August 27, 2012
McGee, Blazers Getting Ready for Troy Opener
Blazer football fans are looking forward to the first game of the season when UAB hosts Troy at Legion Field Saturday. But if you're looking forward to it, consider the anticipation of Coach Garrick McGee and his football team. That entire group is ready to play.
Well, almost ready. McGee and his team still need to fine tune some things before Saturday's game. "We still have a lot of work to do this week in our final preparation before the game," McGee said Saturday during his Monday media luncheon. "We are one of those crews that believe the hay is never in the barn. We will have a walk-thru at 6:45 Saturday morning and we will learn more about our opponent and ourselves that morning. We continue preparation up until kickoff."
Meanwhile, the players are itching to quit hitting each other and start hitting an opponent. As senior offensive lineman Chris Hubbard said, "Saturday just can''t get here any faster."
Junior wide receiver Jackie Williams agreed. "Our fans have been great, coming out and supporting us at the scrimmages, and at fan day," he said, "and we're really looking forward to that intensity at Saturday's game."
Sophomore kicker Ty Long echoed the sentiment. "We're excited," he said. "We've been working for it all summer. We''re ready to get out there and kick [the game] off."
What should the fans expect? If past history is any guide, it will be a close game. Troy enters the game as a six-point favorite, but the last two games have been decided by a single point.
In 2010, UAB claimed the win on a last second, 44-yard 'Hail Mary' from quarterback Bryan Ellis to wide receiver Jackie Williams. Last season, the Trojans scored 10 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to erase a nine-point deficit.
That's the history of a true rivalry game. The players recognize that, even it the rivalry is new to McGee and most of his coaches.
"I really haven't gotten to immerse myself in the rivalry aspect," McGee said. "I know it's the first game of the season for us. We are really committed to playing a good game and give our crowd something to be proud of and giving the city of Birmingham something to be proud of. I'm sure that as the week goes on our players, Tyson Helton and the guys that have been around will be talking to me more about the rivalry."
Certainly senior Chris Hubbard understands the rivalry. "This has always been a big rivalry game for us," Hubbard said. ". . . We just have to come out and play Troy as hard as we can, we have to match their energy. Troy has some very quick defensive ends, so matching their alignments is going to be important for us."
The team knows it won't be an easy game. As McGee said, Troy has the type of offense that can cause problems for a team. "Their offense is at a fast tempo that can give you a lot of problems and it'll let their quarterback get into a rhythm," McGee said. "He (QB Corey Robinson) can really control the game, control the tempo of the game, and control completion after completion."
Defensive lineman Deric Scott expects a challenge. "Instead of being in a three-point stance, their offensive line stands in a two-point stance," Scott said. "That makes it more difficult for our pre-snap reads."
He doesn't expect a major problem, though. "We are going to be pursuers," he said. "All 11 men are running to the ball and gang-tackling instead of just one or two hands to the ball."
Williams agreed. "Troy plays with a lot of energy, so we have to go out there and disrupt that, keep from letting them get into a rhythm," he said. "Knocking them off track, letting our defense put pressure on the quarterback will be important. Our defensive line has learned so much this year with the new schemes, and from what I've seen, it'll keep them off balance."
But the Blazer offense must also perform well. "Our offense is practicing at a much higher pace this year," Williams said. "Our practices have been high tempo, and we just have to go out there and get into our opponent's faces. We go into our games with the mentality that we can defeat our opponent, and that should give us our edge."
Fans can find out Saturday by catching the game at 11:00 am at Legion Field. Those outside the area can watch it on Fox College Sport. Mike Gleason will provide play-by-play and Ben Leber providing analysis. The game will also air on radio on the Blazer IMG Sports Network on WUHT-FM 100.7. The voice of the Blazers, David Crane will provide play-by-play with John Whitcomb providing analysis.
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