Story from UAB Athletics
BIRMINGHAM – Legion Field has been home to some of the biggest moments in UAB’s football history, but none has been bigger than what was witnessed on Saturday night when Spencer Brown’s 17-yard touchdown in overtime secured the Blazers’ first-ever Conference USA West Division Championship with a 26-23 win over Southern Miss.
Facing a 3rd-and-2 and trailing 23-20 in overtime, Brown took a handoff from Tyler Johnston III, exploited a gap and cruised into the end zone for the game-winning score, clinching UAB’s spot in the C-USA Championship game on December 1, its first appearance in the title game.
The overtime victory was the Blazers’ first at Legion Field and the third in program history, while marking their first extra time win since topping Southern Miss, 50-49, in Hattiesburg on October 30, 2010.
UAB’s (9-1, 7-0 C-USA) defense was simply incredible in the victory, holding Southern Miss to 29 yards of total offense in the second half and overtime to help secure the win, while breaking the school record for sacks in a single season with seven on the night, pushing its season total to 38.
Mar’Sean Diggs finished the game with eight tackles and what could arguably be called the defensive play of the game with his interception in the end zone with only seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime. Chris Woolbright added eight tackles as well, while Quindarius Thagard and Fitzgerald Mofor each added five.
Five different Blazers notched sacks as part of the record-setting effort, paced by Tre’ Crawford’s three on the night. Crawford also came up with the sack that clinched the school record.
Offensively, Johnston III finished the game 14-of-27 through the air for 207 yards and touchdown, while adding a rushing score. Brown continued his dominant play, finishing the game with 75 yards on 23 carries and the crucial overtime touchdown that sealed the Blazers’ victory. Brown’s 14th rushing touchdown of the season is a new program record.
Redshirt senior Kailon Carter used a career night to guide the Blazers’ receiving corps, bringing in four passes for 92 yards and a touchdown. Xavier Ubosi had 55 yards on three receptions to compliment a 44-yard performance from Andre Wilson.
Southern Miss (4-5, 3-3 C-USA) got on the board first with the help of a 47-yard screen pass to Quez Watkins which set up the visitors in plus territory. Two plays later, quarterback Tate Whatley hit Watkins again for a 19-yard touchdown that put Southern Miss ahead, 7-0, with 6:09 to play in the first quarter.
After picking off Johnson III deep in their own territory, the Golden Eagles marched the ball 69 yards on 12 plays looking to double its lead. However, the Blazer defense stepped up and limited the damage to a 33-yard field goal by Parker Shaunfield which extended the visitors’ advantage to 10-0. Similar to its previous scoring drive, the Golden Eagles could not unlock the Blazers’ defense near the end zone and settled for a 38-yard field goal to push the lead to 13-0.
Needing a score and less than four minutes remaining in the half, the Blazers put together an impressive drive, highlighted by a big completion to Ubosi on third and long, to set up the Blazers inside the 10-yard line. Facing another critical third down, Johnston III went under center and powered his way into the end zone from a yard out to cut the lead to 13-7 with 40 seconds remaining in the first half.
UAB was dominant in the third quarter, blanking Southern Miss, 13-0, to shift the momentum. After forcing a Southern Miss three-and-out and blocking the ensuing punt on the Golden Eagles’ opening drive, UAB got on the board with the help of a 32-yard field goal from Nick Vogel to close the gap to 13-10.
The Green and Gold took their first lead of the game at the midway point of the third quarter when Johnston III connected with Carter for a 35-yard pass to cap off a five-play, 72-yard drive to put the Blazers ahead, 17-13. Another big defensive stop on the next UAB drive saw more points on the scoreboard after Vogel knocked in his second field goal of the quarter, this time from 30 yards, making the score 20-13.
Southern Miss had -1 yard in the third quarter overall.
However, the Golden eagles answered in a big way with 7:09 remaining in the game, connecting on two big third downs during an 11-play, 50-yard drive to tie the game up at 20-20 following a two-yard punch in from Steven Anderson.
Late interceptions by both teams sent the game into overtime, where Southern Miss opened the scoring with a 37-yard field goal from Shaunfield. Knowing a touchdown would win the game, the Blazers ran two plays before Brown took a handoff and barreled into the end zone to seal the 26-23 victory.
The win extended the nation’s fourth-longest home winning streak to 12 and helped the Blazers clinch back-to-back undefeated seasons in the friendly confines of Legion Field.
UAB returns to action on November 17 when it begins a season-ending two-game road swing in College Station against Texas A&M. Kickoff between the Blazers and Aggies is slated for 6 p.m. on either ESPN or ESPN2.