Dec. 21, 2004
(AP) - Excited to make the first bowl appearance in school history, UAB could be in for a high-scoring contest when it takes on Timmy Chang and Hawai'i in the Hawai'i Bowl on Friday night.
UAB (7-4) joined Division I-A in 1996 after competing in Division III and I-AA. The Blazers didn't need much time to become successful, becoming bowl-eligible in 2000 by going 7-4, and in 2001 by posting a 6-5 mark.
UAB's steady improvement finally earned it a bowl bid this year after going 5-3 in Conference USA.
"The day we got the bowl bid, I said that this is for those Division III guys, who were getting taped (up) on the back of pickup trucks when we first started the program to the guys that were on the first Division I team who had to dress in shifts," said UAB coach Watson Brown, who took the Blazers job in 1995 after serving as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator from 1993-94.
UAB's balanced offense averaged more than 30 points per game this season, with a pair of young running backs complementing junior quarterback Darrell Hackney.
Hackney, who became the starter midway through his freshman season, completed 166 of 304 passes for 2,653 yards. The 6-foot-2 junior threw for 24 TDs and just seven interceptions.
His favorite target is All-American senior Roddy White, who had 65 receptions for 1,339 yards and 13 touchdowns. His receiving yardage total was a C-USA record, while his per-game average (121.7) ranked second in the nation.
"This is for those Division III guys, who were getting taped (up) on the back of pickup trucks when we first started the program to the guys that were on the first Division I team who had to dress in shifts."
UAB coach Watson Brown
UAB had won consecutive games before ending the regular season with a 26-21 road loss to Southern Mississippi. The Blazers, who did not play west of the Central time zone this season, are aware of the difficulties they will face playing in Honolulu.
"We got a taste of the heat yesterday when we ran," Brown said after his team's first practice in Hawai'i on Sunday. "I think we're in pretty good shape, but we also understand that we're going to have to play a lot of players. Our players understand that we're going to have to play two or three-deep in some spots."
The climate shouldn't be a concern for Hawai'i (7-5), which has thrived at Aloha Stadium and is playing a bowl game on its home field for the third straight year. The Warriors prevented Michigan State from making it to a bowl by rallying from a 21-point deficit for a 41-38 victory at Aloha on Dec. 4.
Like UAB, Hawai'i has a potent offense. Chang threw for a season-high 416 yards against Michigan State, giving him an NCAA-record 16,667 passing yards. The senior was 327-of-556 for 3,853 yards and 34 TDs with 13 interceptions in 2004.
All-American receiver Chad Owens will be a major concern for UAB's secondary Friday. The 5-9, 174-pound senior, who tied a school record with five TD receptions in a Nov. 27 win over Northwestern, caught four more in the victory over Michigan State and finished with 13 catches for 283 yards against the Spartans.
Owens averaged seven catches and 98 receiving yards per game this season.
Hawai'i will be facing a Conference USA team for the third straight bowl game, losing to Tulane in 2002 and beating Houston 54-48 in triple overtime last year. The Warriors have never faced UAB.
"I don't really know too much about them, but I'm sure they have a lot of talented players," Hawai'i coach June Jones said of the Blazers. "Them and Troy State seem to get those types of athletes that Florida Atlantic gets, so I'm sure they are going to be good."
The Warriors averaged 34.0 points per game and 430.0 yards of total offense, and have won seven straight home games since a season-opening loss to Florida Atlantic on Sept. 4.
Hawai'i is 3-2 in bowl games, with all but one of those contests played at Honolulu.