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For the fourth time this season, the UAB football team dropped a one-possession decision on the road.
This time, turnovers weren't a problem. This time, a bad start to both halves ultimately played a big role in UAB dropping a 24-17 decision to Florida Atlantic University (FAU) in Conference USA play.
"It's on me, as the head coach," UAB head coach Bryant Vincent said in his postgame radio appearance. "We just didn't come out and execute like we're capable of. We had opportunities, right there. We just didn't get it done."
Despite falling into double-digit holes in each half, UAB had a chance to tie the game or possibly win it in the final seconds. Backup quarterback Jacob Zeno, who got the start for injured starter Dylan Hopkins, moved the Blazers down the field on a desperation drive. The Blazers took over on their own 23-yard line with 2:15 remaining. Eventually, they reached the Owls' 23-yard line. Zeno had narrowly missed a pair of throws into the end zone on the final two plays, and FAU held on for the win.
Zeno played well in his first start. He was 18-of-32 for 192 yards with a touchdown and six carries for 49 yards.
"I thought he played gutsy," said Vincent, whose team fell to 4-4 overall. "He played with a lot of poise, he had great effort, he had a lot of really good decisions. I thought he came out and performed really well. I couldn't be more proud of Jacob Zeno."
DeWayne McBride also had another good night running the football, even though FAU made it tough on him. McBride had 168 yards on 24 carries, with a 63-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Overall, the Blazers had 280 rushing yards on 42 carries.
That wasn't enough for the win, however.
UAB didn't seem to be ready to play early in the game, and the Owls took advantage. FAU built a 10-0 lead on a 20-yard field goal by Morgan Suarez and a 35-yard touchdown pass with N'Kosi Perry connecting with Johnny Ford after a busted UAB coverage.
One play by McBride – the 63-yard touchdown run – turned things around. On the next UAB possession, the Blazers drove 99 yards on nine plays, with TJ Jones scoring on a 4-yard pass play after taking a pop pass from Zeno and racing around left end. Trea Shropshire had two catches for 60 yards to key the drive.
UAB took the 14-10 lead into halftime, and it dissolved quickly once the teams returned to the field. N'Kosi Perry threw a pair of touchdown passes in the third quarter, and the halftime lead became a 24-14 deficit.
The offense stalled for much of the third quarter but did manage to slice into the deficit on a 32-yard field goal by Matt Quinn with just over a minute left in the third quarter.
UAB had a promising fourth-quarter drive that reached the Owls' 14-yard line before ending on downs. They forced a punt and had the final drive. The Blazers were playing without Shropshire, who got hurt midway through the third quarter but still managed to get the ball down the field before falling short.
"We had opportunities, you know," Vincent said. "And, when you have opportunities, you got to cash in, especially on the road against a good, athletic FAU team. Bottom line is, we had opportunities, our kids fought their tails off, and we came up short."
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