NASSAU, Bahamas — Following a relaxing evening on Monday, it was back to business on Tuesday morning for the Ohio and UAB football teams in preparation for the 2017 Bahamas Bowl as both squads hit the field for their first practices on the island and the beach in the afternoon for the annual player Beach Bash.
One of the key matchups to watch in the game set for Friday at 12:30 pm ET will pit strength against strength – UAB’s rushing attack against Ohio’s run-stopping defense. The Blazers have a top-40 rushing offense nationally at just under 200 yards per game, while the Bobcats allow just 111.4 yards on the ground per game – a mark which is 11th-best in the country.
UAB is led by true freshman Spencer Brown, who has racked up 10 touchdowns and 1,292 rushing yards.
“They have a good, young back, [Brown],” Ohio redshirt sophomore safety Javon Hagan said. “He’s actually aiming to break a rushing record, so we have to stop him. They have a lot of good receivers as well, so as a whole, they have a good offense.”
Those Blazer receivers know they’ll need to step up with the Ohio defense keyed on Brown.
“Ohio has a good rush defense, the coaches are preaching that to us every day,” redshirt junior receiver Andre Wilson added. “They also preach to us that we have to win our one-on-one matchups on the outside. Spencer is very good so of course their plan is to stop him. It’s more opportunities for us [as wide receivers] to go out there and make plays.”
Brown is far from the only weapon UAB possesses on offense, though. In fact, it’s quarterback A.J. Erdely who leads the squad with 13 rushing touchdowns. He’s thrown for 16 more, along with a 61.8 completion percentage and more than 2,000 yards through the air.
“They really run the ball well,” Ohio defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow said. “They can throw the ball equally well. They’re just a dual-threat offense. The quarterback is dual threat, and they can put running backs in that will catch passes. It’s a multi-dimensional offense that’s hard to defend. It all starts with their running game, but again, their passing game and play action off of that running game are hard to defend also.”
UAB offensive coordinator Les Koenning knows the Blazers will need to utilize both aspects to have success against Ohio.
“It’s going to be important. We always go into the game with a really good, thought-out passing attack,” he said. “Spencer gives us an another additive in the backfield that allows us to pound it up in there a couple times just to see how tough people are.”
Each team had an energetic practice on Tuesday morning before enjoying more of the bowl-week festivities in the afternoon.
“They came out fairly focused. It took us awhile to get them going, but we don’t let them slack off very much,” Koenning added. “We got after it, had some spirited practice on the field, accomplished what we needed to do, got off and back to the hotel. They worked hard.”
Burrow also liked what he saw from his Bobcats on Tuesday.
“We wanted to practice fast. It was a short practice but the guys moved around well, we got a lot of things done. I think they got back into the swing of why we’re here, and that’s to try to win a ballgame.”