Grant Belcher, NewsOn6.com
Tulsa Golden Hurricane (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) vs. University of Alabama-Birmingham Blazers (0-5, 0-2)
Saturday, Oct. 15, 7 p.m. CST
H.A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, Okla.
|Tulsa ||UAB |
|Passing ||G.J. Kinne |
75-122, 962 yards, 9 TD
|Jonathan Perry |
46-94, 497 yards
|Rushing ||Trey Watts |
66 rush, 380 yards, 1 TD
|Pat Shed |
53 rush, 201 yards, 1 TD
|Receiving ||Bryan Burnham |
21 rec, 342 yards, 6 TD
|Jackie Williams |
26 rec, 244 yards
Where to look for it:
Radio: KRMG 740 AM/FM 102.3 (Bruce Howard, Rick Couri, Chris Kaiser)
Tulsa: DB John Flanders, DT Darell Zellars (academics, out for season) WR Damaris Johnson (suspended indefinitely)
UAB: LB D.A. Autry (knee, questionable) QB Bryan Ellis (concussion, questionable)
What you need to know
There's really no way around it - to say that UAB has struggled this year is quite the understatement. Not only have the Blazers not won a game, but they have looked very underwhelming even for a winless team. In fact, ESPN recently put the Blazers at No. 3 in its unfortunate "Bottom 10," which ranks the 10 worst teams in college football. The details only get worse. UAB has played two different quarterbacks through five games this season, and neither has a passing touchdown. Only three UAB players have scored a touchdown this season, and only once each. Kicker Ty Long has more points than the entire UAB offense. Out of 120 teams in Division I, the Blazers rank 110th or worse in total offense, scoring offense, rushing defense, passing defense, total defense, passing efficiency and sacks.
The Blazers' best bet to score seems to be taking some sort of return back for a touchdown. The Blazers have two interception returns for touchdowns this season as well as a kick return for a touchdown, evening their special teams and defense's scoring total with the offense. UAB has shown an incredible knack for returning kicks and punts despite their misfortunes. The Blazers are third in the country in yards per punt return, and in the top third of the country in kick returns.
After taking on powerhouse offenses such as Boise State, Oklahoma and OSU in the first few weeks of the season, Tulsa's defense should have a field day against the lowly Blazers.
Who to watch
Bryan Ellis, who started the season at quarterback for UAB, has been out for the past two games with a concussion. But regardless of who gets the start against TU, neither Blazers quarterback has shown that they are capable of getting the ball into the end zone. Five different Tulsa players have picked off passes this year, and they could add to that statistic on Saturday.
UAB's Nick Adams is one of the best weapons the Blazers have, for he ranks 13th nationally in kick return yards. With his team's relative inability to move the ball, Adams does his best to make plays and put his offense in good field position. He should be looking to take every kick back to the house, or at least as far as he can upfield. The Tulsa kicking team must be ready to pursue downfield on kickoffs, because Adams has been known to take kickoffs out of the end zone that would normally be considered a sure touchback.
Linebacker Curnelius Arnick continue to prove why he is one of the elite linebackers (at least statistically) in the country at the moment. He averages nearly 13 tackles per game through the first five, good for fourth in the country. However, playing an offense as incapable as UAB's can actually have a negative effect on unusually high statistics. The Blazers end up with a lot of turnovers and three-and-outs, resulting in fewer overall tackles for Tulsa defenders. Meanwhile, offenses such as Boise State, OU and OSU often put together 10-12 play drives, which means inflated statistics for the defense. Arnick probably won't pick up 13 tackles against the Blazers, but that doesn't mean he or his defense will be underperforming in Saturday's game.