Date: Saturday October 7, 2017
Kickoff Time: 3:00 PM CT
Location: Birmingham, AL
Stadium: Legion Field
Series Record: Louisiana Tech leads 5-0
Last Meeting: 2014, La Tech won 40-24
Betting Line: Louisiana Tech -11.5
It has finally arrived.
For the first time since November 22, 2014, the UAB Blazers will host a C-USA opponent in Legion Field this Saturday. They welcome in the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, the same team that UAB hosted in their second-to-last home game of 2014 (they hosted #18 Marshall on Nov 22, a week later).
This has been a season of “firsts since” for UAB. They have played football. They have hosted. They have won. They have played a C-USA opponent. Now, they host one. Can they get their first C-USA win of #TheReturn? Can they record their first ever victory over the Dawgs? Or will La Tech continue it’s winning ways against C-USA West?
Before we try to answer those questions, let’s take a moment and give a tip of the cap to UAB, who will be wearing the names of patients at nearby Children’s Harbor on their jerseys. Well done, Blazers.
The Blazers started the season 2-2. They won both of their home games so far, against Alabama A&M and Coastal Carolina. They came up short in both of their road games, at Ball State and at North Texas. After nearly pulling off a major comeback against the Mean Green, UAB had a bye week to regroup, adjust, and take a breath. With the bye week over, it’s time for UAB to shrug off that new-ish program smell and get down to business. They’ve done fairly well so far, but they’re about to face what could be their biggest challenge yet.
UAB’s offense is not to be underestimated. They have scored 30 or more points every game this season, and quarterback A.J. Erdely is the focal point. He has thrown for over 700 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception. He also is the second-leading rusher for the Blazers with 135 yards and five touchdowns. He is poised and confident, and can make a play after the first play breaks down.
Leading rusher Spencer Brown has just three more rushing attempts (57 rather than 54), but has almost 300 yards and four touchdowns. Collin Lisa and Andre Wilson are the receivers to watch as they have 201 and 251 receiving yards, respectively.
UAB has been a run-first team, but against North Texas they called plays a little differently. After rushing roughly twice as often as passing against Ball State and Coastal Carolina, UAB had the exact same number of pass attempts as rushes (36) against UNT. Perhaps that was out of necessity as they found themselves trailing and had to make a monster comeback, but that’s certainly something to watch, especially coming out of a bye week.
Speaking of which, never count UAB out. At times against North Texas they trailed 23-7 and 37-21, yet they only lost by three. UAB will not go down without a fight, and you can bet they’ll fight even harder in their C-USA home opener.
UAB’s biggest weakness may be the run defense. They gave up an astonishing 287 rushing yards to North Texas. Granted, Jeffrey Wilson is a beast, but they also gave up 227 to Coastal. Since Tech prefers to throw it, that may not hurt UAB too much, but the Dawgs do run fairly well, and J’Mar Smith is only getting more capable as both a passer and a runner. UAB’s pass defense, however, ranks 30th in the nation.
UAB may not have played the past two seasons, but they’re one of the oldest teams in the country this year. They’ve got experience and fire, and although they probably won’t win the West this year, this is not a team you can overlook.
Louisiana Tech Overview
Louisiana Tech travels to Birmingham looking to defeat an Alabama team for the second straight week. Last week, the Dawgs held strong at home, defeating South Alabama 34-16. That brought them to 3-2 on the year with victories over Northwestern State and WKU and losses to Mississippi State and South Carolina (by one point). Louisiana Tech has never lost to UAB, and they intend to keep it that way.
Brace yourself before you read this; you really should sit down. Okay, here goes:
Louisiana Tech is a defensive team.
If you had told me that before the season, I would have laughed in your face. But yet, here we are. South Alabama came into Ruston with a new offensive scheme: they shifted from being a run-first team to a pass-first team. Their original starting quarterback, who had gone down in their first drive week two, made his return. USA’s offense had a lot of variables and surely Tech found preparing for USA difficult on that side of the ball. USA got the better of Tech’s defense on their second drive and scored the game’s first points.
That would be their only touchdown and their only lead of the game.
Tech’s offense, meanwhile, did well in the first quarter. It did pretty much nothing in the second or third before finally getting back on its feet in the fourth. Despite the slump, USA never retook the lead even though they cut it to 17-16.
Louisiana Tech’s defense literally kept Tech in front all by its lonesome, because when I tell you Tech’s offense didn’t do squat for two quarters, I’m not exaggerating.
This is not a hate-fest on the offense, though. Tech’s defense has made huge strides from last year. Secdrick Cooper is the senior leader in the secondary, taking the spot of Dallas Cowboy Xavier Woods, and he’s living up to the billing. He intercepted Cole Garvin twice (on back-to-back drives no less), for his first two career interceptions. Young corners Amik Robertson and L’Jarius Sneed continue to grow with each game. Jaylon Ferguson has been quiet most of the year, but if opposing offenses get complacent about his presence, he’ll make them pay.
The offense had its struggles, but is still coming along. J’Mar Smith had the best game of his career thus far, throwing for 317 yards and three touchdowns. He did not turn the ball over in this game, which had been an issue early on. Senior running backs Jarred Craft and Boston Scott continue to be reliable, and Smith is running better and showing why he’s billed as a dual-threat.
Transfer receiver Teddy Veal continues to be the favored target. Many other receivers are able to step up, however. Rhashid Bonnette has started to make a name for himself as a deep threat. However, he was injured early on against South Alabama and did not return. He was not listed on this week’s depth chart, but his status for UAB is still not decided. Also not listed is Alfred “Tarzan” Smith, who has missed the past few games. Still, Tech has plenty of depth at receiver, and the passing game should not take too much of a hit.
Jaqwis Dancy, who missed the last two games, is once again listed on the depth chart, so the fan favorite will hopefully be returning.
Ultimately, Tech’s offense is still finding itself, but improves with each game. The run game isn’t elite, but it’s sufficient to keep defenses guessing. The passing attack can get into a slump at times, but when it’s on, it’s on. Tech’s defense is improved enough to hold off opponents while the offense figures itself out.
UAB is going to want this game. Coming off a bye week, they’ll be fresh and fired up as ever. Their defense should have success against Tech’s offense, and they’re not afraid to fight to the bitter end.
However, neither is Tech, who themselves executed a comeback win already this season. Both teams are confident in their abilities to execute in close games, and this one should be entertaining. However, in the end I have to trust the (somewhat) proven commodity. I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see UAB cover the spread, but Tech should still pull it out in the end.
Louisiana Tech 34, UAB 28