Oct. 23, 2000
THE EAST CAROLINA GAME October 28, 2000
KICKOFF: Set for 2:00 pm EDT at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (43,000, Natural Grass) in Greenville, N.C.
THE TEAMS: East Carolina is 5-2 overall and 3-1 in C-USA play, coming off a 28-25 win at Louisville last Thursday (Oct. 19) , UAB is 5-2 (1-2 C-USA) and coming off a 14-9 Homecoming victory over Middle Tennessee Saturday (Oct. 21) at Legion Field.
THE COACHES: ECU's Steve Logan is 56-42 in his ninth season, UAB's Watson Brown is 29-33 in his sixth season at UAB (61-110-1 in his 16th season as a head coach).
THE SERIES: Tied 1-1. East Carolina won the inaugural meeting 26-7 in Greenville two years ago (Oct. 10, 1998) and the Blazers upset the 17th-ranked Pirates 36-17 at Legion Field last season (Nov. 6, 1999).
TELEVISION: Live telecast in Birmingham on WABM-TV 68 (air time 1:00 pm CDT) with T.J. Rives and Matt Elliott providing the commentary (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 12:30 pm CDT live from Dowdy-Ficklen stadium in Greenville.
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 29-33 at UAB and 61-110-1 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 SOLID ONCE AGAIN: Junior quarterback Jeff Aaron led the Blazers to their second straight win and ran his record as a starter to 2-0 with the 14-9 win over Middle Tennessee last Saturday, throwing for 153 yards (17-28 with no turnovers) and a touchdown . The week before that, 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 vs. the Tigers 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).
BLAZER DEFENSE MOVES UP: The UAB Blazer defensive unit continues to gain recognition for its success this season, that success, which has helped the Blazers to a 5-2 start (the program's best since moving to the I-A level in 1996), is reflected in the latest NCAA Division I-A statistics which were released Sunday (Oct. 22). UAB is ranked second overall in total defense, allowing 246.17 yards per game. The Blazers are ranked seventh in rushing defense, allowing 77.6 yards per game, 11th in pass efficiency defense (opponents have a 94.42 rating), 12th in pass defense (allowing 171.43 yards per game), and are tied for 13th in interceptions with 11. UAB is also ranked 15th in scoring defense, allowing 15.1 points per game. The Blazers held true to form in Saturday's win over Middle Tennessee, holding a prolific Blue Raider offense that came into the game averaging 430 yards per game to 211 total yards, and limiting running back Dwone Hicks to only 14 net yards on eight carries -- 126 yards under his average.
FIELD GOAL STREAK SNAPPED: Entering Saturday's game with Middle Tennessee, UAB had made 18 consecutive field goal attempts, dating back to the 1999 season (Jake Arians made his last seven in 1999, and Rhett Gallego was 11-11 this season), that streak ended in the third quarter vs. the Blue Raiders as Gallego missed what would have been a career-long 49-yarder on his only attempt of the afternoon.
OK, SO HE'S HUMAN: 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. He did finally miss a field goal attempt in the Middle Tennessee game, but is still 11-12 on field goal attempts this season (18-20 for his career). He is tied for fifth nationally in field goals (1.57 per game). His streak of 24 consecutive PATs came to an end when Lousiana-Lafayette blocked one on Sep. 30, but he is still 13-14 this season and 32-35 for his UAB career (1998- ).
LET'S SKIP TO THE FOURTH: Opponents have outscored UAB 34-7 in the third quarter this season.> The Blazers hold the edge in each of the other three.
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 and one by linebacker Adrian Abrams on the final play of the Middle Tennessee game. UAB is currently tied for 13th in the nation with 11 interceptions, Singleton is tied for 20th with three. The Blazers have intercepted at least one pass in six of seven games this season.
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.
HOMECOMING WIN : Although Homecoming hasn't been kind to the Blazers over the past couple of seasons, UAB got a big win over Middle Tennessee last weekend. In 1998, UAB lost 41-0 to 21st-ranked Virginia Tech and Memphis spoiled homecoming with a 38-14 victory last season (Oct. 9, 1999). Since UAB started having homecoming games at football in 1994, the Blazers are >5-2 overall.
LAST TIME vs. ECU (11/6/99): In one of the biggest and most dramatic wins in the UAB program's brief history, the Blazers erased a 17-3 East Carolina lead with 33 unanswered points to upset the 17th-ranked Pirates 36-17 at Legion Field. UAB was led by redshirt freshman quarterback Thomas Cox, who started in place of injured starter Daniel Dixon. Cox was brilliant in his first collegiate start, throwing for 122 yards (10-20) and a 39-yard touchdown to Ernest Ross. Cox also ran for touchdowns of five and three yards. UAB cornerback Rodregis Brooks probably earned his Second Team All-America honors that afternoon, after returning from what seemed to be a serious neck injury (it turned out to be a "stinger") he returned a punt 59 yards to set up one score and got one of his own later with a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The UAB defense hounded Pirate quarterback David Garrard all afternoon, posting eight sacks on the day.
INJURY UPDATE: While Willie Quinnie returned to action vs. Louisville after missing three games with a sprained knee, but did not play in the Memphis game, he started vs. Middle Tennessee. Senior offensive tackles Kevin Grace (broken hand, broken leg) and James Orrick (knee) as well as junior center Brett Richards (shoulder) are out for the remainder of the 2000 season, as are redshirt freshman defensive back Leroy Harris (knee) sophomore quarterback Tommy Babakitis (knee). 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 andplayed in 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 played vs. MTSU. 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 the Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisvlile and Memphis games, he returned to practice lastweek but did not play in the MTSU game (he is expected to be available for the East Carolina game). Junior defensive lineman Marlon Bush suffered a medial collateral ligament strain late in the LSU game and missed the Louisiana-Lafayette, Louisville, and Memphis games, he returned to action vs. Middle Tennessee, but slightly reinjured the knee and also suffered a high ankle sprain. His status is uncertain for the East Carolina game. Senior tight end Johnni Arrington suffered a high ankle sprain in the Middle Tennessee game and is questionable for the East Carolina game. Starting center Ryan Estes has been bothered by a sore shoulder (backup Kirk Tuck has started the last four games), Estes played in the Middle Tennessee game. Since the beginning of fall practice in August, 15 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 1,075 career rushing yards in 36 games as a Blazer (1997- ).
DUGGER NEXT?: With 921 rushing yards in 24 games as a Blazer (career average of 5.1 yards per carry), junior Jegil Dugger should be the next member of the UAB 1,000-yard club. Dugger has led the Blazers in rushing in six of seven games this season and three of his four touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter (including game-winners vs. Chattanooga and Memphis).
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), , 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 second all-time at UAB in pass receptions by running backs (79) and receiving yards by tions by running backs (598).
HE'S VERSATILE: Redshirt junior Brett Richards (now out for the year with complications from a shoulder injury) has played every position on the offensive line during his UAB career (1997- ). Richards started eight games at tight end as a freshman and played in all 11 as a sophomore. He moved to tackle prior to the 1999 season (he missed the '99 season with a shoulder injury) and later moved to center. He has also filled in at guard on occasion, making him one of the most versatile linemen in the program's history.
HE IS, TOO: Sophomore T.J. Simmons has moved from receiver to safety and back to receiver over the past year. The Chipley, Fla., native currently plays on the offensive side. He had a big day vs. Middle Tennessee with three catches for 61 yards, including a 40-yard reception from Jeff Aaron (all career highs for Simmons).
WINNING ISN'T EVERYTHING: UAB has lost the coin toss in each of its seven games to date, Chattanooga, Kansas, LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Lousiville, Memphis and Middle Tennessee all chose to defer the option to the second half, and the Blazers have received the opening kickoff in all seven games.
UP NEXT FOR THE BLAZERS: UAB heads back out on the road for a return engagement at Cincinnati (Nov. 4, 1:00 pm EDT). Last season, UAB defeated the Bearcats 24-21 in overtime (Oct. 16, 1999) at Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.