UAB beats Southern Miss in overtime to clinch C-USA West Division title

Published 12:44 am Sunday, November 11, 2018

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Two seasons after its football program was shut down, UAB celebrated a championship.

Spencer Brown scored the game-winning touchdown on a 17-yard run in overtime as UAB clinched the Conference USA West Division title Saturday night by beating Southern Miss 26-23.

It’s the first division title for UAB (9-1, 7-0 C-USA), whose football program was shut down after the 2014 season as a cost-cutting measure. It was resurrected six months later after a strong showing of community and financial support, and now it’s one win away from a conference title.

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The Blazers will play the East Division winner in the C-USA championship game on Dec. 1.

“To come from where we have and starting a program over, to have those guys do what they did last year, to what we did in January, we started talking about a championship then,” UAB coach Bill Clark said. “Any time you start talking about a championship, you’ve got a chance to set yourself up for failure. We agreed that that’s what we wanted. We’re not totally there yet, but just to accomplish what this group has, we found a way to win tonight.”

UAB rallied from a 13-0 deficit against Southern Miss by scoring 20 straight points. Tyler Johnston III threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and Nick Vogel’s 30-yard field goal with 1:49 left in the third quarter put the Blazers ahead 20-13.

Steven Anderson’s 2-yard run tied it at 20 for Southern Miss (4-5, 3-3) with 7:09 left in the fourth quarter. In the final seven minutes, both teams had four possessions with only one first down each, and both teams had passes intercepted in the final minute.

Southern Miss had the ball at the UAB 36 on the final play of regulation, but opted to run another play instead of trying a long field goal. Tate Whatley’s pass was intercepted in the end zone and the game went to overtime.

“They were playing heavy on the outside and we didn’t know if we could get it killed. We needed about 12 more yards to kick. Parker (Shaunfield) is having a bit of a groin issue, so we needed to get the ball to about the 25,” Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson said. “At that point, we had 10 seconds left and we thought that if we complete a 10-yard ball that would get us to field goal range. Then we would have enough time to get the field goal. We thought we might be able to sneak one behind them, so in my opinion, I felt like it was the right call at that time.”

The Blazers won the overtime coin toss and elected to play defense first. Southern Miss ended its possession with Shaunfield’s 37-yard field goal.

Facing a third-and-2 on UAB’s possession, Brown took a handoff from Johnston, exploited a gap and cruised into the end zone for the game-winning score.

“Words can’t describe how I felt,” Brown said. “The only thing I could think was that I had to slide into it and wait on my team to come and dogpile me. It was a fun game.”

Whatley finished 16-of-38 passing for 160 yards, with one touchdown and one interception for Southern Miss. Whatley was sacked seven times and the Golden Eagles finished with five net rushing yards.
Quez Watkins caught seven passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

For UAB, Brown finished with 75 rushing yards and a touchdown, while Kailon Carter caught four passes for 92 yards and a TD. Johnston ran for 35 yards and a TD, and was 14-of-27 passing for 207 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.