MG 9767

The Blazers’ defense lines up against the Ohio Bobcats, led by quarterback Nathan Rourke, during the 2017 Bahamas Bowl in Nassau.
Photo by Will Harris/Sports Editor

Will Harris
Sports Editor

Two years in the making. Two years of patience, hard work and support paid off in a magical season for the 2017 UAB Football team. The winningest season at the FBS level felt like a dream and ended in paradise.  

The Blazers took on the Ohio Bobcats from the Mid-American Conference in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl. The game took place at Thomas Robinson Stadium in Nassau, Bahamas on a sunny, humid Friday afternoon.  

Ohio came into the bowl game with one of the best offenses in the country averaging 38 points per game. UAB was without starting defensive lineman, Teko Powell could not make the trip with a passport issue.  

From the start, the Blazers struggled on both sides of the ball. The Bobcats marched down on their first drive to score on an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive which gave the Bobcats a 7-0 lead. Ohio’s next drive didn’t take long with a 56-yard touchdown strike from Ohio quarterback Nathan Rourke to Louie Zervos. The extra point missed wide right, and the Bobcats held onto a 13-0 lead.  

Just before the end of the first quarter, UAB attempted to kick a 47-yard field goal by Nick Vogel, but were blocked, keeping the score at 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.  

Two drives later, the Bobcats' Dorian Brown struck again with a 74-yard touchdown run to give the Bobcats a 20-0 lead. Halfway through the second quarter, the Blazers' Ronnie Turner Jr. had a strong reception with a 37-yard first down catch. The Blazers could not get a first down on third-and-11 from the Ohio 12-yard line and settled for a field goal by Vogel to cut the score to 20-3. Ohio drained the remaining clock in the second quarter, wearing down the Blazers on a nine-play touchdown drive that was capped off with a 9-yard touchdown run by Brown.  

At halftime, the Bobcats led 27-3.  

In the second half opening drive for the Blazers, the passing game moved UAB down the field with long receptions by Collin Lisa and Turner Jr. The Blazers stalled inside the Ohio 20-yard line after Turner Jr. failed to receive a touchdown pass inbounds. The Blazers settled for another field goal from Vogel to make it a 27-6 game.  

Midway through the third quarter, Ohio received a punt from Joel Dixon and faked out the Blazers by sending an extra man to deceive the UAB players. Ohio returned the punt to the 25-yard line and, on the next play, Brown took the ball to the end zone on a 25-yard carry. The Blazers trailed 34-6 with 7:45 remaining in the third quarter. Late in the third quarter, Brown struck again on a 14-yard touchdown run. The Bobcats led 41-6 heading into the final quarter.  

A last effort to reach the endzone for UAB failed as time ran out. The Bobcats won in a blowout 41-6. 

“UAB has given me everything I have,” said senior linebacker Tevin Crews.  

Crews has been a member of the team since before the program was shut down in 2014.  

“I have a degree and am going to have another degree," he said. "I went from a little boy to a grown man." 

UAB finishes the season with a final record of 8-5 and now has an all-time record of 0-2 in bowl games.  

The game is a bitter end to the UAB faithful, but it does not diminish the far exceeded expectations. UAB was predicted by many organizations to finish with two wins for the entire season. The end result may not have been expected or hoped for by the Blazers, but the winning season is something to build off for UAB Head Coach Bill Clark.  

“This was not our day today,” Clark said. “But this won’t take anything away from what this group has done. It was a historic year. Our group has set the bar very high for the next UAB teams to come. We need to do a good job of going out recruiting and take the next steps to build depth and be the program we want to be. This is not going to diminish the year at all.” 

Will Harris can be reached at willhrrs@uab.edu.

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