Having seen Xavier Ubosi get behind a number of defensive backs this season, I knew that having him in top form for this game would matter for the UAB offense. Having a deep threat that can stretch the field and take the top off the defense is always a tide that lifts all ships.
When he got loose for a 74-yard touchdown in the opening offensive play of the game, it automatically shifted the dynamic of the game and let the Blazers start playing from ahead.
When he did it a second time in the second quarter for a 46-yard score, I felt the whole tide of the game shifting.
When he did it a third time for 66 yards and a third score, one play after Spencer Brown turned a fourth down into a first down, I legitimately felt bad for the Northern Illinois defensive backs.
I mentioned in the game preview that these two teams excelled at generating a pass rush, as NIU and UAB entered this game with 50 and 43 sacks, respectively, good for first and third in the country in those categories.
I also mentioned that UAB’s offensive line did a much better job at preventing sacks than NIU’s did. I’m sure that at least some of the disparity between UAB’s five sacks and Northern Illinois’ zero sacks is a byproduct of UAB playing from ahead all game, as well as getting ahead by beating the NIU secondary deep on multiple occasions, but they’re just better at it.
The Huskies offense was rendered one-dimensional all game, as they managed exactly one run of longer than six yards before garbage time, and then got too far behind to run it anymore – which is bad when you aren’t explosive and therefore not built to come from behind.
This was truly an impressive performance for the TJ3-to-Ubosi connection. Ubosi finished the game with seven catches for 227 yards and three touchdowns despite not catching a pass for the last 20 minutes.
Johnston, meanwhile, misfired on his last four throws but was 17-for-25 for 373 yards and four touchdowns until that point.
The future is uncertain for the Blazers, who will now face their first big roster turnover since #TheReturn, but Tyler Johnston III and Spencer Brown give the Blazers pieces to build around, and the culture has officially changed.
Northern Illinois ran into a Blaze-shaped buzzsaw that they just weren’t built to compete with, but they have much to look forward to next season, especially if Marcus Childers can improve as a passer.