Last week UAB returned home to Legion Field and picked up a resounding 56-21 victory over North Texas. The Blazers created 35 points off turnovers and rode a suddenly red hot Cody Clements to a surprisingly easy C-USA win. The Blazers now stand at 4-2 overall with a realistic shot to end a decade of losing seasons and return to the post season. Middle Tennessee will see their second hot quarterback in a row after falling 49-24 to Marshall. Emerging Heisman candidate Rakeem Cato victimized the Blue Raiders for 337 yards and accounted for four total touchdowns. Below We've listed the Blazers keys to victory in this key C-USA east showdown.
1.) UAB will need to attack a MTSU secondary that has surrendered the most passing yards in C-USA. The Blue Raiders have forced nine interceptions (led by Kevin Byard who has four) which makes things tricky for the Blazers. If Clements makes good decisions look for him to reach the 300 yard passing mark for the 3rd straight game. Clements will be utilizing receiving weapons JJ Nelson, Kennard Bachman, Josh McGee, and Maudrecus Humphrey. All four of those Blazers are averaging at least 35 yards receiving a game. It also doesn't hurt Clements that he has two running backs in Jordan Howard and DJ Vinson that have combined for 14 total rushing touchdowns on the season. The Blazer rushing attack has 19 total touchdowns on the season at the half way point, that's two more than UAB produced during the entire 2013 season.
2.) The Blazers entered last week's game near the bottom of college football in turnover margin at -8. After forcing five turnovers against the Mean Green the Blazers won going away. If UAB continues to make strides in winning the turnover battle week in and week out, Coach Bill Clark's team is going to be really hard to beat.
3.) The UAB defensive line needs to get pressure on MTSU QB Austin Grammar. Grammar is currently 3rd in C-USA in passing yards but has been sacked 12 times. The Blazer defense has been lead by Diaheem Watkins (4) and Jake Ganus (3) in accumulating 16 sacks. This improving defensive unit will need to afflict more damage against the Blue Raiders on Saturday.
4.) UAB still can't afford to bask in recent success and not give 100% effort each week if they hope to go bowling for the first time since Roddy White was roaming the sidelines at Legion Field. Some fans were left wondering if the Blazers may have not handled the early season success well after their home loss against FIU. Coach Bill Clark has certainly been teaching the Blazers to have short memories and respect everyone on their schedule. After a mid week practice, Clark seemed to feel the Blazers were focused on MTSU.
"I thought we had a really solid day," he said. "They came out really focused. Obviously, we’ve got a big task to go up there, but I thought we had a good day."
While highly doubtful that the Blazers would look past a regional rival and perennial post season contender like MTSU, UAB can't afford to still be celebrating last week's victory when they kick off against the Blue Raiders. Look for the Blazers to be zoned in and expect another nail biter similar to the Blazer's last road game against Western Kentucky two weeks ago.