Bill Clark did not want to call this the biggest game ever, but it just might have been. In front of a homecoming crowd and on Children’s Harbor day, UAB came back from 21-10 at half time to win 29-21, shutting out a powerful North Texas offense in the second half to win the game and seal the division.
UAB outgunned North Texas until the final, desperation Mean Green drive to try to tie things at 29. Through a power-run game that controlled the clock and kept Mason Fine off the field in the third quarter for all but four minutes. UAB ran for 203 yards on the day.
AJ Erdely was solid if unspectacular, but he hit a big 36-yard pass to Xavier Ubosi backed up inside the UAB five-yard line after a Mason Fine fumble. That put UAB into clock-killing mode that ultimately resulted in a Nick Vogel field goal that put UAB up by the final margin after a 13-play 87-yard drive that ate 6:14 off the clock.
North Texas started the game hot — scoring 21 points and moving the ball through the air to Rico Bussey and Jaelon Darden. They combined for 207 of Mason Fine’s 336 passing yards and all three of the scores. Jaelon Darden seemed unguardable in the first half, as he danced through the UAB defense along the sidelines.
The second-half adjustments for UAB included getting to Mason Fine more, but also simply controlling the ball. NT turned the ball over on downs to start the second half trying to go for it on 4th and 2 in UAB territory.
The Blazers followed that up with a 4-minute drive that ended in a fumble. The defense stepped up and sacked Fine on the first play — Garrett Marino had Fine in the grasp and Fine could only throw it away. The refs threw a flag for grounding and UAB followed that with another 3:30 minute drive that resulted in a score. It was 21-19 at that point.
Mason Fine and company punted on a three-and-out. Marino and Kris Moll harassed and hurt Mason Fine on two incomplete pass attempts on the second and third downs of the short drive.
All told in the third quarter UAB racked up 132 yards to North Texas’ 37, and 9 points to NT’s 0.
The fourth quarter saw controversy as North Texas’s two drives early drives ended in turnovers — one on downs and one by the Mason Fine fumble.
On 4th and 1 from the UAB 39, Mason Fine’s pass was knockdown by Stacy Keely at the line. After a UAB punt after a 3-and-out, Fine and company drove down to the six, only to fumble. The refs blew the whistle early, taking a sure Blazer TD off the board.
It did not matter as Erdely completed the 36-yard pas to Ubosi on 2nd-and-9 to begin the drive. NT had to use all the time outs and the final drive sputtered out on the UAB 27 when Jalen Guyton’s 4th down catch was a yard short.
UAB’s win all but seals the division for the Blazers in just their second year back in FBS play. Bill Clark’s team was picked third in the division and has vanquished Louisiana Tech and defending division champ North Texas. UAB is 4-0 and barring an epic collapse, could very well host the CUSA Championship Game.
There is some question about the actual venue, considering the SWAC championship game is schedule to be on the same day.
That will be something the Blazers will happily worry about, considering they will be likely playing for a league title just two seasons removed from not having a program.