UAB feels OK even after No. 8 SCarolina wins 49-6
By JEFFREY COLLINS
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) UAB coach Garrick McGee said he learned some things from the Blazers' 49-6 loss to No. 8 South Carolina on Saturday night.
And most of them were good lessons.
McGee was proud that UAB (0-2) was still in the game in the second half. He also was glad his team kept all-Southeastern Conference running back Marcus Lattimore mostly in check.
"I think we are getting in position to go after the Conference USA championship," said McGee, who is in his first year coaching. "Even though the win column doesn't show it, we are a better football team than we were two weeks ago."
The Blazers ran 79 plays to just 58 plays for South Carolina (3-0) and held the ball for more than 36 minutes.
UAB outgained the Gamecocks 178-130 in the first half, but D.J. Swearinger's 65-yard fumble return for a touchdown after the ball slipped out of quarterback Jonathan Perry's hands and a 19-yard punt from deep in UAB territory late in the second quarter put the Blazers in a 21-6 hole at halftime.
"We had a great first half defensive-wise and the offense controlled the ball. I learned this team can play and battle with anybody," freshman safety Jake Ganus said.
But Ganus said he will be haunted by two plays early in the third quarter. He had an interception called back because of a roughing the passer penalty, then had a second possible pick slip through his hands a few plays later.
"It was really difficult because I felt like that dropped interception was a game changer. It could have gone for six our way," Ganus said.
Instead, the Gamecocks got a 43-yard completion on the next play and scored on the next down to take a 28-6 lead.
UAB also struggled to run the ball. The Blazers had 267 total yards, but just 27 of them came on the ground as they were held out of the end zone.
"The really hung in there and competed with one of the top teams in the country for a long time in the game," McGee said. "I think there were some things that went on during the game that got them frustrated. The fact that we couldn't run the football gave them more opportunities to score."
The defense took pride in keeping Lattimore under 100 yards. He ran the ball 12 times for 85 yards and a touchdown, which gave the junior South Carolina's record for touchdowns at 34 and tied him for all-time rushing TDs at 31. Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers held both those marks.
"We prepared for him all week," freshman linebacker Chris Rabb said of Lattimore. "We had tight ends line up at running back to get us ready to tackle a big back like that."
South Carolina won despite Connor Shaw having to leave the game after reinjuring the throwing shoulder that kept him out of the game a week ago.
Shaw went 8 of 14 for 107 yards, while sophomore Dylan Thomas came in and went 5 for 10 for 177 yards and two touchdowns, including 95-yard TD pass to Damiere Byrd that put South Carolina up 35-6 midway through the third quarter.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier picked up his 200th college coaching win, joining Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Texas' Mack Brown and Nevada's Chris Ault as the only active Division I coaches to reach that mark. But he said the game was a lot closer than the scoreboard might indicate.
"This was one of the closest 49-6 games I have ever been around," Spurrier said.
UAB still hasn't beaten a Top 25 team outside of Conference USA and hasn't defeated an SEC team since knocking off Mississippi State in October 2004.
While the big plays doomed the Blazers, McGee said there is no shame in losing to a top 10 team.
"You have to be mentally tough enough to keep playing, no matter what you are going through," McGee said. "That's what we are developing, and we are going to get it. I really like our team. They got better this week."
Updated September 16, 2012