By Pete Nakos
OhioBobcats.com Feature Writer
A snapshot of UAB, which plays Ohio at 12:30 p.m. ET on Friday in Nassau, Bahamas in the 2017 Bahamas Bowl.
Record: 8-4, 6-2 Conference USA
Last season: Did not play
Coach: Bill Clark (second season at UAB, 16-10)
Series: The 2017 Bahamas Bowl marks the first meeting between the two football programs.
Player to watch: Freshman running back Spencer Brown. The running back has run for 1,292 yards this season with 10 touchdowns and was named the C-USA Freshman of the Year.
Welcome to the new UAB
For the first time in two years, the UAB Blazers rejoined FBS football competition for the 2017 season and made sure to leave a mark. A program that had only reached a bowl game once previously, the Blazers head into the 2017 Bahamas Bowl as the darling of the NCAA. The Blazers make the return after the program was cut by the university in 2014.
Led by head coach Bill Clark — who was named the C-USA Coach of the Year and national Coach of the Year from multiple media outlets — the program spent the past two years raising money to have the funds to be a competitive football team.
The last time UAB participated in a bowl game was Dec. 24, 2004, in the Hawaii Bowl. The Blazers fell to Hawaii 59-40.
When the Blazers take the field Friday against Ohio, fans will see two of the same offensive styles — two teams who love to run the ball and can put points on the scoreboard. UAB has scored 30 points or more six times this season and averages 190.2 rushing yards a game. Along with Brown at running back, the Blazers have found success with their own dual-threat quarterback A.J. Erdley.
"It's going to be important," UAB offensive coordinator Les Koenning said about establishing a passing attack. "We always go into the game with a really good, thought-out passing attack. Spencer (Brown) gives us an another additive in the backfield that allows us to pound it up in there a couple times just to see how tough people are."
The Bobcats defense has been successful in shutting down the run all year, allowing just 111.4 yards a game. The goal for the Blazers will to be able to establish the run, which has setup their passing game later in games.
Just like Ohio, UAB will have to make sure their players are focusing on the game.
The entirety of the Blazers roster have never experienced a bowl game trip before, so Clark has to make sure his players are having fun, but have an understanding of the purpose of the trip. He wants them to have fun, because as he puts it they earned the trip.
At the end of the day, the purpose is to walk away with a trophy.
"I think that's one of the things we've talked a lot about, as I'm sure they have," Clark said. "We want to get up, have a normal routine in the morning, practice in the morning, get through about lunch, then we'll give them some downtime, have a couple events at night. We want them to enjoy it. This is historic for them. They are still young guys, we want them to have a good time, but at the same time, know we have a ball game on Friday."