UAB dominates opener, Rayam gets first playing experience

Published 10:46 pm Thursday, August 30, 2018

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

BIRMINGHAM – At the 11:13 mark of the fourth quarter, former Thompson four-year starter at linebacker Jalen Rayam was back to playing as a freshman, but this time instead of the Warriors, it was for the UAB Blazers in his first action as a college football player at Legion Field on Thursday, Aug. 30.

In a situation he found himself in at Thompson, Rayam wasn’t uncomfortable with his first minutes of college action and with just more than nine minutes remaining in the game, he recorded his first tackle.

He became part of a defense that completed a shutout after he made another key tackle with 2:30 left to play and on the very next play got a quarterback hurry, narrowly missing an opportunity at a sack.

Rayam went on to play a part in a Blazers’ win that ended with a final score of 52-0 over the Savannah State Tigers thanks to some unbelievable play on both sides of the ball from starters and backups.

It continued UAB’s win streak at home since the famous return of the program last year extending the streak to seven consecutive wins at Legion Field.

The defense also helped the Blazers pitch their first shutout since the 2008 football season, while the team tied the record for second largest margin of victory in program history to start the 2018 season 1-0.

From the opening drive of the game, you got the since that the Blazers would start the season on the right foot after they took the opening drive 70 yards in nine plays and 4:06 of time capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run from Spencer Brown.

On that opening drive, Brown, who is on all of the preseason award watch lists after an impressive freshman season, ran four 41 yards and the score to get his season started off on a positive note and prove his hype coming into the season.

He went on to finish the game with 102 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries after splitting time with seven other running backs due to the score allowing multiple players to see some action.

Brown was just part of the story, however, as quarterback A.J. Erdely also had a strong opening game throwing for 228 yards, two touchdowns and one interception on 22-of-28 passing.

After that opening drive of the game where UAB marched 70 yards, the offense became a bit stagnant but the defense picked them up.

With eight minutes left in the second quarter, and the score still 7-0, Chris Woolbright was able to intercept a Savannah State pass and return it 34 yards for a pick-six to put the Blazers up 14-0 and give the team a shot of adrenaline.

On the ensuing Tigers’ drive, another interception, this time by Brontae Harris, put UAB’s offense in good shape at the Savannah State 43-yard line.

This finally gave the Blazers’ offense the spark it needed.

UAB took care of those 43 yards with ease in just five plays after Spencer Brown ran for 21 yards in two plays, followed by a 12 yard pass to Kendall Parham and a 14-yard touchdown pass to Andre Wilson to put the Blazers on top 21-0 with 4:55 left in the half.

After forcing a three-and-out defensively, the offense came right back on the field and put up one more quick score before the half.

The six-play, 62-yard drive lasted just 1:29 before running back Kingston Davis punched in his first career touchdown for the Blazers from a yard out to put them on top 28-0 at the break.

That late surge in the second quarter seemed to loosen up the UAB offense, which came out in the second half and put 24 more points thanks to touchdowns from Collin Lisa, James Noble III and Lucious Stanley, as well as a field goal from Nick Vogel, leading to the final of 52-0.

Lisa ended up leading the Blazers’ receiving corps with 93 yards and one touchdown on 10 receptions. Behind brown in the backfield, backup quarterback Tyler Johnston came in and had a solid final quarter running for 61 yards.

Kris Moll led the defense with five tackles, while William Garcia added four tackles and a sack.

The Blazers gave up just 12 first downs while getting 36 first downs themselves. UAB also outgained Savannah State 548-178 in the game.

Another unit that was key in that strong offensive performance was the offensive line, including former Spain Park lineman Bryant Novick, who got a ton of time on both special teams and the offensive line.

Now 1-0 on the season and 9-5 since the return, UAB will travel to Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Sept. 8, for a rematch of a contest the Blazers won 30-23 at home last year.