It wasn’t perfect, but the UAB Blazers played well enough to secure a record-setting 45-35 victory in their first game back in Legion Field since last fall.
The Blazers flipped between two quarterbacks, as both Tyler Johnston III and Bryson Lucero saw considerable playing time against the Central Arkansas Bears. Both were relatively effective, with Johnston going 17 of 25 for 143 yards, and Lucero finishing 7 of 9 for 83 yards. The pair combined for three touchdowns and one interception, however neither completed a pass for more than 28 yards.
The Blazers hopped on the board first with a nicely drawn up play. Facing fourth and two in the red zone, Bill Clark opted to go for it and UAB quarterback Tyler Johnston III found tight end Garrett Prince wide open for a touchdown.
Showing off his slimmed-down frame, UAB running back Spencer Brown wasted no time in making his presence felt. Brown capped off a nine play drive for UAB with a five yard touchdown rush to put UAB up 14-0.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, Tyler Johnston III seems to still be struggling with avoiding interceptions. Johnston was picked off near the end of the first quarter as UCA defensive back Malik Wilson returned the errant pass to the five yard line to set up the Bears’ first score of the night.
We did see a bit of a surprise at the start of the second quarter as Bryson Lucero stepped in at quarterback following Johnston III’s interception. Lucero took care of business, tossing an 18 yard touchdown pass to Myron Mitchell before Johnston III returned to the game.
The time off the field seemed to clear Johnston’s head as he tossed some really pretty throws once he returned to action, including a touchdown toss to Garret Prince to give UAB a 28-7 lead.
As the second quarter progressed, UCA’s offense began to find their groove. The offensive line settled in, while quarterback Breylin Smith started hitting on his throws. Standout wide receiver Lujuan Winningham came down with an unbelievable touchdown catch from a perfect throw from Smith that made the score 28-14.
The Bears would keep the momentum going as Robert Rochelle would rip and recover a fumble for a touchdown to cut the Blazers’ lead to just seven point at halftime.
A slow and prodding third quarter brought just one score to the game after UAB capped a seven minute long drive with a 23 yard field goal.
UAB would flip between starter Tyler Johnston III and Bryson Lucero under center through the rest of the game, with Lucero ultimately settling in to lead the offense. Lucious Stanely would skate into the end zone to give UAB a 38-21 lead. An interception from Keondre Swoopes would give the ball right back to the Blazers. UAB running back Jermaine Brown would promptly find the end zone to give UAB a commanding 45-21 lead over the Bears.
Lujuan Winningham wouldn’t end his night quietly, however, as he hauled in an unbelievable touchdown snag to give the Bears another score. With three incredible touchdowns to his name this season, it’s clear Winningham is a very special player.
The Bears would tack on one more score in the last minute of the game as Breylin Smith found his tight end Sam Camargo in the end zone in the last minute of the game to bring the final score to 45-35.
This victory was especially notable for UAB, as the Blazers set the Conference USA record for most consecutive wins at home (19).
UAB’s run game was phenomenal through the span of the evening, as Spencer Brown collected 127 yards and a touchdown over 24 carries. Jermaine Brown Jr. and Lucious Stanley also added scores on the ground.
Next week UAB will travel to Miami, presenting a tantalizing Power 5 opportunity for the Blazers as Miami will be breaking in a new quarterback and offensive coordinator.
Meanwhile, Central Arkansas will enjoy a much-earned week off before traveling to face Arkansas State on 9/19.