Records: UTSA (2-3), UAB (4-1)
Game Time: 5:00 p.m. CT, Saturday, October 12
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Radio: THE BULL 92.5/93.3 FM
Live Stats: Side Arm Stats
Series Record: UAB leads the series 2-1 and won the last meeting 52-3.
Betting Line: UAB -12, O/U 47
While their loss to Western Kentucky was certainly an unexpected set back, the Blazers are still off to a hot start this year and could be one of the first programs in the nation to become bowl eligible. Aided by a light schedule, UAB has weathered the storm of graduating 35 seniors thanks to outstanding play from the Blazers defensive front.
UAB has straight smothered the opposition this year. They’re allowing just 16.4 points per game and holding offenses to just 274 yards per game. For reference, Old Dominion has the fifth worst offense in the country at 262 yards per game.
Junior linebacker Kristopher Moll has led the way for the Blazers defense so far this year as the Coral Gables product has racked up 35 tackles, 5 TFLs, 3 sacks, 5 QB hits, and 1 forced fumble through just five games. That’s a delicious cocktail of havoc and destruction.
Defensive tackle Garrett Marino is on his way to all-conference honors as the big man continues to make plays in the backfield. Noah Wilder, Jordan Smith, and Fitzgerald Mofor have all contributed against the run as well, as the Blazers have already poured in 38 tackles for loss this season.
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Johnston III returns under center for the Blazers and, minus 8 interceptions, he’s enjoying a great follow up to his breakout season last year. Completing 61% of his passes, Johnston was recently ranked as the top quarterback in the G5 by Pro Football Focus.
Johnston has targeted Austin Watkins most frequently this season as Watkins has hauled in 367 yards through the air with four touchdowns to show for it. Kendall Parham has been the Blazers’ most explosive receiver, averaging 29.5 yards per catch along with five touchdowns. Look for Johnston to keep his eyes downfield for Parham on throwing opportunities.
Unfortunately for UAB they will likely be missing starting running back Spencer Brown. The part-freight-train-part-running-back star suffered a lower body injury in the first series of the Rice game. While UAB Head Coach Bill Clark said that Brown could theoretically play this week, rushing Brown back to the field against a struggling UTSA team seems ill-advised.
Lucious Stanley should get the majority of the snaps on Saturday. A bit more shifty than Brown, Stanley has been much more efficient this season as he’s rushed for 5.2 yards per carry while Brown is averaging just 3.3 yards per touch. With UAB’s offensive line rebuilding and recovering from injuries, Stanley is a better fit for the offense this week.
The Roadrunners’ rushing attack was in prime form against UTEP last week as quarterback Lowell Narcisse was able to secure a victory in his first start at UTSA. True freshman Sincere McCormick rushed for a program record 189 yards as the Roadrunners’ offensive line was able to blow UTEP off the line of scrimmage all night.
Narcisse wasn’t effective through the air (6/14, 46, 1 TD) but he added to UTSA’s rushing total with 115 yards of his own. Once Narcisse is in open space he’s adept at making tacklers miss. Narcisse isn’t particularly quick but he has good strength and body control once he leaves the pocket.
UAB’s path to success on defense this week is pretty straight forward, as they’ll want to bring as many bodies into the tackle box as possible and force Narcisse to beat the Blazers with his arm. Rather than keeping the defense spread out, UTSA may embrace the fracas as they frequently used two tight ends, H backs, and multiple running backs against UTEP. The Roadrunners will likely be happy to stay in jumbo packages if they’re able to keep moving the ball on the ground.
Other than Sincere McCormick’s huge game, the biggest bright spots for UTSA last week were on defense. UTSA’s deep and experienced defensive line finally played to their potential as they recorded four sacks and three quarterback hits. Featuring a constant rotation of bodies, the Roadrunners’ defensive line swallowed up the Miners and kept UTEP’s quarterbacks uncomfortable in the back field. Was it a breakthrough performance, or a reflection of how bad UTEP is? We should get more clarity this week as UTSA faces another offensive line that has had their struggles this year.
The Roadrunners have made some serious changes to their most troublesome position. JUCO transfer Trevor Harmanson shined in his first start last week, recording seven tackles and three tackles for loss. Harmanson’s speed and anticipation ability adds a new element to UTSA’s defense.
Pass rushing specialist Clarence Hicks has also moved from defensive end to outside linebacker where he recorded a tackle for loss last week. It will be interesting to see if Hicks is able to stick at his new position after he was moved up to second string on the depth chart this week.
The loss of Spencer Brown could have the Blazers sluggish out of the gate but they have more than enough talent to play through Brown’s injury. UTSA’s secondary has played pretty good football this week and could be in position to add to Tyler Johnston’s interception total. Unless Narcisse suddenly turns into an accurate passer the Blazers should really be able to put the clamp down on UTSA offense and wear the Roadrunners down over four quarters.
UAB 31 UTSA 16