelson).
• RB Darrin Reaves rushed for 178 yards on only 17 carries to average 10.5 yards per attempt. Reaves scored on runs of 8 and 50 yards, the latter the longest of his career. • WR Jamarcus Nelsonscored his fifth and sixth touchdowns of the season, those coming on a 41-yard pass play and a 63-yard punt return.

Twelve Blazers Have Seen First Collegiate Action This Season
• The Blazers had nine players see their first collegiate action in the Aug. 31 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.
• Three additional Blazers -- defensive lineman Jose Casanova and tight end Tristan Henderson saw their first collegiate action in the game vs. LSU while true freshman safety Jordan Pettyplayed for the first time Saturday vs. Northwestern State.

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.

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.

Three First-Time Foes On Schedule, Two SEC Teams
• The Blazers will play a trio of schools for the first time during the 2013 season while they take on a pair of opponents from the Southeastern Conference. UAB plays road games against LSU and Vanderbilt this fall, representing the 12th consecutive year that UAB has played at least one opponent from the SEC.
• UAB meets Northwestern (La.) State and FIU and UTSA for first meetings.
• The Blazers are playing both LSU and Vanderbilt for the second time in history. UAB defeated the Tigers (13-10) during the 2000 season when LSU was coached by current Alabama head coach Nick Saban. The Commodores beat the Blazers by a 31-15 score in 1996 in the only previous meeting between the two schools.

Howard Gets First Carry Of Career, Totals 60 Yards Vs. LSU
• True freshman running back Jordan Howard logged the first rushing attempts of his collegiate career in the Sept. 7 game at LSU and responded with 60 yards on only 14 carries.
• Howard had a long rush of 15 yards in the contest vs. the Tigers.
• Howard came back to post 66 yards on 12 carries (5.5 avg.) in last Saturday's game vs. Northwestern State.
• Howard also recorded his first collegiate touchdown on Saturday, an 8-yard run at the 5:00 minute mark of the fourth quarter.

Ganus Pacing Blazers In Tackles Through Three Games
• UAB sophomore linebacker Jake Ganus currently leads the Blazers in tackles with 25 stops through the first three contests, including 15 solo hits. Ganus also has a pair of tackles for loss.
• Ganus has either led the team, or tied for the team lead, in tackles in each of the Blazers' first three games.

Reaves Has 100 Or More Rushing Yards In 5 Of Last 8 Games
• Junior running back Darrin Reaves ran for 178 yards on 17 carries, his second 100-yard rushing game of the season and fifth in his last eight games, and two rushing touchdowns in last Saturday's 52-28 win over Northwestern State. It marked the second straight game he has run for a touchdown.
• Reaves now has 18 career rushing TDs to rank No. 4 on UAB's all-time list.

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.

Nelson One Of Four Players With Kick & Punt Return For TD
• UAB junior Jamarcus Nelsonis one of only four players nationally this season who has returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown in the first month. Nelson has a 97-yarder vs. Troy for a kick return score and a 63-yard TD on a punt return vs. Northwestern State. Other players who have scored on both: Marcus Jones, Minnesota; Christion Jones, Alabama; and Janarion Grant, Rutgers.

Long Perfect At UAB From 40 Yards And In
• UAB junior kicker Ty Long is now 33-of-42 (14-of-17 in 2012) on field goals during his two-year career with the Blazers. That's an accuracy rate of 78.6 percent. That is the best FG accuracy mark in UAB history, a record previously held by Swayze Waters, who hit 50-of-64 (.781) three-pointers from 2006-08.
• Long is perfect on field goals from 40 yards and within, hitting all 21 of his attempts through his 27-game UAB career.
• Long was 14-of-17 on field goals last season with five of those coming from 46 yards or longer (46, 47, 48, 53 and a school record 54 yards).
• The Roswell, Ga. native's nine career misses at UAB have come from 41, 46, 47, 49, 56 and 52 yards, 49 yards, 47 yards and 59 yards.
• Long also now has three field goals of 50 yards or more in his UAB career after booting a 50-yarder in the 2013 season opener at Troy.