The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

November 5, 2013

UAB defense has had struggles this season

By Gary Fauber
Assistant Sports Editor

— Middle Tennessee State has posted waning-seconds victories in its last two games — a 51-49 win over Marshall on Oct. 24 and then last Saturday’s 24-21 win at UAB on Cody Clark’s 18-yard field goal with three seconds remaining.

UAB fell short after leading the Blue Raiders most of the first of the half and tying it at 21-21 with 1:50 to play.

The two teams victimized by MTSU’s late heroics will meet at noon Saturday when the Thundering Herd (5-3, 3-1 Conference USA) hosts the Blazers at Joan C. Edwards Stadium.

Second-year UAB head coach Garrick McGee said there are similarities between Marshall’s offense and that of Middle Tennessee.

“They have the same philosophy,” McGee said Monday at his weekly press conference. “Different route combinations, different personnel, but they run plays as fast as you can possibly run them. Not many formations, just run the plays as fast as you can.”

The Blazers defense will try to slow down the Herd, but it has had trouble slowing any team down this year. UAB (2-6, 1-3) is allowing 469.1 yards and 38.4 points per game.

One of the bright spots for the UAB defense has been safety Jordan Petty. The true freshman is third on the team with 30 tackles and recorded his first career interception against the Blue Raiders.

“He is a very competitive kid,” McGee said. “He’s very tough and savvy. He is able to play man coverage as a true freshman. This late in the season, his body has not shut down on him. He’s still playing really good ball. That kid is going to be a really good player around here for a long time.”

Offensively, senior Jonathan Perry stepped back into the starter’s role at quarterback against MTSU. Perry, who replaced Austin Brown in a 52-31 loss to UTSA the week before, was 6 of 9 for 57 yards with a touchdown and one interception.

UAB ran the ball 56 times against MTSU.

Perry lost his starting job last year to Brown, who was the quarterback in the Blazers’ 38-31 win over the Herd in front of 11,981 fans at cavernous Legion Field.

McGee felt Perry did exactly what was expected of him.

“That’s the role of the quarterback, to manage the game,” McGee said. “There were times when the play clock was running down and we were yelling at him to get the play in. He was under control. He was aware of the play clock and was in charge of what was going on.

“I thought he played a very efficient game. He showed a lot of mental and physical toughness when he threw the interception (that was returned) for a touchdown and went right back out there to drive the team down the field.”

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Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato was named C-USA’s Offensive Player  of the Week Monday by both the league office and CollegeSportsMadness.com.

Cato completed 21 of 28 passes for 262 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in the Thundering Herd’s 61-13 win over Southern Miss. He powered a Marshall  attack that jumped out to a 28-0 first-quarter lead with four TD passes and finished with 636 yards of total offense, which came on 9.94 yards per play.

Cato also tied Chad Pennington’s school record by completing a TD pass in 26  straight games, the second-longest active streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision behind Fresno State’s Derek Carr.

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