A.J. Erdely threw two touchdowns and rushed for another as UAB (8-4, 6-2 Conference USA) defeated UTEP (0-12, 0-8 C-USA), 28-7, on a brisk Saturday afternoon at historic Legion Field.
“I think we played probably a better football team than us today. It seemed like they had, in key spots, [UAB’s] athletes were very good. In the secondary, we had trouble getting away from them and they covered us tightly and didn’t have a lot of guys running wide open,” interim UTEP head coach Mike Price said. “They had four sacks against our quarterback. But we did have two against them.”
Senior linebacker Alvin Jones was a highlight in 2017 as he topped the century mark in tackles after registering seven against the Blazers. Jones finishes his senior season with a career-high and team-leading 102 tackles, along with 343 stops in his career. Jones also registered a season-high 2.0 sacks and three tackles for loss in his final game as a Miner. Jones’s 15.0 sacks are tied for fourth on the program’s all-time list.
UAB put points on the board first when it drove 43 yards on eight plays that was capped by a Nick Vogel 40-yard made field goal attempt.
UTEP would take a short-lived lead as it answered with a 75-yard, eight-play scoring drive. A key moment during the drive was a personal foul called on Stacy Keely that moved the ball to the UTEP 47-yard line. After three plays, the Miners found themselves in a fourth-and-1 in which senior Zack Greenlee converted as he hooked up with a wide-open tight end Josh Weeks down the middle of the field and went for a career-long 41 yards to the UAB three-yard line. The drive ended with Greenlee to Weeks for a two-yard touchdown toss – Weeks’s first collegiate score. Weeks returned to the gridiron and came back at North Texas after missing the previous five games. The sophomore transfer from BYU had entered the contest with four receptions for 25 yards and a long of 11 yards.
With the score 7-6 midway through the second quarter, Greenlee threw an interception to safety Broderick Thomas. The pick was returned to the UTEP 30-yard line. The UTEP defense held its own the on the first three plays, not allowing any yards, but Erdely found Collin Lisa on a 30-yard scoring pass on a third-and-10 play. The two-point conversion was good to put the Blazers up 14-7.
“I was pleased with the first half, particularly the first quarter we came out ready to play and drove down there and scored,” Price said. “It was a great play selection by Brian Natkin on that fourth-and-1, where we fake a fumble – the quarterback fakes fumbling the football and then gets up, stands up and finds a wide open receiver and almost over threw it.”
The Blazers went up 21-7 at the seven-minute mark of the third quarter. The drive went 79 yards on 11 plays that ended with an Erdely 10-yard touchdown rush. The game was put away when Erdely threw his second touchdown pass, an 11-yard strike to Logan Scott with 4:23 to play in the third quarter, making the score 28-7.
Junior defensive back Kahani Smith recorded seven tackles and a pass breakup. Smith, after transferring to UTEP from Riverside CC, will finish with 46 tackles in his first season as a Miner.
Senior Alan Luna booted seven punts for 334 yards (47.7 avg.) and will finish his career with 206 punts to rank third in program history.
The Blazers outgained the Miners 334 yards to 208. Kevin Dove, who replaced an injured Joshua Fields (five carries, 24 yards), led the way with 36 yards. Weeks gained 43 yards on a pair of receptions, while senior Tyler Batson recorded two catches for 54 yards with a long of 30 yards.
Freshman defensive lineman Christian Johnson, who had played in two previous games throughout the season (at no. 7 Oklahoma & at NM State), registered his first collegiate tackles – finishing with four on the day.