BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Tulane’s momentum from a thorough beating of Nicholls State did not last past the opening kickoff at UAB.
Zach Block’s squibber went out of bounds on one hop, handing the ball to the Blazers at their 35 and beginning a long stretch on Saturday afternoon where just about anything that could go wrong, did.
UAB (2-1) led 14-0 with 12:25 left in the second quarter and had outgained Tulane (1-1) 235-15 at that point. That’s right, 235-15.
“We have to start faster,” said running back Darius Bradwell, who rebounded to rush for 90 yards on 15 carries. “That’s one thing we gotta do. Once we jump out on teams, I feel like they can’t beat us. It was just mental mistakes and getting acclimated to the weather.”
Whatever the reason, the Wave withered early. The defense could not stop big running back Spencer Brown, who rushed five times for 36 yards on UAB’s opening touchdown drive. It was fooled almost every time quarterback A.J. Erdely kept the ball, giving up an easy 8-yard touchdown to him while paying too much attention to Brown and another 21 yards as he ran to the 6 to set up the second touchdown.
When Erdely threw deep, defensive backs P.J. Hall and Jaylon Monroe failed to make plays on the ball even though they were in good position.
The offense was no better. A sack ended the first series after one first down, and UAB deflected consecutive Jonathan Banks passes to force a three-and-out on Tulane’s second possession.
The first 19 minutes were a breakdown in every aspect aside from an interception in the end zone by cornerback Donnie Lewis when Erdely threw the ball right to him.
“They came out on fire,” coach Willie Fritz said. “They had a little different scheme, and we did not find the answer for it to be honest with you. They ran a lot of counter and quarterback power and we were a man short quite often. They had two extra offensive linemen in, and the personnel package we put in to match it, we didn’t get the fits like we wanted to.”
The wakeup call arrived the next time Tulane got the ball, when Darnell Mooney made a tough catch for a 44-yard gain to jumpstart a touchdown drive.
“It’s just focus,” Mooney said. “I was just talking on the sideline like we just need one big play to get us started, and I happened to be the person to make the play.”
The rest of the game was played on even terms, but the Wave has overcome a 14-point deficit to win only twice this century—against Massachusetts in Fritz’s first season in 2016 and Hawaii in the 2002 Hawaii Bowl.
The third time was not coming at Legion Field. Tulane, which also started sluggishly in its opener against Wake Forest, failing to score in the first half, could not quite overcome its early deficit.
“We have to take this game and learn from it,” Lewis said. “We have a 24-hour rule. After we watch film, we flush it and go on to the next opponent. That’s all we can do.”