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Blazers Win Three Straight, UAB Defeats UTSA 24-19

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Bill Clark has #TheReturn rolling over everybody as the Blazers pinned down UTSA early to earn their third straight win.

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at Southern Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

UAB starting quarterback A.J. Erdely scored three first half touchdowns to jump out early on a UTSA team that couldn’t generate any results on offense. The Blazers continue to stride as they claim three straight conference victories while the Roadrunners trend downward for the second consecutive week.

The all-telling play of the game came on just the second play from scrimmage, when UTSA quarterback Dalton Sturm threw an interception to UAB safety Will Dawkins on what was just a bad pass.

UAB, set up at UTSA’s 28, turned the pick into a six-play touchdown drive to open up the game. Blazers running back Spencer Brown was able to work through UTSA’s defense all game to make Erdely’s job a breeze.

Erdely only needed to throw the ball for 49 yards and run for another 26 to give UAB the edge. The quarterback was 8 for 13 through the air and his 75 all-purpose yards were about as efficient as you could ask for. He had two rushing touchdowns - a program record for quarterbacks - and one through the air. In addition to Erdely's efficiency, UAB’s offense was fueled by Brown’s ability to pulverize the UTSA defense.

Brown carried the ball 27 times for 128 yards (4.7 avg) on C-USA’s number one rushing defense going into the game. The true freshman now has over 1,100 yards on the season (1,177). The team combined for 216 rushing yards total, the most rushing yards UTSA has allowed in the last five weeks.

Interestingly enough, the teams had similar successes through the first half, but UAB excelled past UTSA with their ability to finish drives. The Blazers capped off all three of their sustained offensive drives with touchdowns, whereas UTSA instead settled for a pair of field goals on their sustained drives.

Panhandling loose change wasn’t enough for the Roadrunners to keep pace with UAB who was cashing in paychecks.

A big part of that was the Blazers’ ability to neutralize UTSA’s diminishing offensive line. Led by linebacker Tevin Crews, UAB collected 10 tackles for loss and two sacks. They also forced three turnovers throughout the game.

The difference was 15 points and the 21-6 halftime score effectively drained the small pool of UTSA fans that ventured into the Alamodome for the contest.

The second half would prove to be better for the Roadrunners' defense. They started off the third quarter forcing back-to-back three-and-outs and then forcing two turnovers of their own in the form of an interception and an A.J. Erdely fumble. The latter was capitalized on for UTSA’s first touchdown of the day.

Sturm, who ended with one of his least spectacular performances, finished a whopping 17 of 37 with 162 yards - and he was C-USA’s most efficient passer going into the game. Yet, somehow, the masterful runner still finds himself among Sportscenter’s Top 10 nominees thanks to his footwork.

The Roadrunner defense would continue to hold up through the second half. Marcus Davenport and La’kel Bass damaged Erdely on two big sacks and UAB only managed three second half points on a 48-yard field goal from Nick Vogel.

The slowed offensive momentum gave UTSA a chance to rally. The Roadrunners were stringing together a promising drive early in the third quarter, but upon crossing midfield tailback Jalen Rhodes was stripped by UAB’s second leading tackler Broderick Thomas.

Rhodes finished with seven carries for 29 yards and wouldn’t get another touch after the fumble. UTSA’s other running back, Tyrell Clay, also finished with 29 total yards, but actually took 12 attempts to get there (2.4 avg).

The Roadrunners would score late to pull within five, but the failed onside kick attempt cemented a loss that was already certain for most fans, as the Roadrunners have failed a late rally attempt now in three of their four losses.

UAB improves to 7-3 (5-2 C-USA) with their third consecutive win, tying the program record for wins in a season. They take on Florida in SEC country next week, but have a good chance at capturing a record-setting eighth win in the season finale against UTEP back in Birmingham. The win should affirm an attractive bowl invitation for the Blazers' first season back.

On the other hand, C-USA’s highest paid coach now has four conference losses, leaving Roadrunner fans wondering what the hell’s happened after such a promising start to the season. The drop to 5-4 (2-4 C-USA) means UTSA will have to beat either Marshall next week in the home finale or LA Tech in Ruston in the last game of the regular season in order to earn bowl eligibility.