Contributed by: LA Tech Athletic Communications
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Jonathan Barnes’ potential game-winning 29-yard field goal was blocked as time expired giving the underdog UAB Blazers a dramatic 23-22 win over Louisiana Tech at Legion Field Saturday afternoon.
“It looked like the jumper got it,” said Tech head coach Skip Holtz. “On the field, it didn’t look like there was a lot of penetration. They were calling their timeouts and they had a guy like 6-foot-8 out there. I told John to just sand wedge it. He didn’t have to drive it. It just looked like they jumped up and made a play.”
Tech (3-3, 1-1 C-USA) trailed all day. Missed tackles; costly penalties; and three missed kicks, including two extra points, were simply too much to overcome. The Bulldogs entered the game with only 17 penalties through five games. However, this day would be different.
“I don’t remember (ever having this many penalties either),” said Holtz. “There were a lot of them tonight. Ten. We are averaging like three a game. I think there were some tough calls out there. I will have to see some of it on film. The taunting penalty was foolish. The late hit out of bounds. We had a holding and a couple of offsides. It’s just very uncharacteristic of us.”
The Bulldogs struggled from the opening kickoff. After a three-and-out by the Tech offense, the Bulldog defense saw UAB use a nine-play, 61-yard drive to take a 6-0 lead on a 3-yard run by AJ Erdely. The extra point hit the right upright and bounced away, setting the tone for a game that would be riddled by extra point issues.
Following another unproductive drive by Tech, UAB returned a Brady Farlow punt 46 yards down to the Bulldog 14-yard line. This time it took UAB only two plays as Spencer Brown took a handoff off left tackle for an 11-yard run and a 13-0 Blazers advantage.
Tech finally found some offensive rhythm on its third possession. J’Mar Smith drove Tech 76-yards on 11 plays, finding Teddy Veal for a 16-yard scoring strike in the far back corner of the end zone. Barnes extra point made it 13-7 UAB with 4:51 to play in the first quarter.
The two teams traded field goals in the second quarter. Barnes connected from 39 yards away before UAB’s Nick Vogel split the uprights from 27 yards out. UAB led 16-10 at halftime.
The second half was better in some ways for the Bulldogs as the Tech defense held UAB to only seven points after intermission. However, Tech was flagged for seven second half penalties for 80 yards and yet the Bulldogs still had a chance to win.
After a scoreless third quarter, Tech finally found paydirt early in the fourth. Kameron McKnight scored on a one-yard run, capping an impressive 12-play, 85-yard drive. However, McKnight was flagged for taunting after the score, pushing the extra point back 15 yards. Barnes 35-yard attempt was wide and the game was tied at 16-16.
UAB answered, Erdely gave the Blazers a 23-16 lead on a one-yard run with 6:02 to play in the game.
Tech responded once again. This time Smith found DeJuawn Oliver for a 42-yard scoring strike with 3:32 to play. Barnes’ initial attempt at the extra point was good. But an illegal procedure penalty against Tech forced a retry that Barnes pushed wide right. UAB led 23-22.
With time running down, the Tech defense stood tall, forcing a three and out. The Bulldogs took over on their own 45-yard line with 2:08 to play. Smith then completed a 19-yard pass to Veal and a 23-yard pass to Boston Scott, giving Tech the ball on the UAB 13.
After two run plays netted one yard, Tech called a timeout with three seconds to play, setting up the potential game-winner. The 29-yard attempt was blocked and the game was over.
“It’s very uncharacteristic when you look at what John has done in his career,” said Holtz. “He has been perfect in the final two minutes of games. He missed the longer extra point. The taunting penalty was foolish and put us back on it. We just made some mistakes as a team. It’s unfortunate. I give UAB a lot of credit. They dropped eight in coverage and we struggled to run the football against a 5-man front. That’s our downfall.”
Smith completed 17-of-29 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns while Veal led Tech with five catches for 74 yards and one score. Scott led the Tech ground game with 48 yards on 14 carries while Jaqwis Dancy added 44 yards on five carries.
Brown led UAB with 165 yards rushing on 25 carries while Erdely completed 21-of-32 passes for 188 yards.
Tech gets next weekend off before hosting Southern Miss Oct. 21.