The members of the 2020 Alabama-Birmingham football team are undoubtedly disappointed that they will not be able to further capitalize on an exceptional season. The C-USA champions had been scheduled to play SEC foe South Carolina at the Gasparilla Bowl; however, due to COVID-19 issues within the Gamecocks’ program, they withdrew from the game and the contest was subsequently canceled. Therefore, UAB wrapped up the season with a 6-3 record and their second conference title in three years (they have appeared in the conference title game each of the last three years). In a season dominated by change and adversity, the Blazers’ players and staff strung together an extremely impressive year, taking on all of 2020’s challenges in a very big way.
UAB opened up 2020 with a lot to show for themselves in what has been one of college football’s most admirable stretches since the program’s 2017 restart. By the beginning of the 2020 campaign, that stretch included a winning record and bowl appearances each year, two conference championship games, and the 2018 C-USA championship (which went along with an 11-3 record). Additionally, they had yet to lose a regular season home game during that span. Head coach Bill Clark, whose name was again prominently mentioned during major coaching searches this season, took home the Eddie Robinson National Coach of the Year award for the team’s accomplishments in the 2018-19 season. During that season, one could argue that they were the darlings of college football.
The Blazers began 2020 by extending the home unbeaten streak to 19 games. They were matched up against FCS opponent Central Arkansas and won by a score of 45-35. During the game, the Blazers outgained the Bears in total yards by 166. Next, they traveled to Hard Rock Stadium to take on Miami (FL), who is currently ranked No. 18 in the country. Even in defeat, the Blazers were able to showcase several of their strengths. They were in it at the half, and down only a field goal well into the third quarter, but the Hurricanes pulled away late in the third and the Blazers were unable to respond. UAB kept it relatively even in terms of time of possession and outgained the Hurricanes in passing yards. Wideout Myron Mitchell logged over 100 yards receiving. The team quickly got back to their winning ways when they embarrassed in-state adversary South Alabama in their new stadium. This effort was followed by two straight conference home wins, against Texas-San Antonio and Western Kentucky respectively. During these two wins, UAB outscored the competition 58-27.
Once again, adversity presented itself the following week in the form of Louisiana. The Cajuns, who currently hold a national ranking of No. 19, edged the Blazers in comeback fashion to end their home win streak. The Blazers also fell in an overtime heartbreaker on the road the next week. The tenacity and championship mentality of this team shone from this point forward as they showed the college football world just how well they could overcome adversity. As the C-USA would find out, they could handle it pretty well. UAB saw several games canceled because of coronavirus issues and went through a long period of time where they did not see game action. Finally, they got the chance to play again on December 12 against Rice. With the ensuing 21-16 win, the Blazers punched their ticket to their third straight conference championship game. A win would mark their second title in three years. The opponent, Marshall, had just one loss on their 2020 record and had been ranked for the majority of the season. They had played multiple games while UAB was idle.
Spoiler alert: none of that mattered.
UAB defeated the struggling Thundering Herd team 22-13 to raise the C-USA trophy. In a year where they overcame many unprecedented challenges to get to this point, the title represents what the Blazers earned in doing so. It was another monumental year for a program that has continued to build on established success to reach new heights. One can only imagine that there is more of that success in the program’s future, and there is a lot to get excited about in 2021, especially considering the opening of a brand new, state-of-the-art facility for the team.
Get ready, folks. 2021 is sure to be another good one for UAB football.