Florida Atlantic (1-4) at UAB (1-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Legion Field (72,000) -- Birmingham, Alabama. Television: None. Home Record: FAU 0-1, UAB 1-0. Away Record: FAU 1-3, UAB 0-3. Neutral Record: FAU 0-0, UAB 0-0. Conference Record: FAU 0-3, UAB 0-0. Series Record: Florida Atlantic leads, 3-1.
GAME NOTES: The Florida Atlantic Owls will try once again to pick up their first win over a Conference USA rival as they visit Legion Field to battle the UAB Blazers.
FAU's first season as a member of Conference USA has not gone smoothly. The Owls dropped to 1-4 on the season and 0-3 in league games last week after they blew a fourth-quarter lead and lost, 18-14, to Rice in the first-ever battle of the Owls. The Owls' two previous conference losses came against East Carolina (31-13) and Middle Tennessee in overtime (42-35) in week four. FAU's lone win came over South Florida.
UAB notched its only win of the season on Sept. 21 by trouncing Northwestern State at home, 52-28, but it has not fared well away from home. The Blazers have fallen at Troy (34-31), LSU (56-17) and most recently Vanderbilt (52-24) in their three away games. In 16 games under head coach Garrick McGee, the Blazers are just 4-12, with three of the victories coming at Legion Field.
This will be the fifth installment of this rivalry. FAU holds a 3-1 all-time series lead.
Hoping to spark his offense that is currently producing only 326.8 yards of total offense and 19.2 points per game, coach Carl Pelini gave freshman quarterback Greg Hankerson the starting nod for the Owls last time out. The rookie guided FAU to 366 yards of total offense compared to its opponents total of only 273 yards. Hankerson hit on 22-of-46 pass attempts for 272 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Jonathan Wallace led the Owls on the ground in Houston with 73 rushing yards, while William Dukes (72 yards) and Darion Howard (68 yards) were each reliable targets for Hankerson in the team's second consecutive loss. Wallace has amassed 301 yards on 65 carries in 2013. Senior tight end Nexon Dorvilus made his first touchdown catch of 2013 and the 10th of his career last week. Hankerson's new full-time position under center may yield more targets for Dorvilus.
Hankerson played well for the most part, but came up short when it mattered most in his first start. FAU had two possessions to try and take back the lead after Rice jumped back in front late in the contest. Hankerson threw a pick on the first before the team's hopes of winning were ended by a turnover on downs.
FAU has the sixth ranked scoring defense in the conference so far with an allowed average of 27 ppg. Its opponents have converted only 25-of-72 third- down opportunities. Adarius Glanton is the heart and soul of the Owls's defensive unit with a team- high in tackles (39) and tackles for loss (6.5) to go along with 2.5 sacks. Andrae Kirk is also an impact player and is second on the team with 33 stops on the season.
UAB has quietly become one of the more impressive offensive squads in C-USA scoring 33.3 ppg on 389.8 ypg. The Blazers had a few drives stall deep in Commodores' territory last week. Place kicker Ty Long connected on three field goal tries in the loss. He is now a perfect 24-of-24 on field goal tries from inside the 40-yard line.
Jonathan Perry came off the bench for UAB and threw touchdown passes of 29 yards to Darius Powell and 17 yards to Jamari Staples last week. Perry finished the game with 9-of-16 passing for 155 yards. Starting signal caller Austin Brown was just 10-of-20 for 51 yards with an interception. Brown is expected to start again this week, but Perry could be given another shot to start down the line.
Jamarcus Nelson (370 yards, four TDs) and Staples (187 yards, three TDs) have both been home-run threats for UAB at receiver, with each averaging greater than 15 yards per catch. Nelson trails the C-USA's leading pass catcher by 12 receptions, but still has a league leading average of 92.5 ypg.
Darrin Reaves continues to be one of the C-USA's top running backs. The junior tailback has turned 67 carries into 411 yards (second most in the league) and three touchdowns. Reaves, a First-Team All-Conference USA performer in 2012, entered 2013 as the only returning back in the nation who eclipsed 1,000 yards and 40 receptions a year ago.
Unfortunately for the Blazers, their poor defensive play has overshadowed the solid work by the offense, as they allow 42.5 points per contest on 456.5 ypg. Jake Ganus leads the unit with 32 tackles and 4.0 TFL to go along with a forced fumble.
Hankerson may be able to light up the scoreboard a little more in his second start against a much more forgiving defense. The Blazers have multiple skill position players that FAU will have trouble slowing down. Reaves has been gaining steam in recent weeks. The Owls will not win their first C-USA league matchup unless they can slow down the Blazers' tailback.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: UAB 34, Florida Atlantic 20
10/02 10:34:08 ET