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October 7, 2012

Blazers step up in all phases of the game for first win

Saturday was a beautiful day for football at Legion Field. The weather was comfortable and sunny and the scoreboard was better reading than a fine novel. It read: UAB 5, Southeastern Louisiana 3.

The UAB Blazers dominated on both sides of the football and notched the first win of the Garrick McGee era in style. Oddly enough, it was a play by the Blazers' much-maligned defense that started the day off right for the Blazers.

The game was only three plays old when Marvin Burdette intercepted a pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown that set the tone for the game and UAB would not let up until it was finished.

"Their guy, No. 51 (linebacker Cqulin Hubert) kept talking trash, saying we want the ball because they have no defense," Burdette, who finished the day with eight tackles, said. "It got me stirred up to think that some team thinks our defense is not good enough to stop their offense."

And any fan that has followed UAB football can tell you, getting Marvin Burdette fired up is not something you want to do. The rest of the UAB defense played follow the leader and the Lions offense really had no chance. The Blazers' defense has been on the receiving end of so much criticism over the past couple of seasons that it was ready to make amends.

"You're sitting here, you're 0-4 and you're like, when is it going to be that break? You're constantly thinking about it and it's on your mind," Burdette said. "For you to get that win, that monkey's off your back. Now you can go on and play your game because you know how it feels."

UAB couldn't have picked a better time to get that zero our of its won-loss record. Starting with Houston on the road next week the Blazers will face seven consecutive Conference USA opponents to end the season, a season that now looks a little more promising than it did before last Saturday.

While Burdette led the way, he was not even the Blazers leading tackler. That honor went to Diaheem Watkins, who had nine tackles, 2.5 tackles for losses and 1.5 sacks.

"When he got the interception, we were just like, 'We've got to ball out'," Watkins said. "I'm glad he got the interception because it set the tone. Marvin's a good guy. It was good for him."

While the defense was getting a lot of credit for denying the Lions the end zone all day, the UAB offense was finding its way behind a strong performance from a whole host of players who stepped up and elevated their game.

Quarterback Austin Brown went 16-for-22 for 266 yards and a 53-yard touchdown pass to Greg Franklin before injuring an ankle and giving way to Jonathan Perry who ended up by going 8-for-10 for 90 yards and two touchdowns, one an 8-yarder to Jay Davis and the other an 18-yarder to Nick Adams.

The UAB offense rolled up 512 yards of total offense, 356 through the air and 156 on the ground. Bashr Coles was the leading rusher with 84 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries while Darrin Reaves added 53 yards and a score on 14 tries while Franklin had 34 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Franklin, Adams, Jackie Williams and Kennard Blackman each hauled in four passes to lead the receivers, nine of whom caught passes in the game.

Overall, it was a good day for the Blazers and no team was more in need of a good day than UAB. And no coach was any more deserving of his first win than McGee.

"It was our best day in executing and concentrating and doing thing on a daily basis and I think that's why the score ended up what it ended up," said McGee. "Our team has had a lot of rain. It's always good to have sunshine so that they can see the way we go about our business, the way I'm hard on them all the time. If they continue to trust me and concentrate, they are capable of beating any team they play.

"You saw our team play the way we're capable of playing. They knew what was going on. They knew those bubble screens were coming. They knew to jump outside of the blockers and keep leverage on the ball. That told me that they were really thinking about the game plan, understanding what the offense was trying to do to us."



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