Nov. 1, 2000
KICKOFF: Set for 1:00 pm EST at Nippert Stadium (35,000, FieldTurf) in Cincinnati, Ohio.
THE TEAMS: Cincinnati is 4-4 overall (2-2 in Conference USA play) and coming off a 45-15 Homecoming win over cross-state rival Miami (Ohio) last week (Oct. 28), UAB is 6-2 (2-2 C-USA) and coming off a dramatic 16-13 C-USA victory at East Carolina last Saturday (Oct. 28).
THE COACHES: Cincinnati's Rick Minter is 31-42-1 in his seventh season, UAB's Watson Brown is 30-33 in his sixth season at UAB (62-110-1 in his 16th season as a head coach).
THE SERIES: Cincinnati leads 2-1, dating back to the 1996 season. Last year, in the first Conference USA game between the two, UAB took a 21-0 lead in the second quarter and then held on for dear life to win 24-21 in overtime as Jake Arians hit a 42-yard field goal to give the Blazers the lead and Wes Foss picked off a Deontey Kenner pass to clinch the victory. Cincinnati won the first meeting at Nippert Stadium, a 33-29 thriller on Oct. 11, 1997.
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 11:30 am CST live from Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati.
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 30-33 at UAB and 62-110-1 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).
BACK TO THE OLD STOMPING GROUNDS: Coach Brown was the head coach at Cincinnati for one season, and led the Bearcats to one of the biggest wins in the program's history, a 14-3 win at #3 Penn State (the Nittany Lions were the defending national champs) on Sep. 10, 1983. The Bearcats finished 4-6-1 that season, and Brown moved on to become head coach and athletic director at Rice the next year.
INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH: Brown is coaching his third game as head coach of the Blazers at Cincinnati's Nippert Stadium. He has already coached more games there as an opponent than he did when he was the Bearcats' head coach in 1983, Cincinnati played all but one of its home games that season at Riverfront Stadium (UC played Oklahoma State at Nippert because the Cincinnati Reds had a home game at Riverfront on Sep. 17, 1983).
GOAL MET: One of the UAB team's main goals for 2000 was to have the program's first winning season since moving to the NCAA I-A level in 1996, that was assured with the Blazers' 16-13 victory over East Carolina on Oct. 21.
A NEW RECORD: The six victories this season is a new UAB record for the Division I-A era (1996- ). The Blazers have won five games three times since making the move to I-A status. The UAB all-time mark for victories in a season is nine, dating back to the 1993 season when the Blazers competed at the I-AA level.
FRUGALITY: The Blazers have won their last three games, during that stretch they have averaged 313.7 total yards and scored 43 points (14.3 ppg). They have allowed opponents an average of 269 total yards and 10.3 points per game, and committed only two turnovers (both fumbles).
WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: The Blazers' last three games have been decided by an average of 4.0 points, UAB is 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less.
DEE-FENSE: Despite absorbing 410 yards of total offense by a potent East Carolina team last week, the the bend-but-don't-break Blazer defense is still ranked high among Division I-A teams. In the NCAA stats released on Oct.29, UAB was ranked sixth in total defense (allowing 269.13 yards per game), ninth in scoring defense (allowing 14.88 points per game), 11th in rushing defense (allowing 87.5 yards per game) and 12th in pass efficiency defense (opponents have a 98.13 rating).
IT STILL RHYMES WITH "LEG": Placekicker Rhett Gallego (pronounced guh-LEG-oh) had an uncharacteristic cool streak with two consecutive missed field goal attempts (one vs. Middle Tennessee, one vs. East Carolina), the unflappable junior from Birmingham bounced back after missing his first attempt at ECU to hit three straight, including the game-winner from 43 yards out with 2:24 to play. Gallego had already assured himself a place in UAB football history with his game-winning field goal in the final seconds of the LSU game (Sep. 23), but his steady performance this season has been truly remarkable. He hit his first 11 field goal attempts of the year before the two misses, and is currently 14-16 (.875) for the season (and 21-24 for his career). He is also steady as a PAT kicker, having made 14-15 (.933) attempts (33-36 career). His only PAT miss of the 2000 season came when Louisiana-Lafayette blocked an attempt on Sep. 30.
GALLEGO RECEIVES THIRD C-USA HONOR: Rhett Gallego was named Conference USA Special Teams Player of The Week for the third time this season after kicking three field goals -- including the game-winner from 43 yards out with 2:24 to play -- in last week's East Carolina game. The junior from Birmingham's Hueytown High School also hit a game-winner in the final seconds of the LSU game on Sep. 23.
DROUGHT RELIEF: Althought their home state is still experiencing drought conditions, the Blazers got some relief from their third quarter scoring drought in the ECU game. Jeff Aaron's 28-yard touchdown pass to T.J. Simmons was the first score of any kind for UAB in the third quarter since Percy Coleman's touchdown run in the Kansas game (Sep. 16). Opponents have outscored UAB 44-14 in the third quarter this season, the Blazers hold the edge in the second (70-26) and fourth (49-22) quarters, and the score is tied (27-27) in the first.
INTERCEPTED!: The UAB defense has intercepted at least one pass in six of eight games this season, and has intercepted two or more three times (including four in the win at LSU on Sep. 23). The Blazers are currently tied for 23rd in the Division I-A interception rankings.
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.
INJURY UPDATE...OUT FOR THE SEASON: Senior offensive tackles Kevin Grace (broken hand, broken leg) and James Orrick (knee), junior center Brett Richards (shoulder), redshirt freshman defensive back Leroy Harris (knee) and sophomore quarterback Tommy Babakitis (knee). OUT FOR THE CINCINNATI GAME: Junior defensive lineman Marlon Bush (high ankle sprain). DOUBTFUL FOR THE CINCINNATI GAME: Sophomore flanker Willie Quinnie (knee), redshirt freshman offensive tackle Artavious Williams (hamstring).
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 1,101 career rushing yards in 37 games as a Blazer (1997- ).
DUGGER NEXT?: With 952 rushing yards in 25 games as a Blazer (career average of 5.0 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 eight 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 BryanThomas). 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.
DEE-FENSE, cont.: The Blazer defense held Louisiana-Lafayette to a UAB-record low 91 yards of total offense (Sep. 30), the previous low was 93 vs. Charleston Southern in 1996.
VETERAN STAFF: Coach Brown and his assistants have over 200 combined years of coaching experience from the high school level to all levels of college football, to the NFL (the average is 21 years). Of the 10 assistants on the staff (including strength and conditioning coach Marcus Bush), seven came to UAB with Brown in 1995. The continuity and cohesion among this staff are a major reason for the program's success and amazing growth.
VETERAN TEAM: The 2000 Blazers began the season with 45 upperclassmen on the roster, and 20 players who were starters at one time or another in 1999, it is definitely the most experienced team that Coach Watson Brown has had since taking over the UAB program in 1995. The offensive line had five of its six starters (four seniors, one redshirt junior) and four backups back from last season, the starting offensive backfield includes a redshirt junior -- Jeff Aaron -- at quarterback, as well as seniors Carl Fair and Percy Coleman at running back. On the defensive side, all four starters (four juniors, one senior) and five backups return, including a pair of All-Conference USA candidates, juniors Eddie Freeman (tackle/nose guard) and Bryan Thomas (end). Linebackers Adrian Abrams and Nick Stewart both were starters in 1999, as were cornerback Chris Brown and free safety Adrian Singleton (a preseason All-Conference USA selection).
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 second all-time at UAB in pass receptions by running backs (84) and receiving yards by running backs (660).
BACK AND FORTH: A few players found themselves moving from one side of the football to the other during the 2000 preseason. Most notably, junior Maurice Gallery, who played cornerback in 1999 (he's also a very gifted kick returner) and during 2000 spring practice, moved back to offense, where he began his UAB career. Gallery spent his first two years at UAB (1997-98) as a receiver and wingback. T.J. Simmons was a receiver in 1999, he converted to defense during 2000 spring practice and began the 2000 season on defense, but made the switch back to offense in mid-season. Tight end Jeff Tippetts was recruited to UAB as a quarterback, but switched early in 2000 fall practice. Quarterback Jeff Aaron began 1999 preseason practice as a receiver, but quickly returned to his original position (he sat out 1999 as a redshirt). Lineman Eddie LaFavour began his UAB career on defense, then moved to center during 2000 spring practice, and then to offensive guard during 2000 preseason workouts.
FINALLY! After losing the coin toss in the first seven games of the 2000 season, UAB finally got a chance to exercise the option by winning the toss vs. East Carolina (Oct. 28 -- UAB deferred the option to the second half). Prior to that, Chattanooga, Kansas, LSU, Louisiana-Lafayette, Lousiville, Memphis and Middle Tennessee all chose to defer the option to the second half, and the Blazers received the opening kickoff in all seven games.
UP NEXT FOR THE BLAZERS: UAB plays its final home game of the 2000 season vs. Southern Miss, Saturday, Nov. 11, at Legion Field (kickoff 2:30 pm CST).