Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; UAB Blazers head coach Bill Clark embraces  UAB Blazers offensive linemen Colby Ragland (53) after defeating the BYU Cougars during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

UAB coach Bill Clark retires due to serious back issues

UAB football coach Bill Clark said Friday that he is retiring from his post due to chronic back issues.

Clark, who famously rebuilt the program in Birmingham after it was shut down for two seasons, will officially step down on Aug. 1.

“Retiring as the UAB head football coach is the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make, but my future health and well-being depend on it,” Clark wrote on Twitter.

Clark, who turns 54 on Tuesday, will leave after eight years and six seasons. He has a 49-26 record, including the only two bowl victories in school history.

Clark said he will undergo spinal fusion surgery in hopes of alleviating the back issues that have plagued him. He said he initially hurt the back while doing squats in high school.

“I have reached this difficult decision after consultation with a number of world-class medical experts and much family discussion, reflection and prayer,” Clark said in his lengthy statement. “Having undergone a previous back surgery, extensive physical therapy, shots and chiropractic therapy, I have exhausted all of my options.

“Due to the extreme physical demands placed on a head coach, it is clear to me. It’s time to pass the torch and try and get well.”

Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent will serve as interim coach, and defensive coordinator David Reeves was promoted to assistant head coach. The Blazers are moving from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference for the 2023 season.

The UAB program was shut down after the 2014 season due to financial reasons. The program was reinstated one year later and the Blazers began play again in 2017 and Clark stunningly guided the team to an 8-5 record that season and an 11-3 mark in 2018.

Clark was named Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year for the 2018 campaign.

The Blazers went 9-4 last season for their fifth straight winning season. UAB finished the campaign with a 31-28 victory in the Independence Bowl over No. 13 BYU — the highest-ranked team the program has ever defeated.

“We rose from ashes to build something rare and real, and we did it together,” Clark wrote. “We set excellence as a standard, and we achieved it.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 18, 2021; Shreveport, LA, USA; BYU Cougars quarterback Baylor Romney (16) runs the ball during the second quarter against the UAB Blazers during the 2021 Independence Bowl at Independence Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

UAB uses ground game to beat No. 13 BYU in Independence Bowl

Dylan Hopkins threw three touchdown passes, including a 14-yard strike to Trea Shropshire in the fourth quarter to give UAB a 31-28 upset of No. 13 BYU on Saturday in the Independence Bowl at Shreveport, La.

Hopkins’ game-winning toss came on fourth-and-7 with 6:17 left. It was the second fourth down UAB (9-4) converted on the drive as it won a bowl game for the second time in the program’s 31-year history. BYU was the highest-ranked opponent the Blazers have ever beaten.

Hopkins completed 19 of 23 passes for 189 yards. DeWayne McBride carried 28 times for 183 yards and scored on a 64-yard sprint in the first quarter.

BYU (10-3) was led by Tyler Allgeier, who carried 27 times for 192 yards and three touchdowns in breaking the Cougars’ single-season rushing record. Allgeier topped the mark of Luke Staley who ran for 1,582 yards in 2001. Allgeier finished the year with 1,601 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns.

Allgeier’s third score of the game came early in the fourth quarter after Masen Wake ran 29 yards with a shovel pass to the 1-yard line. Allgeier’s touchdown carry gave BYU a 28-24 lead.

But UAB retaliated with a 75-yard drive. McBride carried for 44 yards in the march which milked 8:16 from the fourth-quarter clock.

BYU moved to midfield on its ensuing possession but at the end of a 22-yard reception, Samson Nacua fumbled and UAB’s Mac McWilliams recovered with 3:36 left. The Blazers then ran out the clock as McBride rushed for a pair of first downs and Jermaine Brown (8 carries, 47 yards) carried for another.

The Cougars were without injured starting quarterback Jaren Hall. Baylor Romney completed 15 of 23 passes for 195 yards.

UAB took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Hopkins capped a 60-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Gerrit Prince.

On the Blazers’ next possession, McBride broke into the clear on off tackle run, stiff-armed a defender to the ground and outran two other defenders to the end zone on his 64-yard touchdown run.

But BYU responded with touchdowns on its next two possessions. On a 72-yard drive on which he accounted for all the yards on seven carries, Allgeier capped it with a 1-yard scoring run. Then Nacua scored on a 2-yard end around to tie it.

UAB regained the lead before the half ended as Hopkins capped a 78-yard march with a 23-yard strike to Prince on a wheel route.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2021; Los Angeles, California, USA; BYU Cougars quarterback Jaren Hall (3) throws the ball against the Southern California Trojans in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Independent BYU fired up to make Independence Bowl statement

BYU had hopes of landing an upper-tier bowl game with a resume that includes a 10-2 record and the College Football Playoff ranking — No. 13 — only a dozen teams can trump.

BYU went 5-0 against Pac-12 teams this season and also defeated Virginia of the ACC.

Yet, the Cougars aren’t even close to the New Year’s Six and landed in a bowl game that gets the team back home well before Christmas.

Being an independent brought limited options and the Cougars are putting on brave faces when they discuss the reality: a matchup with UAB on Saturday in the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, La.

But Cougars coach Kalani Sitake, who just received a contract extension through 2027, opts against joining the woe-is-us rhetoric.

“I hope you know how excited we are to perform in this bowl game next week,” Sitake told reporters. “We are focused on the game and having a wonderful time at the Independence Bowl.”

Quarterback Jaren Hall said the message has been consistent since the bowl site was announced.

“Kalani has been pumping energy into us, and the other coaches have done a great job of continually harping on the importance of this next game,” Hall told reporters. “I think as players we are taking it and running with it. I think the energy will stay the same.”

There is no such issue for UAB (8-4), which is playing in a bowl game for just the fifth time.

This is the fourth bowl appearance in coach Bill Clark’s six seasons, and BYU easily represents the toughest foe.

“BYU is a big-time, quality opponent,” Clark told reporters. “We know we’ve got our work cut out for us. We have a lot of work to do to compete with them, but we are excited. It is a great step for our program, no doubt.”

Clark took over prior to the 2014 season, and the university disbanded the program following the season. Public outrage led to a reversal, and football was reinstated for the 2017 season.

The Blazers notched their lone bowl win in 2018 when they drubbed Northern Illinois 37-13 in the Boca Raton Bowl.

This season, UAB lost two games against ranked teams, falling to then-No. 2 Georgia 56-7 in September and to then-No. 15 UTSA 34-31 in November.

Stunning the Cougars would rate as one of the top wins in program history.

UAB will be trying to slay a program that beat Pac-12 champion Utah as well as Arizona, Arizona State, USC and Washington State.

The Cougars average 33.5 points and 457.1 yards per game, with Hall and running back Tyler Allgeier leading the way. Hall has passed for 2,583 yards, 20 touchdowns and five interceptions while Allgeier ranks eighth nationally with 1,409 rushing yards and is tied for the national lead with 20 touchdowns.

Defensively, middle linebacker Ben Benwater has a team-leading 93 tackles.

UAB also has a strong running back in DeWayne McBride, who has racked up 1,188 yards and 12 scores on the ground. Quarterback Dylan Hopkins has thrown for 2,085 yards, 15 touchdowns and six interceptions.

Highly regarded nose tackle Tyree Turner (3.5 sacks, two forced fumbles) fuels a run defense that ranks 11th nationally by allowing 104.2 yards per game.

UAB and BYU are meeting for the first time.

–Field Level Media

Nov 13, 2021; San Antonio, Texas, USA;  UTSA Roadrunners head coach Jeff Traylor looks on in the second half against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles at the Alamodome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 UTSA’s last-second TD caps wild win over UAB

Frank Harris hit Oscar Cardenas on a 1-yard touchdown pass on the final play of the game as No. 22 Texas-San Antonio needed a miracle finish to defeat Alabama-Birmingham 34-31 on Saturday afternoon in a key Conference USA game in San Antonio and remain undefeated.

The Roadrunners took over at their own 23-yard line with 1:06 remaining and no time outs, trailing by four points. Harris completed passes of 28 yards to Cardenas and 6 and 33 yards to De’Corian Clark, the latter to reach the UAB 10-yard line.

After a 9-yard run by Harris and an incomplete pass, Harris connected with Cardenas for the game winner as the clock expired.

The win clinched UTSA’s first-ever C-USA West Division title and guaranteed the Roadrunners (11-0, 7-0 C-USA) a spot in the conference championship game. UTSA’s 11-game winning streak, its seven wins in seven conference games and nine straight victories at home are all new program marks.

Harris ended up with 323 yards and three TDs passing, with Sincere McCormick rushing for 65 yards and a score, and Zakhari Franklin catching six passes for 97 yards and two touchdowns.

Dylan Hopkins passed for 254 yards and two touchdowns for the Blazers (7-4, 5-2), who had a two-game winning streak snapped. DeWayn McBride ran for 144 yards and the go-head score with 5:16 to play, forcing UTSA into its comeback.

The Blazers wasted no time setting the table, with Hopkins hitting Tre Shropshire on a 74-yard TD bomb on the game’s second snap. Harris and McCormick responded by engineering a 12-play, 73-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard one-handed touchdown catch by Franklin.

Hopkins and Shropshire connected again near the end of the first quarter, this time from 40 yards away before McCormick rambled into the end zone on an 8-yard run to retie the game with 10:24 to play in the second quarter.

Hopkins then capped a 75-yard, eight-play drive with an 8-yard scoring run.

UTSA’s Hunter Duplessis and UAB’s Matt Quinn traded field goals, from 51 and 23 yards, respectively, over the final 2:18 of the quarter as the Blazers carried a 24-17 lead into the break.

The Roadrunners went to the quick-strike big-play 51 seconds into the third quarter as Harris passed 54 yards to Franklin for the tying TD. Duplessis booted a 49-yard field goal with 1:21 to play in the third quarter to take the lead for the first time.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2021; Boise, Idaho, USA; Boise State Broncos wide receiver Stefan Cobbs (5) returns a punt for a touchdown during the first half against the UTEP Miners at Albertsons Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

AAC targeting Boise State, UAB, others for expansion

The American Athletic Conference has identified potential candidates, most from the Mountain West, to join the league after the announced exodus of three teams to the Big 12, CBS Sports reported Thursday.

At the top of the AAC’s wish list are Mountain West programs Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State and San Diego State, along with UAB of Conference USA.

The conference is losing Cincinnati, Houston and UCF to the Big 12. Texas and Oklahoma began the chain reaction of moves with their announcement that they will join the Southeastern Conference in 2025.

The CBS report said the AAC likely will be looking to add four teams to bring the number of members to 12, with Boise State the most coveted addition based on the strength of its football program. CBS reported last week that Boise State, as well as Memphis, also could be top targets for the Big 12 should it choose to expand to 14 teams.

The AAC also has a second tier of teams it could pursue if it is spurned by any of its preferred teams, per the report. It includes FAU and UTSA from Conference USA.

BYU, an independent in football and a Mountain West member in the other sports, is joining the Big 12 in 2023, with the AAC teams expected on board by July 1, 2024.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Athens, Georgia, USA; Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Arian Smith (11) reacts as he scores a touchdown after catching a pass against the UAB Blazers during the first half at Sanford Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Georgia throttles UAB behind Stetson Bennett’s 5 TDs

Senior quarterback Stetson Bennett threw a school-record-tying five touchdowns passes in place of the injured JT Daniels to lead No. 2 Georgia to a 56-7 victory over Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday in Athens, Ga.

Bennett, who started five games last season for Georgia before suffering a shoulder injury and was replaced by Daniels, threw a 73-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Burton on Georgia’s second play. The Bulldogs (2-0) never looked back.

While Daniels was sidelined with a strained oblique, Bennett threw touchdown passes of 73, 12, 89, 61 yards and nine yards in the first half. He exited midway through the third quarter with the Bulldogs leading 42-0. He went 9-for-11 passing for 279 yards.

His five touchdown passes tied a school record for a game set on six other occasions, including most recently by Aaron Murray against Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl in 2013.

Tight end Brock Bowers (three catches, 107 yards, 2 TDs) and Burton (three catches, 92 yards, TD) were among nine receivers with at least one catch. Zamir White led the Bulldogs’ rushing attack with 34 yards on seven carries.

Bennett threw a 12-yard touchdown to Kenny McIntosh to cap a five-play, 40-yard drive on Georgia’s second possession, giving the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

Though he wasn’t injured, Bennett was replaced on Georgia’s next series by redshirt freshman Carson Beck, who handed the ball off three times before the Bulldogs punted.

Bennett returned on the next series and on first down threw an 89-yard touchdown pass to Bowers streaking down the sideline for a 21-0 lead with 1:14 left in the first quarter.

On the first play of Georgia’s next series, Bennett threw a 61-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Arian Smith for a 28-0 lead less than a minute into the second quarter.

Bennett capped the first-half scoring with a nine-yard touchdown pass to Bowers for a 35-0 lead.

James Cook extended the lead to 42-0 with a 14-yard run with 8:42 left in the third quarter and Beck threw a 12-yard touchdown pass to Justin Robinson to make it 49-0 less than two minutes later.

Jamon Dumas-Johnson added a 20-yard interception return for a touchdown that pushed Georgia’s lead to 56-0 with 10:14 left in the game.

Alabama-Birmingham quarterback Tyler Johnston III went 6-of-14 passing for 39 yards and three interceptions. DeWayne McBride rushed for 61 yards on 13 carries as the Blazers mustered just 174 yards of total offense. Georgia rolled up 539 yards.

The Blazers (1-1) avoided the shutout when Keondre Swoopes returned an interception 61 yards for a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining.

–Field Level Media

Sep 4, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA; Georgia Bulldogs quarterback JT Daniels (18) throws the ball against the Clemson Tigers during the second half at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Reports: Georgia QB JT Daniels has oblique injury

Georgia quarterback JT Daniels could miss Saturday’s game against UAB with an upper-body injury, multiple reports said Wednesday.

Rivals reported that Daniels had an oblique injury, while others confirmed it was an upper-body injury of some kind. It was unclear how he suffered the injury.

Daniels, in his second season with the Bulldogs following a transfer from Southern California, completed 22 of 30 passes for 135 yards and an interception in Georgia’s season-opening 10-3 win over Clemson last week. The win vaulted Georgia up to No. 2 in the Associated Press poll.

According to The Athletic, both Daniels and redshirt freshman Carson Beck took snaps with the first-team offense at Georgia’s practice Wednesday. Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters the day prior that Beck is No. 2 on the team’s depth chart.

The Bulldogs might be able to get away with giving Daniels the week off against UAB, likely the weakest FBS opponent on their schedule — though the Blazers are the defending Conference-USA champions and opened with a 31-0 win over Jacksonville State last week.

–Field Level Media

Dec 5, 2020; Lexington, Kentucky, USA;  South Carolina Gamecocks running back Kevin Harris (20) scores a touchdown during the third quarter against the Kentucky Wildcats at Kroger Field. Mandatory Credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina stumbles into Gasparilla Bowl vs. UAB

Despite a 2-8 record, six-game losing streak and coaching change, South Carolina is headed to a bowl game.

The Gamecocks will play UAB (6-3) on Saturday at the Gasparilla Bowl in Tampa. In this season impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, the Gamecocks made it to the postseason because of other schools opting out and the Southeastern Conference pecking order for bowl slots.

Mike Bobo, formerly the head coach at Colorado State, will stay in his role as interim head coach with the Gamecocks. He replaced Will Muschamp, who was fired on Nov. 15 after South Carolina started 2-5.

Recently hired head coach Shane Beamer, the son of former Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer, will not participate in the bowl game.

Shane Beamer left his position as Oklahoma’s tight ends and H-backs coach. He will be on the sideline observing the team’s limited bowl practices.

Media reports suggest Bobo is trying to retain his offensive coordinator position.

“Right now I’m focused on the bowl game,” Bobo said. “We’ll be fine wherever we end up. I believe in my family. I believe in my ability to coach ball. I’ll have the ability to coach ball whether it’s here or someplace else.”

Two Gamecocks assistant coaches who will not be retained, defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson and special teams coordinator Kyle Krantz, will coach in the bowl game. Offensive line coach Eric Wolford, who accepted a similar position at Kentucky, will not participate.

UAB beat Marshall 22-13 last week to win its second Conference USA title in the past three years.

The Blazers are appearing in their fourth straight bowl game since returning to action in 2017. The program was terminated after the 2014 season, but financial pledges from the UAB Football Foundation prompted the program’s swift reinstatement.

Bill Clark, the Blazers’ head coach since 2014, was rumored to be one of the candidates for the vacancy at Auburn. However, reports Monday indicated he was no longer in the running.

When asked about that speculation after the win over Marshall, Clark said, “I won’t comment on that other than to say, like I told you before, I love UAB.”

He added, “This is mine, and we built it together. But it’s always good to be thought of, and that’s my job in this business to win games. And when that happens, I think people see that. So, you know, we’ll just see what happens, but I love my players and love UAB.”

The Blazers are led by running back Spencer Brown, who has 186 carries for 889 yards and 10 touchdowns. Brown became the first player to be named the Conference USA Championship Game MVP twice after he had 30 carries for 149 yards against the Thundering Herd.

Brown has 4,011 career rushing yards. He is one of only two active players in the nation to have 4,000 career rushing yards, along with Clemson’s Travis Etienne (4,920 yards).

South Carolina also has a strong running game with Kevin Harris rushing for 1,138 yards and 15 touchdowns on 185 carries.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2020; Birmingham, Alabama, USA; UAB Blazers band social distance in the stands during the first half at Legion Field during the game against Central Arkansas Bears. Mandatory Credit: Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Southern Miss-UAB clash scrapped due to COVID-19

Friday’s game between Southern Miss and UAB has been canceled due to COVID-19 issues within the Southern Miss program.

Southern Miss didn’t divulge whether players, coaches and/or staff members tested positive for COVID-19.

The Conference USA contest was slated to be the final one played at historic Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

The cancellation marks the third in a row for UAB. The Blazers’ games against North Texas (Nov. 14) and UTEP (Nov. 20) also were scrapped due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UAB (4-3, 2-1 C-USA) also had an Oct. 9 game against Rice postponed. That contest has been rescheduled for Dec. 12.

Southern Miss (2-7, 1-4) finishes its season with games at UTEP on Dec. 4 and at home against Florida Atlantic on Dec. 10. Both those games are rescheduled affairs that were postponed in October.

Legion Field opened in 1927. UAB moves into 47,100-set Prospective Stadium next season.

–Field Level Media

Nov 23, 2019; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Hurricanes head coach Manny Diaz yells out during the first half against the FIU Golden Panthers at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Hurricanes down UAB in King’s debut

D’Eriq King, making his Miami debut, threw for one touchdown and ran for another as the host Hurricanes defeated the UAB Blazers 31-14 on Thursday night at Hard Rock Stadium.

It was the 16th consecutive game that King — a University of Houston graduate transfer — passed for at least one touchdown and ran for another, which extends his FBS record.

Running back Cam’Ron Harris added a game-high 134 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries as Miami (1-0) snapped a three-game losing streak dating to last season. Harris averaged 7.9 yards per rush, but he suffered an unspecified injury with 12:09 left in the fourth.

Miami rushed for 337 yards. King scrambled for 83 yards, and freshmen Jaylan Knighton (59 yards) and Donald Chaney Jr. (52) also contributed. King also completed 16-of-24 passes for 144 yards.

UAB (1-1) was led by Spencer Brown, who ran for 74 yards and one touchdown, and quarterback Tyler Johnston, who passed for 150 yards and one score.

The Blazers opened the scoring on Johnston’s 16-yard touchdown pass to Austin Watkins with 2:40 left in the first quarter. The TD was set up by Mark Pope’s fumbled punt, recovered by UAB’s Jarrion Street. The ball was jarred loose by Jacob Fuqua.

Miami tied the score just 96 seconds later as coach Manny Diaz gambled on fourth-and-one from his own 34. Harris made the bold move pay off, busting a 66-yard TD run up the middle.

The Hurricanes took a 14-7 lead on King’s 12-yard scramble for a score. King vaulted the final three yards over a tackler, marking the only second-quarter score.

Miami stretched its lead to 17-7 with 10:04 left in the third on Jose Borregales’ 25-yard field goal. But King could’ve had a TD pass three plays prior to that as he missed an open Jeremiah Payton in the end zone.

UAB closed its deficit to 17-14 with 6:19 left in the third on Brown’s six-yard TD run. On the previous play, UAB lined up to go for it on fourth-and-four and then drew Miami defensive end Quincy Roche offsides.

Miami closed out the third-quarter scoring with two more touchdowns.

First came a six-yard run by Harris, who bulldozed linebacker Noah Wilder at the two. Then, on the final play of the quarter, King flipped a four-yard TD pass to tight end Brevin Jordan in the left corner of the end zone.

–Field Level Media