Bahamas Bowl: UAB 24, Miami (Ohio) 20
UAB only needed its defense to stop with the goal line on its back as Miami (OH) kicker Jalen Walker made his way into the end zone looking for a last-second touchdown of the game. The Blazers wrapped up Walker and sent him to the ground at the 2-yard line, sealing a 24-20 win in an epic Bahamas Bowl.
It was a win for UAB that came with mixed feelings as interim coach Bryant Vincent, who took over the team after Bill Clark retired in July, came away winning in his final game leading the team. Meanwhile, on the sidelines was UAB’s next head coach, Trent Dilfer, who is taking over the performance and establishing the team he will inherit as the program turns the page from 2022 to 2023.
UAB was also without its star running back, DeWayne McBride, after the NCAA and Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year announced shortly before the game that he would not be playing. Early on, there was no indication that McBride’s absence would play a role in the final outcome, as backup running back Jermaine Brown was more than capable of being productive with a heavy workload and the Blazers jumped out to a 10-0 lead. But Miami put together an impressive touchdown drive just before halftime to cut the lead to 10-6 and give the RedHawks some momentum heading into the locker room. It was the first of two touchdown passes from Miami quarterback Avion Smith, with both goals scored on impressive catches.
UAB’s mistakes nearly took the game away in the second half as the Blazers both fumbled a punt late in the third quarter to set up a one-touchdown drive for Miami and then lost a fumble with six minutes left in the fourth quarter with the Blazers trailing 20-17. But the Blazers defense, as it did on the last play, stood tall and forced a field goal attempt after that fumble to give UAB’s offense another chance to get a tie-breaker or go-ahead score. Brown was the star drive and star of the game, scoring his second touchdown of the day and achieving a performance of 24 carries and 116 yards.
Needing a TD to win, Miami’s final drive was frantic. There were 12 plays, multiple penalties and two fourth down conversions by the RedHawks. But in the end, it was that final tackle that allowed UAB to hold on for the win, giving the Blazers a victory in the same bowl game where they made their 2017 debut at the end of the program’s first season back on court after program. It has been closed.
It’s a fitting end to a great era of NFL football, with the Blazers turning the page from the Bill Clark era to the Trent Dilfer era and from being in Conference USA to jumping into the American Athletic Conference. The past five years have included multiple bowl bids, a conference championship and three appearances in the conference title game. Now it’s up to Dilfer and the rest of the UAB team to try and match those results in the AAC, and the Blazers’ best news comes from the fight they showed in the Bahamas Bowl and what it says about the current state of this team.
“Thinker. Wannabe twitter lover. Entrepreneur. Food fan. Total communicator. Coffee specialist. Web evangelist. Travel fanatic. Gamer.”