Blue Raiders fans have spent nearly a month awaiting the return of star receiver Richie James, and the thought was once he returned the offense would take a leap forward. However, University of Alabama at Birmingham’s defense dispelled those expectations.
James was held to only seven receptions for 47 yards on Oct. 14. After having not played for a month, a combination of rustiness and a lack of reps with quarterback John Urzua played into the hands of the Blazers defense.
However, the strong chemistry between Urzua and running back Brad Anderson continued. Anderson was the biggest all-purpose threat to take the field in Birmingham, rushing for 81 yards on 15 carries and catching nine passes for 137 yards and a touchdown. However, Anderson’s big day would not be enough for the Blue Raiders.
The Blue Raider defense, which has been stingy against the run at home, again struggled to stop the ground game away from Floyd Stadium as they surrendered 260 yards rushing in Birmingham.
The offensive line also struggled to slow the Blazers’ pass rush, allowing five hurries and two sacks. Urzua likewise struggled against the pressure as he completed less than 55 percent of his attempts, and threw two interceptions. The first of those interceptions, which could have been the difference in the game’s outcome, came early in the second quarter with MT on the UAB six-yard line.
Blue Raiders redshirt freshman cornerback Kylan Stribling did score a touchdown on a blocked punt
on the ensuing Blazers possession, but a 51-yard return on the following kickoff set the Blazers up to regain the lead.
They again surrendered that lead early in the third quarter on a Canon Rooker 41-yard field goal, but regained it midway through the fourth quarter on a field goal of their own. The clock ran out on the Blue Raiders as they broke into UAB territory on the game’s last possession.
The Blazers pulled off the upset, 25–23.
The Blue Raiders will hope to pull off an upset of their own this week as they return to Floyd Stadium for their first ESPN televised home game since 2010.
Marshall comes into this week boasting a 5–1 win-loss record. That one loss came against a NC State team that currently leads the ACC Atlantic division.
Having allowed only 15 points per game, the Herd currently ranks ninth in the country in scoring defense. They also rank 21st in total defense.
The Blue Raider defense will face what has been a highly efficient offense. The Marshall offensive line has allowed only three sacks on the season, and quarterback Chase Litton has thrown 13 touchdowns against three interceptions while completing better than 60 percent of his passes.
John Urzua will once again be under center, as Brent Stockstill was ruled out early in the week. It is the first time since his injury that Stockstill was not declared a game-time decision, which suggests a possible setback in his rehab. However, when asked if Brent was expected to return this season, coach Rick Stockstill emphatically replied, “Absolutely.”
This game is scheduled for a rare Friday night kickoff, and will be aired on ESPN. Don’t let ESPN air an empty Floyd Stadium, it’s fun for the whole family. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 20.