UAB and Ohio accept 2017 Bahamas Bowl invitations

UAB will represent Conference USA and Ohio will represent the Mid-American Conference as both institutions accepted bids to the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, set for Friday, Dec. 22 in Nassau’s Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium.

The Bahamas Bowl will be played at 12:30 p.m. ET, and the contest will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the Bahamas Bowl Radio Network.

The early invitation allows both UAB and Ohio additional time to prepare to play in an international destination, including obtaining passports for those who still need them to travel to the Bahamas as well as giving extra time for fans to make their travel plans to Nassau for bowl week.

Tickets to the 2017 Bahamas Bowl can be purchased through the ticket offices of the participating institutions. A reminder that all U.S. citizens who wish to attend the game must have a valid U.S. Passport to enter the Bahamas. Atlantis Paradise Island is the official hotel of the Bahamas Bowl, and rooms can be booked by clicking here.

The 16 combined victories (eight each for UAB and Ohio) between this year’s teams is tied for the most in Bahamas Bowl history with last year’s matchup between Eastern Michigan and Old Dominion. This will be the first meeting between UAB and Ohio. Conference USA leads the Bahamas Bowl series, 2-1 over the MAC.

UAB (8-4 overall, 6-2 in Conference USA play) is one of the most inspirational stories of the 2017 college football season. The Blazers football program was cut, along with two other sports, after the 2014 season, but a unprecedented fundraising effort by businesses and fans in the Birmingham area resulted in an announcement six months later by the university that the program would return in 2017. After the two-year hiatus, UAB returned to the field and won a school-FBS record eight games. Head coach Bill Clark, who is in his second season (14-10 record at UAB; 25-14 in three seasons overall as a collegiate head coach) at UAB, stayed through the program’s hiatus and led the Blazers to the school’s second bowl bid in its’ history (2004 Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl).

“The amount of work our coaches and players have put in over the last two years has been incredible, and we are thrilled to play in the Bahamas Bowl,” said Clark. “Ohio is a very solid team led by an outstanding coach in Frank Solich, and it is going to be a great game. Our players will be ready for the challenge and look to become the first team to win a bowl game at UAB.”

The Blazers come into the Bahamas Bowl with six victories in their last eight games to finish second in Conference USA’s West Division. UAB won all six home games, and the six C-USA victories were also the most in the Blazers’ history. The Blazers average 29.6 points per game, and UAB has scored 30 or more points six times. UAB averaged 190.2 rushing yards per game, led by true freshman running back Spencer Brown, who broke the school record for freshman rushing yards with 1,292. Redshirt junior quarterback A.J. Erdely tied a school record with 13 rushing touchdowns, which is also the most by a Blazer QB, and he has accounted for 29 touchdowns (13 rushing, 16 passing).

UAB has been strong on defense, especially in stopping runners behind the line of scrimmage. The Blazers have 81 tackles for loss and have posted four or more in each game this season. UAB has 14 interceptions, including 10 in the last seven games, and have posted five multi-interception games. Redshirt senior cornerback Darious Williams has five interceptions and is second in FBS in passes defensed with 20 (1.7 per game). Redshirt senior linebacker Tevin Crews led the team with 95 tackles, and redshirt junior defensive lineman Stacy Keely led the Blazers with four sacks.

“We are honored to accept an invitation to play in this year’s Bahamas Bowl against such a great opponent as Ohio,” said UAB Director of Athletics Mark Ingram. “Our coaches and players have represented our university extremely well throughout the entire season, and this is a tremendous reward for their hard work. We look forward to playing another nationally televised game and watching this remarkable team cap off their season with one more game.”

Ohio (8-4 overall, 5-3 in Mid-American Conference play) will be led to its’ 11th all-time bowl appearance by head coach Frank Solich, who is in his 13th season (96-71 record) at Ohio and his 19th as a college head coach (154-90 record) overall. Solich, who also served as the head coach at Nebraska from 1998-2003, has taken the Bobcats to nine bowls, including in each of the last three seasons. He is the third-longest tenured coach in the FBS ranks.

“We are excited to accept an invitation for the 2017 Bahamas Bowl. It’s a location that our players, staff and fans are excited about,” said Solich. “We are looking forward to a great game against a talented UAB team.”

The Bobcats come into the Bahamas Bowl with four victories in the last six games as Ohio finished second in the MAC East Division. The Bobcats average 38.9 points per game and set a school record with 467 points scored, and Ohio has scored 40 or more points in six games. Ohio has averaged 244.2 rushing yards per game behind redshirt junior running back A.J. Ouellette (980 yards) and sophomore quarterback Nathan Rourke (882 yards). Rourke has five 100-yard rushing games, and Ouellette has four 100-yard efforts. Rourke holds the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 21 (second in FBS), and his 37 total touchdowns responsible for is one away from tying the Ohio season record. He also has thrown for 2,018 passing yards and 15 TDs.

On defense, the Bobcats have held opponents to 25.8 points per game. Ohio has been strong against the run as the Bobcats’ opponents have averaged only 111.4 yards per game. Redshirt senior linebacker Quentin Poling leads the team with 102 tackles, including 47 solo stops, 12.5 tackles for loss and three forced fumbles. He also leads the team with 5.5 sacks, part of the Bobcats’ 28 overall. Redshirt senior linebacker Chad Moore paces the Bobcats with three interceptions. Redshirt senior cornerback Bradd Ellis has 18 pass breakups, which ties the school record and ranks in the top three in FBS in the category.

“We are honored and excited about being invited to the Bahamas Bowl. It is a fantastic location and event for our team and fans,” said Ohio Director of Athletics Jim Schaus. “All of the past MAC schools who have attended rave about their experience.”

For more information on the 2017 Bahamas Bowl, visit BahamasBowl.com. The game is one of 14 postseason bowl games owned and operated by ESPN Events, a division of ESPN.

About The Bahamas Bowl

The Bahamas Bowl will provide student-athletes, conference partners, alumni, fans and sponsors a first-class international bowl experience while promoting The Bahamas and highlighting the educational and athletic opportunities for the youth of The Islands through college football. The fourth-annual Bahamas Bowl will take place in Nassau, Bahamas on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017 at Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium between teams from Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference. The game will be televised nationally in the United States on ESPN.

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