It's almost been a whole year since Southern Miss snapped their 23 game losing streak in Birmingham against UAB with a 62-27 drubbing of the Blazers. But a lot has changed since then. For one thing, former UAB head coach Garrick McGee left the Blazers to join Bobby Petrino's staff at Louisville. That opened the door for Bill Clark from Jacksonville State to take the reigns of Blazer football. Clark has done a great job this year with UAB, winning 5 games and putting them in a position to go to a bowl game for the first time in a decade.
But, there is a growing concern among UAB boosters and fans that the program could be shut down by the Alabama Board of Trustees. Needless to say, if UAB can get a win on Saturday and go to a bowl game, it'd be a huge boost for saving their program. However, Southern Miss will try to prevent that from happening on Saturday.
This will be the 15th meeting between the two schools in a series dating back to 2000. Southern Miss won the first 9 games but seven of those were by single digits. UAB finally got a win over the Golden Eagles in 2009 on a Thursday night in Legion Field winning 30-17. The Blazers went to Hattiesburg in 2010 and won again (in double overtime) 50-49 and dashed SouthernMiss' hopes of a C-USA East title. In 2011, on another Thursday night in Birmingham, UAB played the spoiler role (again) by defeating #20 Southern Miss and taking the Golden Eagles out of the discussion for a potential BCS bowl game. It wasn't until 2013 that Southern Miss was able to snap the losing streak against the Blazers, as the Golden Eagles clobbered UAB and snapped the 23 game losing streak.
UAB has been able to turn it around in large part due to junior college transfers from the 2014 recruiting class. QB Cody Clements and TE Gerald Everett are both contributors on the UAB offense that played in the JUCO ranks last season. Clements has thrown for 2000+ yards and 11 touchdowns, Everett has caught 17 passes for 292 yards. On defense, JUCO alums include Bobby Baker, James Banks, and Desman Carter.
Southern Miss will be led on offense by Nick Mullens, a Birmingham native, who will be playing against his hometown team on Saturday. Mullens threw for 370 yards and five touchdowns against UAB in 2013, arguably the best performance of his career to date. Southern Miss will look to improve on offense after only scoring 10 points two weeks ago against UTSA. The Southern Miss defense may have their hands full as well, UAB is averaging 32 points a game which includes a 37 point performance in September against #4 Mississippi State.
Southern Miss and UAB are both located in football-mad states. However, the game will be overshadowed by two other games in the schools' respective states (Egg Bowl in Mississippi, Iron Bowl in Alabama). But the game still will have much importance. Southern Miss is looking to get win number four and finish 2014 on a strong note and carry momentum into 2015.
UAB has a little more to play for, as a win would bring them to a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility for the first time in ten years. Despite the lack of national attention on this game, both teams will be doing all they can to get the win in Hattiesburg on Saturday.