BIRMINGHAM- This Saturday, the UAB Blazers (5-1, 2-1) will host their third annual Children’s Harbor Homecoming game. This year, the Blazers will be taking on Conference USA East opponent Old Dominion (1-5, 0-2).
The Homecoming game tradition, which honors the children that attend Children’s Harbor, has gone down to the wire the past two years, but the Blazers, who boast a two-game win streak look to win big against a Monarch’s team that hasn’t beaten a team since August.
UAB looks to have hit its stride last week in a big conference win against UTSA. The Blazers beat the Roadrunners 33-14. In addition, they were able to outgain UTSA 492 yards to 220. Quarterback Tyler Johnston III led the offense with 294 passing yards and two touchdowns. He went 17-for-26 with one interception. On the ground, Johnston had 30 yards on 11 carries.
Austin Watkins Jr. helped in the effort with six catches for 167 yards and a touchdown. He was averaging 27.3 yards a catch. New star Lucious Stanley continued to take a majority of the carries in junior Spencer Brown’s second missed game due to injury. Stanley had a career-high 92 rushing yards and a touchdown. Jermaine Brown Jr., a true freshman running back, also got action with 62 rushing yards.
The biggest story of the night; however, came from the defense which held the Roadrunners to 220 total yards. The Blazers also had two fumble recoveries, which brings their season total to 10, the highest in the country. After this victory, the Blazer’s defense is now ranked seventh in the nation in total defense. In addition, UAB has not allowed more than 20 points in any game this year.
Old Dominion comes to Birmingham fresh off of a loss in West Virginia to Marshall. Old Dominion lost 31-17 but still managed to gain 206 offensive yards. Junior Quarterback Messiah deWeaver went 8-for-14 with 100 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions. deWeaver also had 22 rushing yards. Redshirt senior Kesean Spencer led the Monarchs in rushing with 35 yards and one touchdown on three carries.
ODU’s defense seemed to crumple- they allowed Marshall to gain 444 total offensive yards- 236 rushing and 208 passing. That being said, ODU had 3.0 tackles-for-loss and 2.0 team sacks.
UAB has several prominent storylines this week. The most overlying is the tribute that the Blazers will have for the children that attend Children’s Harbor. Each player’s jersey will feature the name of a patient of the hospital. A list of the pairings can be found here. This idea was thought of in part by head coach Bill Clark. He explained in his weekly press conference, as reported by UABSports.com, that “...we wanted to get involved with Children’s Harbor.” He continued, “We always talk about playing for the name on the front, not the name on the back, which is not your personal name, but UAB. We said, "What if we played for the name on the back?" We came up with the idea of putting the patients and former patients on the back. We ran it by the folks at Children's Harbor and they were all in.”
The second storyline surrounding UAB’s homecoming game is their home-win streak. After their last home win- a victory over Conference USA opponents Rice- the Blazers now have the 5th longest active home winning streak in the country with 15. A win could inch the Blazers closer to the fourth longest home win streak, which belongs to Ohio State (17).
This is the first matchup between UAB and Old Dominion, and the Blazers are favored by 16 points. The O/U is set at 42. The game will be kick off at 3 p.m. CST, and it will be televised on ESPN+. WJOX 94.5 will be broadcasting the game on the radio.
Written by Bryant Horn