Oct. 19, 2000
KICKOFF:Set for 3:00 pm CDT at Birmingham's historic Legion Field (83,091, Natural Grass).
THE TEAMS: Middle Tennessee is 3-3 overall and coming off a 28-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe last Saturday (Oct. 14) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., UAB is 4-2 and coming off a hard-fought 13-9 win over Memphis Saturday at Legion Field.
THE COACHES: MTSU's Andy McCollum is 6-11 in his second season, UAB's Watson Brown is 28-33 in his sixth season at UAB (60-110-1 in his 16th season as a head coach).
THE SERIES: Saturday's game will be the third meeting between UAB and Middle Tennessee in football, the series is tied 1-1. MTSU won 28-13 in Murfreesboro (Sep. 30, 1995) and the Blazers returned the favor with a 26-17 win at Legion Field two years ago (Nov. 14, 1998).
TELEVISION: None in the Birmingham area (the game will be televised in Nashville and Murfreesboro, satellite coordinates TBA).
RADIO: The game will be broadcast live on the UAB Football Radio Network on stations throughout the state of Alabama and in Birmingham on the Blazers' flagship station, WAPI AM 1070. Gary Sanders is in his 22nd season as the play-by-play voice of the Blazers (and his tenth broadcasting UAB football games). Sanders will be joined in the booth by color commentator Matt Coulter (now in his fourth season with the UAB Broacast crew), as well as producer/engineer and jack-of-all-trades Jon Gentile (now in his third year with UAB) and spotter/sideline reporter/legal advisor Bill Lewis. Saturday's broadcast will begin with the pre-game show at 2:30 pm CDT live from Legion Field.
UAB COACH WATSON BROWN (Vanderbilt '73): Coach Brown is in his sixth season at UAB (1995- ) and his 16th overall as a head coach. Brown is 28-33 at UAB and 60-110-1 overall. Brown has been the primary architect of the Blazers' rise from a partial-scholarship I-AA program to a full-fledged NCAA Division I-A team with membership in a major football league, Conference USA. The Cookeville, Tenn., native is a 1973 graduate of Vanderbilt, where he was an outstanding quarterback for the Commodores (1969-72). The year 2000 is Brown's 28th season in the football coaching profession. His previous stops as a head coach include Austin Peay State (1979-80), Cincinnati (1983), Rice (1984-85), and Vanderbilt (1986-90).
AARON COMES THROUGH IN FIRST START: Junior quarterback Jeff Aaron led the Blazers to a 13-9 victory over Memphis in his first start as a Blazer (Oct. 14). The Montgomery, Ala., native who sat out the 1999 season as a redshirt after coming to UAB from Itawamba (Miss.) Community College, completed 14 of 27 pass attempts for 144 yards and led the Blazers on a pair of late scoring drives (a Jegil Dugger touchdown and a Rhett Gallego field goal) to seal what Coach Watson Brown later called "the gutsiest win we've had since I've been here." Aaron had spent the first five games of 2000 as the team's third quarterback, but got the start after playing well in the loss to Louisville (Oct 7).
MENTOR vs. PUPIL: Middle Tennesse Head Coach Andy McCollum is a 1981 graduate of Austin Peay State University, where he was a four-year letterwinner as an offensive lineman, tight end and receiver (1977-80). For two of those seasons (1979-80) his head coach was none other that Watson Brown, who, although not much older than his players (he was 29 when he took the job) was a head coach for the first time.
BLAZER DEFENSE STILL RANKS HIGH: The UAB defense, which was masterful in holding Memphis to seven points last week (the other two points resulted from a safety after a high snap sailed over punter Ross Stewart's head into the end zone), has two top 10 rankings in the NCAA statistics released on Oct. 15. UAB is ranked fifth overall in total defense (allowing 255.33 yards per game) and tenth overall in rushing defense (allowing 79.7 yards per game). UAB also has top 20 rankings in Interceptions (Tie-12th/10), Pass Efficiency Defense (Tie-12th/93.33 rating), Turnovers Gained (T-14th/18), Pass Defense (allowing 175.67 yards per game) and Scoring Defense (19th/allowing 16.2 points per game).
FIELD GOAL STREAK: Entering Saturday's game with Middle Tennessee, UAB has made 18 consecutive field goal attempts, dating back to the 1999 season . Jake Arians made his last seven in 1999, and Rhett Gallego has hit all 11 of his attempts this season.
IT RHYMES WITH `LEG': Junior placekicker Rhett Gallego (pronounced guh-LEG-oh) is now famous for his game-winning field goal at LSU (Sep. 23), but he has been consistently outstanding this season. Gallego is currently 11-11 on field goal attempts this season (18-19 for his career). He is tied for fourth nationally in field goals (1.83 per game) and tied for 47th in scoring (7.33 points per game). His streak of 24 consecutive PATs came to an end when Lousiana-Lafayette blocked one on Sep. 30, but he is still 11-12 this season and 30-33 (.909) for his UAB career (1998- ).
INTERCEPTED!: The Blazers did not have an interception in the Louisiana-Lafyette game (Sep. 30). That broke a streak of five consecutive games (dating back to the 1999 season finale at Tulane) in which UAB had had at least two (2) interceptions (four at LSU on Sep. 23). The Blazers started a new streak with Adrian Singleton's pick late in the first half of the Louisville game and continued it with an interception by linebacker Nick Stewart in final minutes of the Memphis game. UAB is currently tied for 12th in the nation with ten (10) interceptions, Singleton is tied for 22nd with three.
SINGLETON MAKES 'EM COUNT: All five of junior safety Adrian Singleton's career interceptions have come in the `red zone.' Last season he picked off a tipped pass at the four yard line in the Cincinnati game (Oct. 16) and returned it 96 yards for a touchdown (the longest scoring play of any kind in UAB history). In the 1999 season finale at Tulane (Nov. 20), Singleton stopped a Green Wave scoring threat with an interception in the end zone late in the first half. In the LSU game (Sep. 23, 2000), he halted Tiger threats with interceptions at the 14 yard line and in the end zone (both off tipped passes). On Oct. 7, he picked off a pass by Louisville quarterback Dave Ragone at the UAB five yard line to stop a Cardinal scoring threat.
LAST TIME vs. MTSU (11/14/98 at Legion Field): The two teams traded points for three quarters and the Blue Raiders led 17-13 going into the fourth period, but UAB responded with 13 points in the final stanza to emerge with a 26-17 win. Lucious Foster's four-yard touchdown run capped a four-play, 68-yard drive to make the score 20-17 with 13:36 to play, and then Rhett Gallego and Jake Arians both hit field goals in the final five minutes to seal the deal (Gallego also had a 31-yard field goal earlier in the game). Middle Tennessee quarterback Wes Counts was 14-21 for 131 yards in the game, but both Blue Raider touchdowns came on the ground -- both scored by Kelverrick Green (six and 11 yards, 52 net yards on the day). UAB's Daniel Dixon was 14-24 for 172 yards, while Foster led the Blazers with 93 net rushing yards on 21 carries.
INJURY UPDATE: While Willie Quinnie returned to action vs. Louisville after missing three games with a sprained knee, he did not play in the Memphis game. Quinnie is slated to start vs. Middle Tennessee. Several others -- particularly offensive players -- are out or on limited status. Senior offensive tackle Kevin Grace, who had been playing with a broken hand since the first quarter of the Chattanooga game (Sep. 7), will miss the rest of the season with a broken ankle suffered early in the Louisiana-Lafayette game, as will offensive linemen Brett Richards (shoulder) and James Orrick. Senior offensive guard Tim Medders, who had torn cartilege in his right knee in late September, underwent arthroscopic surgery on Sep. 20, he saw limited action in the Memphis game and is available for the MTSU game. Junior wingback Maurice Gallery has returned to action after missing several weeks (and three games) with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, suffered in the Kansas game (he has not played since then, but is available). Redshirt freshman offensive tackle Artavious Williams, who suffered a pulled hamstring on Gallego's game-winning field goal on the final play of the LSU game, missed both the Louisiana-Lafayette and Louisvlile games, he is expected to return to practice this week, but is doubtful for the Middle Tennessee game. Junior defensive lineman Marlon Bush suffered a medial collateral ligament strain late in the LSU game and has not played since then (he had arthroscopic surgery on Sep. 26), he returned to practice last week and will start the MTSU game. Running back Carl Fair(ankle) and wingback Cedric Thatch (foot) both returned to action in the LSU game, Thatch saw brief action in the Louisiana-Lafayette game, Fair did not, both played against Louisville and Memphis and are available for this week's game. Starting center Ryan Estes has been bothered by a sore shoulder (backup Kirk Tuck has started the last three games), Estes is available for the Middle Tennessee game. Since the beginning of fall practice in August, 14 offensive players (particularly receivers and offensive linemen) have missed practice time and/or games with injuries.
COLEMAN JOINS THE 1,000-YARD CLUB: With 38 rushing yards at Kansas (Sep. 16) senior running back Percy Coleman became the fourth player in UAB's brief football history to go over the 1,000-yard mark....he now has 1,048 career rushing yards in 35 games as a Blazer (1997- ).
DUGGER NEXT?: With 819 career rushing yards in 23 games as a Blazer, junior Jegil Dugger should be next in line to join the UAB 1,000-yard rushing club.
BLOCKED!: The UAB special teams had a great year in 1999 with seven blocked kicks (including a pair of punts which were returned for touchdowns vs. Missouri in the season-opener). That trend seems to have continued in 2000, UAB blocked a Chattanooga field goal attempt in the season-opener (credited to Bryan Thomas). In the Kansas game (Sep. 16), the Blazer special teams struck again, although the punt was not actually blocked -- KU punter Joey Pelfanio was hit by UAB linebacker Adrian Abrams before he could get the kick off -- the ensuing fumble was picked up by Blazer cornerback Patrick Burchfield and returned 42 yards for a touchdown. Against Louisiana-Lafayette, special teams co-captain Andrew Kopecky blocked a punt and returned it 15 yards for the Blazers' first touchdown of the game. Thomas came up big again in the Memphis game, blocking a field goal attempt by Tiger placekicker Ryan White.
THE JuCO ROUTE: Just as the junior college ranks brought UAB impact players such as Carl Fair (RB), Kevin Grace (OT), Tony Dollison (OT), Rajohn Myles (DE), Otis Leverette (DE), Kevin Ford (OG), Chad Ferraez (SN), and Ryan Estes (C) last season, several junior college newcomers will see playing time this season. The most likely candidates include linebackers John Humphries and Rod Taylor, and defensive backs Torrey Hale and Derrick Bush.
WE JUST NEED TWO MORE FOR OUR OWN TEAM: The 2000 UAB roster features nine (9) players from East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Miss. They include Carl Fair (RB), Kevin Grace (OT), Tony Dollison (OT), Rajohn Myles (DE), Patrick Burchfield (DB), Chad Ferraez (SN), Torrey Hale (DB), John Humphries (LB), and Rod Taylor (LB).
MULTI-PURPOSE: Senior running back Percy Coleman can also catch the ball, he's the Blazers' leading receiver this season (15 receptions for 119 yards), he's second all-time at UAB in pass receptions by running backs (74) and receiving yards by running backs (564).
WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING: UAB has lost the coin toss in each of its six games to date, Chattanooga, Kansas, LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Lousiville and Memphis all chose to defer the option to the second half, and the Blazers have received the opening kickoff in all six games.
UP NEXT FOR THE BLAZERS: After four weeks at home, UAB heads back out on the road for an Oct. 28 meeting with East Carolina in Greenville, N.C. (kickoff 1:00 pm CDT, the game will be televised live in Birmingham on WABM-TV 68.