Turnovers. Penalties. Bad decisions. Desperation drive sacks. Slow starts to each half.
That was just the start of the checklist of things that went wrong for UAB in a 28-24 loss on the road at Rice.
When it was over, the hurt in Bryant Vincent's voice was loud and clear as he answered questions in his postgame radio appearance.
"We got a locker room full of coaches and players that are hurt," Vincent said on the radio. "We laid it on the line. They prepared our tails off. They fought their tails off for four quarters. We just didn't get it done. Unfortunately, that's just the way it goes."
Officially, the winning points came with 9:02 left in the game when T.J. McMahon connected with Dean Connors on a 6-yard touchdown pass. UAB had a pair of possessions after that. The first one started at the Blazer 25-yard line and opened with a 23-yard run by DeWayne McBride. Eventually, the Blazers had a first down at the Rice 11-yard line. A four-yard loss on a running play was followed by three consecutive incomplete passes, and Rice got the ball back with 3:26 remaining.
UAB forced a three-and-out and got the ball back at the Blazers' 39-yard line with 1:07 remaining. A Hopkins run gained nine yards, and he got out of bounds to stop the clock. Hopkins then hit Samario Rudolph for a 17-yard gain, and the Blazers had a first down at the Rice 35-yard line. The threat ended with three consecutive big plays by the Rice defense. Hopkins was sacked on first down, fumbled while scrambling on second down, and sacked on the game's final play.
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating night. UAB did some good things. Hopkins had his best game of the season, going 15-of-21 for 231 yards with touchdown passes to Rudolph and Trea Shropshire. It was also the best game of the season for Shropshire, who had four catches for 65 yards, including the 28-yard touchdown reception. UAB converted on 8 of 14 third downs and matched Rice's time of possession. McBride scratched and clawed his way to 121 yards on 27 carries with a touchdown.
The checklist of what went wrong, however, was more harmful. That list started with turnovers, which resulted in a scoop and score, and 12 penalties for 116 yards.
UAB fell into a 7-0 lead on the game's first possession. Rice drove 75 yards in 11 plays to take the lead. The Blazers dominated the rest of the half, and Rice went to halftime with a total of 75 yards on 30 plays.
The Blazers built a 17-7 lead at halftime with a 3-yard run by McBride, which came on the first play after a Rice turnover, a 43-yard field goal by Matt Quinn, and an 8-yard pass from Hopkins to Rudolph.
The tenor of the game changed on the second-half kickoff when UAB linebacker Reise Collier hit a Rice defender about 40 yards from the football on a touchback. The play was clearly over when Collier began moving toward the defender. Collier was initially called for targeting, but that was wiped off after video review. However, the personal foul call remained, and it clearly fired up the Rice team.
The Owls responded with a touchdown drive to cut the deficit to 17-14. On the next UAB possession, Hopkins tried to swing a pass to McBride. The ball traveled backward and bounced off McBride's hands. Treshawn Chamberlain scooped up the loose ball and raced eight yards into the end zone, and Rice had a 21-17 lead.
Even though they were reeling at the time, the Blazers responded with an impressive scoring march. The Blazers overcame a pair of holding penalties and a taunting penalty, which negated a run inside the 5-yard line by McBride on the drive. Hopkins finally capped the drive with a 28-yard scoring pass to Shropshire on first-and-20.
After that, though, Rice made the plays to win the game.
"We just got to go back to work. That's what it is," Vincent said. "In 2019, we lost our conference opener. We fought back. That team stuck together, and we fought back. That team took every game personal, as we always do. Now, we're going to see what this team is made of. The only thing we can do is control what's in front of us. We can't get this back. I would love, and this football team would love to get it back. All we can do is put our head down, stick together, go to work and focus on Middle Tennessee going forward."
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