UAB’s best time shows the power of a city
When they killed UAB football and then a city came together to bring it back, these are the types of moments Birmingham dreamed of seeing.
These are the types of wins that build fan bases, and sell subscriptions for 2022, and make people stop whatever they are doing and be careful because the Southside Dragons just made a city proud.
Win in unison, UAB coach Bill Clark has said over the past two years, and people have listened. On Saturday they saw exactly why uniting around the hometown squad was so important. “#GoBlazers,” Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin wrote on Twitter after UAB 31, No.13 BYU 28 in the Independence Bowl, and the celebration echoed across the country.
Man, it’s good to be alive, that’s what they always say about this UAB team, but we’re pretty sure UAB running back DeWayne McBride buried that poor kid of BYU six feet under with that stiff man.
“We said we were here to win a ball game,” said UAB coach Bill Clark.
Clark’s team left Louisiana earning far more than that, however.
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A much needed perspective on UAB and why this win was so important on Saturday.
For more than 20 months, UAB has been at the forefront for state, country and the world in a collective effort against COVID-19. The football team is just a small part of a bigger university that was recently ranked No. 147 among the world’s best universities for 2022, but the team is a symbol of those things and a city’s resilience to come together during tough times.
The success of UAB football since his return has mirrored Birmingham’s resurgence. The two things come together in one, and all of that hard work was on display to a national television audience on a day when few other teams had games. It was UAB all day, and it was beautiful to see.
It’s this idea of a collective commitment to something bigger that makes UAB football so special. Birmingham came together to push back history, change the course of a city and reshape the face of a city, and UAB football now represents that provocative swagger. The Blazers don’t have to be that good, but we’re watching this team and we all know it’s just the start.
Heck, it was “a year down” from the Southside’s new high standards, and UAB pulled off a bowl victory over the No. 13 ranked team in the country. UAB never even used to bowling, so being selected by the Independence Bowl was a monumental achievement. It showed that the UAB brand is growing.
In the history of UAB football, the Blazers have beaten only three ranked teams: 1999 against the No.17 in East Carolina, 2005 against the No.24 in UTEP and now the biggest victory of all.
The victories keep coming and they increase every year. Consider this record for success, and it’s impossible not to love this team and everything they’ve accomplished.
–UAB came back from the dead in 2017 and immediately set a one-season winning program record at FBS level (eight).
– In year two of ‘The Return’, the city of Birmingham and the County of Jefferson – with help from the state and others as well – came together to build a new stadium at the center – city with UAB as main tenant. That same year, UAB won 11 games, its first Conference USA championship and its first bowl game in program history.
–In 2019, UAB again played for a conference championship and went to a bowl game for the third year in a row.
–In 2020, UAB won CUSA for the second time in three years despite the country’s longest game break due to COVID-19.
–In 2021, the Blazers moved to their new downtown stadium, accepted an invitation to the American Athletic Conference, and eliminated the highest-ranked opponent in program history.
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As no one expected, UAB football caught the nation’s attention and made the people of Birmingham pay attention … and believe. It’s not just that UAB toppled BYU. This is how the Blazers played and then won. UAB roughed up a good BYU team early on, then overpowered the Cougars when it was time for the biggest win in UAB football history. The winning ride took eight minutes and 16 seconds. It was punitive, relentless football in the rain, and that was what fans are built on.
Yes, the UAB knocked out LSU in 2000 when Nick Saban was coaching the Tigers, and that will always be a classic for the Blazers, but in terms of significance for the future of the program, and national exposure, and building some thing, it will reverberate longer and with more power.
Like that stiff arm from McBride.
Like that 16-yard touchdown from Dylan Hopkins at Trea Shropshire on 4th and 7th with 6:17 to go and UAB behind 28-24.
Hopkins and McBride both return for next season, and McBride is now a UAB football legend for his game in the Independence Bowl 2021. He finished the day with 183 yards on 28 carries for 6.5 yards per attempt and recorded in the climax reel a 64-yard touchdown that looked like a young Marshawn Lynch going Beastmode against school kids.
There have been some great moments for the Blazers since they returned to the pitch in 2017, but for UAB football, this little team of miracle after miracle, this one has felt different and transformative, and like a statement to the country. . This one wasn’t a fluke of bowl season. UAB 31, BYU 28 wasn’t a crash or a last-second turn, and the only miracle I saw on that cold, wet terrain in Shreveport, Louisiana was that BYU, ranked No.13, still had a chance at the end of the game.
BYU, which finished the 2020 season 11th overall in the nation, has six wins this season against Power 5 teams. UAB hasn’t earned a single victory against a Power 5 team since 2004. BYU has beaten the Pac- champion. 12 Utah 26-17 this season, but the mighty Cougars couldn’t stop the Blazers as they knew all day what was to come.
Nothing can stop the rise of this team that Bill Clark saved and a city resurrected. Win together, says Clark, and so Birmingham will celebrate this one together.
Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr. His new book, “We Want Bama: A season of hope and the making of Nick Saban’s ‘ultimate team'”, is available where books are sold.