Blazers Open C-USA Schedule, Host FAU Saturday

UABSPORTS.COM Garrick McGee and the Blazers open C-USA play at home Saturday.
UABSPORTS.COM
Garrick McGee and the Blazers open C-USA play at home Saturday.
UABSPORTS.COM

Oct. 4, 2013

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. --- After seeing four straight non-conference opponents to open the 2013 season, the UAB Blazers will open their Conference USA schedule Saturday when they play host to Florida Atlantic at Legion Field. Gametime is set for 2:00 p.m. CT.

UAB (1-3, 0-0 C-USA) will be looking to bounce back from a 52-24 loss at Vanderbilt last Saturday. The Blazers will be facing an Owls team (1-4, 0-3 C-USA) already playing its fourth league contest of the season.

This will be the fifth meeting between the two teams as they played four consecutive years (2008-11) prior to the Owls becoming a C-USA member. FAU leads the series by a 3-1 margin. The Owls won the last meeting in the 2011 season finale for both teams, 38-35, at Boca Raton, Fla.

Florida Atlantic, though it has notched only one win thus far, has dropped a pair of close conference games in its last two outings, fall in overtime to Middle Tennessee and 18-14 at Rice last week.

Florida Atlantic at UAB
Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013
2:00 p.m. CT
Legion Field (72,000)
Blazer IMG Sports Network

Quick Hits
• UAB will play its first Conference USA game of the 2013 season on Saturday when the Blazers play host to the Florida Atlantic Owls in a 2 p.m. CT kickoff at Legion Field.
• The Blazers completed the non-conference portion of its schedule Saturday with a 52-28 loss at SEC opponent Vanderbilt. UAB trailed just 7-3 after one quarter before the Commodores scored 17 points in the second period.
• 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.

All-Time Series Vs. Florida Atlantic
• UAB and Florida Atlantic will be meeting for the fifth time -- and the first since the Owls joined Conference USA -- when they play Saturday afternoon in Birmingham.
• The schools met four consecutive years (2008-11)
• FAU holds a 3-1 series advantage in the series that began in 2008. This is the third meeting between the teams at Legion Field. UAB won by a 56-29 score in 2009.

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).
• Florida Atlantic: Carl Pelini (Youngstown State, '89) is his second season as head coach at Florida Atlantic. He assumed the helm of the Owls' program after serving four years on the staff at the University of Nebraska as the Cornhuskers' defensive coordinator. Prior to going to Lincoln, Pelini was on the staff at Ohio for three seasons (2005-07).

Thirteen 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.
• Four additional Blazers -- defensive lineman Jose Casanova and tight end Tristan Henderson saw their first collegiate action in the game vs. LSU, true freshman safety Jordan Petty played for the first time vs. Northwestern State and sophomore lineman Uneik Crumbleyplayed for the first time at Vanderbilt.

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 Had Potent Offense In 2012
Garrick McGee's first UAB team featured an explosive offense, both through the air and on the ground. The Blazers finished with 5,029 offensive yards, their third-highest total in school history. UAB averaged 308.8 yards through the air to rank No. 19 nationally in the final NCAA statistics. The passing yards total (3,706) were the most ever by a Blazer team.
• UAB averaged 28.2 points per game, the Blazers' third-best average in school history.
• Running back Darrin Reavesregistered just the fourth 1,000-yard rushing season in UAB history as he finished with 1,037 yards.

Blazers Have Pair of Experienced Signal-Callers
• One luxury for UAB heading into the 2013 season is having a pair of quarterbacks who possess significant experience. Redshirt sophomore Austin Brown and senior Jonathan Perry accounted for 3,706 passing yards last season with 21 touchdown passes.
• Brown started seven of the final eight games of the 2012 season and finished with 2,673 passing yards and 15 touchdown throws. Perry started the first three contests last fall and had 1,033 passing yards and six touchdown passes. Brown had three games with more than 300 yards passing, including a season-high 409 against Tulane. Perry's best game may have been the final game of the season when he came off the bench and hit for 307 yards and a pair of scoring passes.

Looking Back At UAB Game Vs. Vanderbilt
• UAB played its final non-conference game of the 2013 season and its second this season against an opponent from the Southeastern Conference. The Blazers played at LSU on Sept. 7.
• The Commodores averaged 8.4 yards per offensive play compared to 5.6 for the Blazers.
• Seven different Blazers caught passes in the game, led by Jamarcus Nelson who had five for 69 yards (all coming in the first half).
• RB Jordan Howard led the UAB rushers with 92 yards on the ground on only nine carries (10.2 per attempt). He had a long rush of 52 yards.
• The 52 points yielded by the Blazers marked the second time this year UAB has allowed more than 50 to an SEC opponent.
• PK Ty Longwas a perfect 3-of-3 on field goal attempts in the game.

Blazers Currently Fourth In Scoring In C-USA
• UAB currently ranks No. 4 in Conference USA in scoring offense at 31.0 points per game.
• The Blazers are No. 8 in C-USA in passing offense with an average of 223.2 yards per game and are No. 5 in the league in rushing offense at 166.5.

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.
• Staples is off to a great start in his collegiate career as he ranks second on the team in receptions (12), receiving yards (187) and receiving touchdowns (3). He has a receiving touchdown in three of the four games UAB has played.

"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.

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.

Howard Making Rushing Impact
• True freshman running back Jordan Howard continues to have a positive impact on the Blazers' ground game. In his three games thus far at UAB, Howard has rushed for totals of 60, 66 and 92 yards and averaged a team-best 6.2 yards per attempt.
• He broke loose for a 52-yard run at Vandy for the longest rush of his young career. Howard averaged 10.2 yards per rush vs. the Commodores.

Powell Makes First TD Reception
• Wide receiver Darius Powell registered the first touchdown reception of his career, a 29-yard catch on a pass from quarterback Jonathan Perry, early in the fourth quarter. Powell finished the game with five catches for 56 yards.
• The receptions were the first of the season for Powell.

Staples With TD Catch In Three Games
• Freshman wide receiver Jamari Staples has caught a touchdown pass in three of the Blazers' first four games this season.
• Staples has touchdown receptions against Troy, Northwestern (La.) State and Vanderbilt.
• Staples now has 12 catches on the season for 187 yards. He averages 15.6 yards per reception, second on the team to Jamarcus Nelsonwho averages 17.6 yards per catch.

White Notches First INT Since 2010
• Senior linebacker D.J. White recorded his second career interception early in the third quarter when he snagged a pass from Vanderbilt's Austyn Carta-Samuels and returned it 17 yards. The pick was White's first interception since the 2010 season.
• White has started the last two games for the Blazers and now ranks No. 2 on the team in total tackles with 18. Jake Ganus leads the Blazers in tackles with 32.