There was a fairly quiet crowd tonight here in Hattiesburg, which was understandable given the cool weather that kept getting colder. Even worse was the fact that these teams’ offenses were about the same throughout the first half. Fortunately for the Blazers, their halftime adjustments made it so their performance was the one thing that did heat up in the second half.
Southern Miss hit an 84-yard touchdown pass on their first play from scrimmage, as Ito Smith snuck out of the backfield and got behind everyone for a long score. The rest of the half, the Eagles only managed 135 yards of offense, but they at least managed a pair of field goals.
UAB initially responded with a 10 play, 79-yard drive highlighted by a third down where Donnie Lee got an easy pass in the flat for 18 yards and then Spencer Brown punched it in. They too struggled the rest of the half, and it looked promising when Xavier Ubosi got loose for a 60-yard catch of his own late in the half, but after the Blazers got into field goal range, a 26-yard field goal attempt went awry as the hold never got set.
Lots of great moments in the first half, but there it was; Southern Miss 12, UAB 7. I sat there hoping the Blazers could at least use that late first-half offensive momentum when they started the second half with the ball.
Good news! My faith was rewarded, as the Blazers made some adjustments coming out of the locker room – plus a couple of horribly timed penalties on Southern Miss – and chugged down the field behind five carries for 32 yards from Spencer Brown. For some unknown reason, they decided a two-point conversion for a three-point lead with 26 minutes left was a good idea, and it didn’t go well, leaving them with a one-point leaf
The defense played equally well to open the half, which allowed the offense to creep to the edge of Nick Vogel’s field goal range. Vogel promptly bounced his kick off the uprights and back out, leaving UAB still clinging to a 13-12 lead. Things just kept chugging along, no real momentum…
Then suddenly, Spencer Brown finally broke one loose for a 50 yard gain to the Southern Miss 28 yard line. That set off a spark that a couple of plays later led to Hayden Pittman winning a 50/50 ball in the far corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown.
By the time the game was over, Brown gained enough momentum to re-establish the freshman single-game rushing record with 209 yards, as well as a new single-season freshman rushing record with 909 yards, passing the record previously held by Jordan Howard. That and a Nick Vogel field goal pushed the Blazer lead to 23-12, and that score would nearly stick.
In the last two minutes, Southern Miss gave one last chance to a hurry-up offense, but several off throws from Griggs eventually led to a pick-six by Darius Williams that gave the Blazers the 30-12 win.
UAB wound up clearing 400 yards of offense for the game, and Southern Miss saw their offense freeze up even after they switched from Keon Howard to Kwarda Griggs under center. That opening 84-yard touchdown wound up being a quarter of their yardage and half their points for the game, and the Blazers earned a fifth win for the season.
UAB will now return home to face the Rice Owls, while Southern Miss has the misfortune of traveling to Knoxville to face off against Tennessee.