Nov. 9, 2000
KICKOFF: Set for 2:30 pm CST Saturday, Nov. 11 at Birmingham's Legion Field (83,091,Natural Grass).
THE TEAMS: Southern Miss is 6-2 overall (4-1 in Conference USA play) and coming off a 49-28 Homecoming loss to C-USA leader Louisville last week (Nov. 4) in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles enter this week's action ranked 22nd in the CNN/USA Today (coaches') poll and 25th in the AP poll. UAB is 6-3 (2-3 C-USA) and coming off a 33-21 C-USA loss at Cincinnati last Saturday (Nov. 4).
THE COACHES: Southern Miss' Jeff Bower is 65-45-1 in his tenth season, UAB's Watson Brown is 30-34 in his sixth season at UAB (62-111-1 in his 16th season as a head coach).
THE SERIES: Saturday's game will be the first meeting between the two charter members of Conference USA on the football field.
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 2:00 pm CST 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 30-34 at UAB and 62-111-1 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).
SENIORS BOW OUT vs. GOLDEN EAGLES: 21 UAB seniors will be making their final appearance at Legion Field Saturday. Those that have been a part of the program since 1996 (there are nine junior college transfers in this senior class and several fifth-year seniors) have lived through the amazing development of the UAB program and seen it grow into a legitimate competitor in major college football.
BLAZERS NO STRANGERS TO RANKED TEAMS: UAB has only played football at the NCAA Division I-A level since 1996, but the Blazers have plenty of experience against teams ranked in the top 25. Since 1996, UAB has faced seven nationally-ranked teams, including:
at #15 Auburn (L, 0-29, 8/31/96) at #23 Virginia Tech (L, 0-37, 11/1/97) at #3 Nebraska (L, 7-38, 9/5/98) vs. #21 Virginia Tech (L, 0-41, 10/24/98) at #2 Tennessee (L, 13-37, 11/7/98) at #11 Virginia Tech (L, 10-31, 9/11/99) vs. #17 East Carolina (W, 36-17, 11/6/99)
The Blazers finally got that elusive win over a ranked team last season at Legion Field when they upset C-USA foe East Carolina.
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 DivisionI-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.
WINNING THE CLOSE ONES: UAB is 5-1 this season in games decided by five points or less (and 1-2 in games decided by more than five points).
BENT BUT NOT BROKEN: The Blazer defense took quite a pounding at the hands of a very potent Cincinnati offense last week, allowing a season-high 477 yards of total offense (351 and two TDs through the air) and 33 points (the second highest total by an opponent this year). The damage, however, seems to have been limited largely to the Blazers' pride, despite an uncharacteristically generous day vs. the Bearcats, UAB is still ranked highly in the NCAA defensive statistics released on Nov. 5. The Blazers are 14th in total defense (allowing 292.22 yards per game), 11th in rushing defense (allowing 91.8 yards per game), and tied for 14th in scoring defense (allowing 16.9 points per game).
IT STILL RHYMES WITH "LEG": Placekicker Rhett Gallego (pronounced guh-LEG-oh) didn't have a field goal attempt in the Cincinnati game (he did kick three successful PATs). Gallego 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, .875 for his career). He is also steady as a PAT kicker, having made 17-18 (.944) attempts (36-39, .923 career). His only PAT miss of the 2000 season came when Louisiana-Lafayette blocked an attempt on Sep. 30. 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 the East Carolina game (Oct. 28). 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, cont.: Entering last week's Cincinnati game, opponents had outscored UAB 44-14 in the third quarter this season, the Blazers doubled that output vs. the Bearcats with 14 points in the third quarter, with a fumble recovery for a touchdown by safety Avery Warner and a touchdown run by quarterback Jeff Aaron (the first career TD for each player), but still trail opponents for the season, 57-28. The Blazers hold the edge in the second (70-43) and fourth (56-22) quarters, and trail (30-27) in the first.
DUGGER NOW A MEMBER OF THE CLUB: With 53 yards on just six carries vs. Cincinnati, running back Jegil Dugger became the fifth player in UAB history to rush for 1,000 career yards. The junior from Birmingham (Midfield HS) now has 1,005 career yards on 197 carries (5.1 yards per carry career average) in 26 games as a Blazer (1998- ). Dugger got 52 of his yards in the Cincinnati game on five carries in the third-quarter drive that was capped by Aaron's two-yard touchdown run. Dugger has led the Blazers in rushing in seven of nine games this season and three of his four touchdowns have come in the fourth quarter (including game-winners vs. Chattanooga and Memphis).
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 SOUTHERN MISS GAME: Flanker T.J. Simmons (knee). DOUBTFUL FOR THE SOUTHERN MISS 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 1,134 career rushing yards in 38 games as a Blazer (1997- ).
MULTI-PURPOSE: Percy Coleman can also catch the ball, he's second all-time at UAB in pass receptions (89) and receiving yards (687) by running backs. Not surprisingly, Coleman is also the team's top receiver overall this season with 30 catches for 242 yards.
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.
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) .
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. Lineman Josh Case did the same thing, playing defense in 1999 and into the 2000 season before moving to offensive tackle.
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. UAB lost the toss at Cincinnati (11/4).
UP NEXT FOR THE BLAZERS: UAB plays its final regular -season game of the 2000 season at Army , Saturday, Nov. 18 , at Michie Stadium in West Point, N.Y. (kickoff 1:00 pm EST ).