GAME PREVIEW: UAB at Miami (FL)

The college football season continues to get underway as UAB travels to south Florida on Thursday to take on Miami. 

It will be the second game of the season for the Blazers, who downed FCS Central Arkansas last week in their season opener. 

It will be the first game of the season for Miami, who hopes to snap a three-game losing streak dating back to last season.

The rest of the Atlantic Coast Conference is slated to open the 2020 season on Saturday with six games.

Conference members clash when Syracuse travels to North Carolina and Georgia Tech takes on Florida State in Tallahassee. Top-ranked Clemson opens the season at Wake Forest.

Notre Dame, which is a full-fledged ACC member for just this season in football, entertains Duke on Saturday in South Bend. 

Louisville will play at home against Western Kentucky and Pitt entertains Ohio Valley Conference co-champion Austin Peay.

Games scheduled for Saturday involving other C-USA schools have Marshall traveling to East Carolina and Florida International playing at UCF, while Charlotte and Appalachian State tangle in Charlotte. Louisiana Tech is slated to play at Big 12 Baylor and UTEP takes on another Big 12 foe in Texas. Texas-San Antonio tangles with Texas State.

UAB BLAZERS (0-0 C-USA/1-0 Overall) at MIAMI HURRICANES (0-0 ACC/0-0 Overall)

Date: Thursday, Sept. 10
Time: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Hard Rock Stadium (Miami Gardens, Fla.)
Television: ACCN 
Radio: ACC Network Radio (94.5 FM)

LAST TIME OUT FOR UAB:

UAB opened the 2020 season with an impressive 45-35 win over visiting Central Arkansas on Sept. 3 at historic Legion Field in Birmingham.

UCA lost for the first time this season after defeating Austin Peay 24-17 in dramatic fashion Sept. 3 in the FCS Kickoff played in Montgomery, Ala.

Although the score appears close, the Blazers used a balanced attack to dominate the statistics on the way to making history. The win was the 19th straight home game and broke a tie with a former Conference USA member Houston. UAB’s streak is the fourth-longest active streak in the nation.

The Blazers were led on the ground by Spencer Brown who rushed 24 times for 127 yards and one touchdown. It was the 14th career 100-yard rushing game for Brown, the school’s all-time rushing leader. Teammates Jermaine Brown added 75 yards on 17 carries and one touchdown while Lucious Stanley chipped in with 25 yards a touchdown of his own.

UAB picked up 233 yards on the ground and added 226 yards through the air to finish the game with 459 yards of total offense.

Two quarterback split time under center against the Bears. Redshirt junior Tyler Johnston finished the game with 143 yards through the air after completing 17 of 25 passes and two touchdowns. Bryson Lucero, a redshirt freshman, threw nine times and finished the game with seven completions for 83 yards and one touchdown. It was the first touchdown pass of his career.

Austin Watkins led all receivers with seven catches for 72 yards and teammate Myron Mitchell hauled in four passes for 47 yards and one touchdown. Tight end Gerrit Prince had a huge game for the Blazers by catching four passes for 31 yards and a pair of touchdowns and fellow tight end Hayden Pittman added 37 yards on three catches.

Kristopher Moll led the Blazer defense with eight tackles. Nikia Eason, a sophomore, was credited with a pair of sacks on the night for the Blazers, who held UCA to just 293 yards of total offense and forced the Bears into three turnovers in the game.

Tyree Turner and Jacob Fuqua, both redshirt seniors, recorded fumble recoveries on the night and Keondre Swoopes notched the first interception of his career.

While the Blazers dominated on the stat sheet, three costly turnovers helped make the game close on the scoreboard.

After UAB went in 14-0 following a six-yard scoring pass from Johnston to Prince and a five-yard scoring scamper by Brown with 2:46 remaining in the first quarter.

Central Arkansas responded by scoring all of its 21 first-half points off three UAB turnovers.

The first was set up when Malik Wilson picked off a pass and returned the ball 34 yards. Cameron Myers capped the short drive moments later by running in from four yards outs to pull the Bears to with 14-7 after the first period.

UAB its lead to 21 points after Mitchell scored on an 18-yard pass and 13-yard scoring strike to Prince that put the Blazers in from 28-7 with 5:31 left in the opening half.

UCA took advantage of a muffed point later in the second quarter and scored on the very next play with quarterback Breylin Smith hooked up with Lujan Winningham from 15 yards out to cut the UCA deficit to 28-14 wit 2:33 left in the half.

A forced fumble on UAB’s next possession was recovered by for a touchdown with 1:21 left to close the gap to 28-21 with 1:21 left in the half.

UAB got a field goal in the third quarter and touchdowns in the fourth quarter from Brown and Stanley to push the Blazer lead to 45-21 left in the game. The Bears would get two touchdowns in the final eight minutes to narrow the deficit. But it wasn’t enough.

Myers finished the game with 32 yards on five carries and the one touchdown for the Bears. UCA was led in rushing by Kierri Crossley, who rushed 10 times for 59 yards but was kept out of the end zone by the Blazers.

Smith finished the game with 193 yards passing after completing 25 of 46 passes. Winningham was the top pass catcher after collecting six passes for 53 yards and a pair of scores.

LAST TIME OUT FOR MIAMI (FL):

This will be the season opener for Miami. The Hurricanes dropped the final three games of the 2019 season, including a 14-0 loss to Louisiana Tech in the Independence to finish with a 6-7 overall record.

KEY PLAYERS:

UAB: Quarterback Tyler Johnston (6-2, 210, RS, Jr.), as noted, threw for 143 yards (17-25) and two touchdowns in last week’s win over Central Arkansas. 

He started the first eight games of the 2019 season before suffering an injury against Tennessee. He finished the year with 2,2250 yards passing and 17 touchdowns. He also notched two 300-yard passing contests a year ago.

Spencer Brown (6-2, 220, RS, Sr.) is the leading rusher in UAB history with 3,122 yards heading through his first three seasons. He rushed for 566 yards on 150 carries (3.8 ypc) last year despite missing four games with an injury. Running back mate Jermaine Brown (5-8, 175, So.) played in 10 games as a freshman last season and finished the year with 446 yards on 86 carries (5.2 ypc). He recorded a pair of 100-yard rushing performances in his first collegiate season.

The Blazers have one of the top pass catchers in the conference in the form of Austin Watkins (6-3, 210, RS, Sr.) who caught 57 passes for 1,092 yards last season and became just the third player in school history to surpass 1,000 yards in a seasons. Watkins has been named to the Biletnikoff Award Watch List as the nation’s top receiver.

Watkins transferred to UAB after a standout career at Dodge City (Kan.) Community College.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

MIAMI: Plenty of questions marks surround the Hurricanes as the season opener looms.

And, unfortunately, the questions begin at the quarterback position where D’Eriq King (5-11, 202, RS, Sr.) appears to the be starter for Hurricanes on Thursday against the Blazers after winning out over N’Kosi Perry (6-4, 190, RS, Jr.), who appeared in eight games last season and finished the year with 1,045 yards passing after completing 85 of 159 passes.

King, a transfer from Houston, passed for 4,925 yards and rushing for 1,421 in just 22 games for the Cougars before being injured in 2018. He accounted for 78 total touchdowns (50 passing, 28) rushing at Houston. He was a Maxwell Award semifinalist in 2018.

The question marks continue at running back as Cam’Ron Harris (5-10, 210) returns after rushing for 576 yards on 114 carries (5.1 ypc) and five touchdowns last season. His rushing total ranked him second on the team in that department.

A pair of freshmen have emerged in a battle for No.2 on the depth chart at running back heading into the season opener. Donald Chaney (5-10, 210) and Jaylan Knighton (5-10, 190) should both see plenty of action against the Blazers that will go a long way in settling the issue as Miami prepares for the conference schedule.

Dee Wiggins (6-3, 195, Jr.) returns to lead the receiving corps. He caught 20 passes for 335 yards and four touchdowns a year ago. Mike Harley (5-10, 180, Sr.) and Mark Pope (6-0, 172, Jr.) combined for an additional 56 receptions and more than 750 yards. Harley led that duo with 38 catches for 38 yards and 485 yards while Pope chipped in with 18 catches for 266 yards and two touchdowns.

Miami also welcomes back a pair of talented tight ends in the form of Brevin Jordan (6-3, 245, Jr.) and Will Mallory (6-5, 245) whose presence will should help take some of the pressure off King and the young Cane backfield.

Jordan had 495 yards on 35 catches last season while Mallory added 292 yards on 16 pass receptions. They both scored two touchdowns on the season.

Next Game:

UAB will be idle next week before returning action on Sept. 24 at South Alabama. The Blazers return home Oct. 3 for a Homecoming game against Texas-San Antonio.

Miami, meanwhile, is scheduled to at Louisville on Sept. 19 to open Atlantic Coast Conference play. Hurricanes return home clash with arch-rival Florida State on Sept. 26 and play on Oct. 19 at Clemson.

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