Home Sports College College football: UAB defense shuts down Bulldogs

College football: UAB defense shuts down Bulldogs

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Malcolm Butler
La. Tech Associate Athletic Director/Communications

RUSTON — After Louisiana Tech scored on just its third offensive play of the night, the UAB defense slammed the door on the Bulldogs.

Spencer Brown rushed for two touchdowns and AJ Elderly ran for one and threw for one as UAB defeated Tech for the second straight season, downing the Bulldogs 28-7 Saturday night at Joe Aillet Stadium.

UAB (4-1, 2-0 C-USA) sacked J’Mar Smith five times, recorded three turnovers, and held the Bulldogs to 258 yards of total offense, including only 107 through the air. The Blazers blew open a 7-7 game at the half with three second half touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter.

Following an hour-long lightning delay that pushed the kickoff back, Tech struck quickly. On just the third play of the game, Tech linebacker James Jackson intercepted an Elderly pass on the Blazers 32-yard line. Three straight Kam McKnight runs, capped by a five-yarder to paydirt, gave Tech the 7-0 lead.

It would be the only highlight of the night for the Tech offense.

“I want to give an awful lot of credit to UAB for the game that they played tonight,” Tech coach Skip Holtz said. “They came in here with a physical nature. Their defensive line was impressive tonight. They were some grown men in the way they played tonight. They played a great game.

“It’s frustrating to come home and have that result. UAB came in here and they played a great game. I thought they outplayed us. I thought they out-coached us. I thought they did everything better than us tonight. They played smarter football. They protected the ball — we had three turnovers and they had one. The game boiled down to this — offensively we could not block their front, and defensively, I think we started pressing in the third quarter.”

Tech (3-2, 1-1 C-USA) entered the game after an impressive road win at North Texas a week ago, but saw an opportunity to build upon that momentum wash away against the Blazers.

After the early touchdown, Tech drove into Blazers territory early in the second quarter, but an exchange between Smith and running back Justin Henderson was fumbled and the Blazers recovered on their own 45.

The Bulldog defense stood tall much of the night, forcing nine straight incompletions by Elderly to start the game. However, following the turnover by Tech, a missed assignment on a corner blitz by the Bulldogs saw Elderly hit Xavier Ubosi on a quick hitch and Ubosi outraced the Tech defense 40 yards to the endzone, tying the game at 7-7.

The two teams enter the halftime locker room knotted at 7-7 in a defensive battle.

Tech took the opening kickoff to start the third quarter and following a career-long 58-yard run by Smith down to the UAB 23-yard line, the Bulldogs offense stalled. Bailey Hale, last week’s C-USA Special Teams Player of the Week, missed a 44-yard field goal wide left, keeping the score tied at 7-7.

Another Tech turnover midway through the third quarter proved costly for the Bulldogs when Henderson fumbled around midfield and UAB recovered and returned it to the Tech 27-yard line. Brown capped a five-play drive with a 1-yard plunge with 7:18 to play in the quarter, giving the Blazers a 14-7 lead.

As the Tech offense continued to struggle to move the ball, more pressure fell upon the Bulldogs defense. Following a Davan Dyer punt that pinned the Blazers on their own 11-yard line, UAB mounted an impressive 10-play, 89-yard drive as Brown hit the middle of the line and went untouched 26 yards to paydirt with 8:08 to play in the game.

UAB added an Elderly 38-yard run with just over four minutes to play to end the scoring.

Tech, which was playing without leading rusher JaQwis Dancy for the second straight week, was led on the ground by a career-high 80 yards from McKnight. Smith added 40 yards, despite losing 31 on five sacks by the Blazers defense.

Smith completed just 9-of-23 passes for 107 yards and one interception while Teddy Veal caught six passes for 66 yards.

Jordan Baldwin led Tech’s defense with 15 tackles, the most by a Bulldog since Beau Fitte recorded 15 against Southern Miss in 2015. Collin Scott added eight tackles and Jackson chipped in with six.

“I thought our defense played a heck of a game for about three quarters,” Holtz said. “I thought they played an outstanding game. But you can’t turn the ball over and put them in bad field position.”

Tech returns to action Saturday when they travel to face UTSA in San Antonio.