Football Shifts Focus To Marshall

Cameron Blankenship and the Blazers will host Marshall at Legion Field on Saturday.

Nov. 5, 2012

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The UAB football team returns to Legion Field this weekend to host Marshall in its second-to-last home game of the season. The contest is set to kick off at 3:30 p.m. CT and will be televised on CSS.

On Monday, head coach Garrick McGee was accompanied by freshman offensive lineman Cameron Blankenship, senior linebacker Santonio Jones, and freshman defensive end Chris Rabb to speak to the media at the weekly luncheon.

UAB (2-7, 1-4 C-USA) is coming off a 27-19 road victory over Southern Miss that saw the Blazers come back from a 16-0 halftime deficit. Sophomore Darrin Reaves rushed for a career-high 223 yards and two touchdowns during the comeback.

The Thundering Herd (3-5, 2-2 C-USA) will travel to Birmingham after a 54-17 home loss to UCF last week. Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato passed for 298 yards and two touchdowns during the game.

Head Coach Garrick McGee 

On the performance at Southern Miss:
“I think we grew up during the game. On defense, I thought that they understood our game plan, our coaches coached with a lot more enthusiasm, a lot more intensity, and I think it really reflected in how our players performed. Offensively, once we made the proper adjustments during the game, we got going on attacking. I am pleased with our program, but I’m also really pleased with our fans. We had a really great section of fans that were really loud and intense throughout the game. I think it was a step forward for our program.” 

On Marshall’s passing game:
“They are a team that passes the ball often and is very efficient. The first way that you have a chance of slowing them down is that our offense has to maintain possession of the ball. You have to convert third downs on offense; you have to move the ball down the field. The second way is that your pass defense, from the front getting to the quarterback, the linebackers understanding their matches, and the secondary reading what’s going on and breaking on the ball is all going to be tested. We have a good plan that is formulating now, and we’re going to have a really good plan, a simple plan for our kids, and give them the best opportunity to play well.” 



On Marshall’s punt blocking abilities:
“The thing that we need to do is make sure we’re not punting from our minus-one yard line. Most of the time, the punter has 14 yards between the snap and the block point, but when you’re punting from your minus-one, that’s only nine or ten yards, so you’ve definitely increased the chances of getting the ball blocked. What they also do is they really go after the kicker and pressure them. I’ve said earlier in the season that nobody really blocks punts because nobody really tries to block punts. Marshall tries to block punts. You just have to try to keep them off balance. A fake or two will slow them down from going after every punt, and you just have to be really technique sound and know what’s going on. Also, the offense has to keep the ball in good field position.” 

On UAB’s offensive evolution:
“The philosophy of our offense is to run the ball. Earlier in the season, we were disappointed because we couldn’t run the ball as much as we anticipated, and we resorted to having to pass the ball over and over for 300 yards a game to stay in games. The way you win games is by playing good defense and by running the ball. 

On Austin Brown’s evolution as a quarterback:
“I really think he grew up a lot on Saturday. He was struggling early in the game, he was holding the ball, got hit hard a few times, and he was just really struggling. They were giving him some different looks, and I couldn’t really help him much because I was trying to figure out the looks as well. I said to him that this was an opportunity for all of us to grow up here and figure out how to go from not having a very good game to getting yourself back under control and figuring out a way to come through in the end. I think he did a really good job of managing our team in the second half, completing the passes that were there for him. His technique was better once he settled down. I think he really grew up in the game, and it’s always good when you grow up and you win at the end, because that shows you if you keep trusting in who you are and what we are, then good things will happen.”

On Santonio Jones:
“He has really given us a big lift, not only because of his ability to go in and insert into the offensive line and block the linebacker with his shoulders square. He doesn’t turn his body, doesn’t turn his head, so he is physical. He goes in there square and gives our running back a two-way go, and that’s something that’s hard to teach. He also gives us the opportunity to put Kennard Backman and Sam Accursio both on the edge, next to Chris Hubbard and Kaycee Ike, instead of having Sam in the backfield.

“He gave us another body to upgrade our running game, and he’s just been a really fast learner. When we decided to move Santonio to offense, it was a play where he was on defense, and we had one of our offensive tackles going in there after him and he stepped up in the hole and knocked the tackle back. We said that this guy might be our fullback. The next day, we put him in Richard Owens’ room, and Richard said he learns fast. That weekend, he started for us and caught some passes out in the flat. It’s really good to see an unselfish kid like that, end up having success. He’s one of our favorite guys, our kids really like him because he’s unselfish.” 

On Chris Rabb:
“Chris is a competitor, Chris has a motor. It’s really hard to block Chris, because if you slide your protection away from him, and leave the tackle one-on-one, his motor is going to end up winning. He’s going to rush outside, and if you stop that he’s going to counter and come back inside. It’s just good to see our defensive front put pressure on the quarterback. I’d been down on our defensive front for not having the production that we needed, and for those guys to get after the quarterback last Saturday like they did, it really gave us an opportunity to slow them down.” 

Freshman OL Cameron Blankenship

On locker room after the game:
“It was great. It was only our second win of the year, but it was against our rival Southern Miss. We came out slow in the first half. In the second half, the defense came out and stopped (Southern Miss’ offense). We knew we were going to win as soon as we scored on the next drive. 

On confidence of team:
“You could tell on Sunday that everybody on the team was really confident about playing Marshall this week. (The win) brought confidence to the offensive line along with the team. We put the game on our backs. Darrin (Reaves) rushing for over 200 yards was amazing. He was finding holes. It was great.”

Senior FB/LB Santonio Jones

On changing to offense:
“It took awhile for me to get used to where I’m supposed to go and who I’m supposed to block. My coach (tight ends coach Richard Owens) is a good coach and he has been patient with me. He’s showed me the blocking schemes, what gap I’m supposed to hit, and who I’m supposed to block. Everything has worked out great.” 

On getting second win:
“(The offense) came out slow and the defense was doing well. We knew that we had to step it up. When we got everything rolling, emotions took over. Southern Miss is a big rival of ours, so during the game our emotions were high.”

Freshman DE Chris Rabb

On second half:
“At halftime, Coach McGee told us to keep playing and to keep our heads up. We were down by 16 but we played like the score was 0-0. We grew up as a team and came together. We’re going to try to keep the momentum going into the next game and the next season.” 

On Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato:
“He can run and he can throw. We are going to have to play good coverage. They will probably throw the ball downfield around 20 times. If we do our part up front, we should be fine.”