Safety Hiram Atwater is coming off a 14-tackle game at Marshall.
Oct. 31, 2009
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ----- The UAB football team defeated UTEP, 35-23, in 2005 in its only previous game at the Sun Bowl in El Paso.
The Blazers would like nothing better than to repeat that '05 victory on Saturday when they take on the Miners in west Texas in a 1:05 p.m. MT kickoff.
UAB (2-5, 2-2 Conference USA) has dropped its last two games since defeating Southern Mississippi on the first day of October. The Blazers fell last Saturday at Marshall, 27-7, despite gaining 432 yards on offense and having no turnovers. It was turnovers (15 for 135 yards) that plagued UAB at Huntington.
"Offensively, we moved the ball and were able to do some things running and throwing," said head coach Neil Callaway. "We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot with all the penalties. That's something that is hard to explain.
"I wish I could tell you why we had four personal fouls and jumped offsides four times. That definitely had a lot to do with us not winning that football game. I don't want to take anything away from Marshall. They did a nice job, but we just didn't give ourselves a chance."
Slowing down UTEP on Saturday will be a difficult assignment for the Blazers. The Miners feature a balanced attack. Running back Donald Buckram is the third-leading rusher in C-USA at 111.9 yards per game, behind Marshall's Darius Marshall (136.0) and Blazer quarterback Joe Webb (117.1).
Miners' quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is third in the league in passing yards per game with 215.1 per contest.
"The first thing I think about playing UTEP is, offensively, how explosive they are," Callaway said. "Their quarterback is an outstanding player. They have two or three receivers that do an outstanding job, and they've done a nice job running the football. Offensively, they are very capable and have a lot of weapons."
Webb leads a UAB offense that ranks No. 8 in the NCAA in rushing (229.4 yards). He accounted for 329 of the Blazers' 432 yards against the Thundering Herd last weekend. UAB is hoping the game at Marshall was the beginning of the Blazers' passing game getting untracked the rest of the season.
"Our throwing improved last week. Joe threw the ball well and if we continue that trend I think we can be productive offensively," Callaway said. "I think Joe's confidence was a little shaken after the SMU game and it has taken him a few games to get back.
"I did see improvement in the game against Ole Miss, who has a very good defense. I thought it was even better against Marshall. Hopefully he will continue that trend of getting back to where he was at the beginning of the year. If we do, then I think that will help everybody."
UAB and UTEP have only played twice before. The Blazers won in El Paso in 2005 and the Miners returned the favor a year later in Birmingham, 36-17.
Saturday's game will be carried on the Blazers ISP Sports Network and can be heard in the Birmingham area on flagship station WUHT-FM 107.7 with David Crane (play-by-play) and Jake Arians (color) on the call. The pregame show will begin 90 minutes prior to kickoff.