Tigers Ready to Battle for the Bones
Nov. 16, 2012
UAB has won its last two games. The University of Memphis is coming off arguably its best team performance of the year, a 37-23 victory over Tulane. The two teams faceoff Saturday afternoon at Legion Field in Birmingham in what will be the last "Battle for the Bones" in the foreseeable future.
Since 2006, Memphis and UAB has played for the "Battle for the Bones" trophy, a 100-pound bronze rack of ribs given annually to the winner of the game.
The Blazers are coming of consecutive wins at Southern Miss (27-19) and last week against Marshall (38-31) to improve to 3-7 and 2-4 in Conference USA play. Memphis is now 2-8 and 2-4 in C-USA.
Saturday's game is the 15th overall gridiron meeting between the two schools. The Blazers lead the series 10-4 and have won the last three encounters including a 41-35 victory last year in Memphis. The two teams first played one another in 1997 and have played each year since 1999. With UM moving to the BIG EAST Conference, this is the last scheduled meeting between the conference rivals.
Kickoff Saturday in Birmingham is slated for 1 p.m. and will be broadcast on the Memphis Radio Network and flagship station WREC 600 as well as streamed at GoTigersGo.com's Memphis Tiger Network.
In last week's win over Tulane, Memphis slowed one of the hottest quarterbacks in the country, holding the Green Wave's Ryan Griffin to 211 passing yards. Griffin came into the week having thrown for a combined 1,607 yards and 14 touchdowns in the previous four weeks.
Memphis held Tulane to 291 yards of total offense.
UAB held Marshall to just 337 yards of total offense last week, nearly 200 below the Thundering Herd's season average.
"They did a heck of a job," said Memphis head coach Justin Fuenteof the Blazers' defensive effort. "They basically dropped everybody into coverage every snap and really forced Marshall to get out of their comfort zone. It wasn't that Marshall didn't respond with good schemes and answers to what they were doing, they just weren't real comfortable with it."
The win over Marshall came a week after the Blazers came back from a 16-0 halftime deficit to beat Southern Miss 27-19 on the road in Hattiesburg, Miss.
"I think we're playing with a certain confidence level that you need in order to have success," said UAB first-year head coach Garrick McGee. "You need to have confidence in yourself as an individual first, in the unit that you're playing on, and then in our team and in our program."
Offensively, UAB is averaging 421 yards of total offense including 300 passing. While freshman quarterback Austin Brown has completed 166-of-286 passes for 2,283 yards this season, it has been the Blazers' running game which has taken center stage in recent weeks.
Running back Darrin Reaves had 389 rushing yards through the first seven games of the season for the Blazers. Over the last three weeks, Reaves has posted three straight, 100-yard rushing games including a C-USA season game-high 223 yards in the Blazers' win at Southern Miss. He had 184 yards in last week's win over Marshall.
For the season, Reaves has carried the ball 183 times for 928 yards and 13 touchdowns.
Defensively, the Blazers are led by senior linebacker Marvin Burdette who is the nation's co-leader in tackles, after averaging 13.20 per game. Over the past five games Burdette has totaled 86 tackles including 5.5 tackles for lost yards.
"Our kids are looking forward to the challenge this week of playing on the road at UAB," Fuente said. "UAB is really hitting its stride now. I've been watching them improve the last several weeks on both sides of the ball. We will have to do the things that good programs do - go prepared to play with great emotion, great discipline and great execution."
Memphis is coming off a game against Tulane in which the Tigers posted 386 total yards of offense. Quarterback Jacob Karamcompleted 14-of-18 passes for 270 yards.
"At times, we've been pretty efficient. Last week, I though the big difference was that we made some plays in the passing game that enabled us to score some points," Fuente said. "We ran the ball, or at least forced them into run defenses, and were able to capitalize a few times on their man coverage schemes.
"I think we're finding our footing with those kinds of things. When you can run the football, it gives you an opportunity to make big plays in the passing game. And when you make those plays, you have a chance to score some points."
Both Fuente and McGee are natives of Tulsa, Okla., and were teammates at the University of Oklahoma. McGee was a senior quarterback for the Sooners during Fuente's freshman year as a signal caller at OU.
As coaches, the two have remained close.
Fuente is closing out his first season as a head coach by coaching against three other first-year head coaches in the league. The Tigers wrap up the 2012 season next week when they play host to Southern Miss on Senior Day.