In a phrase: This season was wildly successful. Bill Clark managed #TheReturn of the program as best as it could have possibly been. Clark was rightly named coach of the year, and the Blazers were just a few bounces away from winning the division on the way to a bowl appearance in the Bahamas. As it was, they won a record number of games (8) and CUSA wins (6) and played in just the second bowl ever in school history.
The loss in the post season soured things a bit, but no reasonable fan can come way from this experience with anything less than ebullient praise.
The team played scrappy, and like a super-powered expansion team. North Texas had to fend off a feisty comeback in a game that proved to be one of the Mean Green’s better wins. Beating division favorite La Tech at home was only surprising in the way it happened but not that it happened.
All told the program played five games that were decided by 5-points or fewer and won four. The one loss being to Charlotte in a confusing game where the 49ers decided to play at their absolute best.
UAB beat up on the bad teams — Rice and UTEP were blown out — and battled the good — NT, UTSA, La Tech. The biggest win was probably the home win over Southern Miss 30-12 in a game that really eschewed any ‘luck’ talk.
The Blazers were for real and will be a force to be dealt with next season.
Bill Clark pulled of a feat, but he has a nice challenge in front of him. The chip-on-the-shoulder was easy motivation this season. The next? Well, that will be tougher. Dealing with success is the hardest part of building a program — or rebuilding it in this case.
QB AJ Erdely, WR Andre Wilson, and RB Spencer Brown will be back along with most of the offense that started the bowl vs Ohio. The defense will lose LBs Shaq Jones and Tevin Crews along with CB Darious Williams, but will return a good portion of the lineup that helped slow Southern Miss.
There was always a sneaky sub-question surrounding The Return: Can this program ever be good and not just exist.
Like many long-suffering programs, the fan base will tell you circumstances beyond their control have prevented them from achieving the great heights that they are destined to reach. In UAB’s case, that is very true.
Now that the program is back, we will see if they can slay those old demons.