UAB loses to Mississippi State 21-3
When Mississippi State switched to its backup quarterback in the second half, it was not necessarily a good thing for Alabama-Birmingham.
UAB remained winless this season after Mississippi State inserted Tyler Russell at quarterback to replace starter Chris Relf in the second half. Russell threw three touchdowns to give the Bulldogs a 21-3 victory on Saturday.
The Blazers (0-5) led 3-0 at halftime on a 37-yard field goal by Ty Long.
UAB held the Bulldogs to 118 yards of total offense in the first half, with Relf passing for only 46 yards
But things changed once the switch was made to Russell. Mississippi State (3-3) gained 298 yards in the second half and punted only once.
''I think it helped them'' UAB coach Neil Callaway said of the change in quarterbacks. ''They threw the ball more in the second half. He (Russell) executed the passing game a lot better.''
On his second possession, Russell led the Bulldogs on a seven-play, 89-yard touchdown drive. The score came on an 18-yard pass to Marcus Green, who out jumped UAB linebacker Lamanski Ware for the ball at the 4-yard line and ran in for the touchdown.
Russell followed that with fourth-quarter touchdown passes of 57 yards to Chad Bumphis and 20 yards to Malcolm Johnson. He finished with 166 yards on 11-of-13 passing, including a stretch of eight consecutive completions.
''It wasn't that Chris was playing poorly. I just felt we needed a spark,''
Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen added: ''I guess putting Tyler in was the best thing I could do to try to create a spark. He came in and played exceptionally well. He had a lot of energy.''
Five of Mississippi State's first seven plays to start the second half were passes. And though the Bulldogs ran the ball more often once they gained the lead, with Vick Ballard finishing with 101 yards rushing, the initial change in strategy was noticeable to the Blazers.
''It seemed they opened up their playbook a little more when they put
(Russell) in,'' UAB cornerback Cornelius Richards said. ''He threw the ball a little more than (Relf).''
Mullen decided to make the change after watching the Bulldogs get shutout in the first half by a UAB team that had allowed an average of 35 points per game this season.
The Bulldogs' only scoring threat in the half ended when Relf was sacked for an 11-yard loss, and then Derek Depasquale missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt. After that, UAB held the Bulldogs to a total of 59 yards on their next five possessions of the half.
''We were a little flat in the first half,'' Mullen said. ''Everyone was looking around for somebody else to make the play.''
As for the Blazers, they made enough plays to gain a total of 340 yards, but they also made numerous mistakes at crucial times.
Trailing only 7-3 late in the third quarter, UAB running back Pat Shed lost a fumble that was recovered at the Bulldogs' 23 by Brandon Wilson. Then with the score 14-3 early in the fourth quarter, UAB quarterback Jonathan Perry threw an interception at Mississippi State's 29.
In addition, Perry overthrew several receivers who were open for potential big gains. He finished with 195 yards on 18-of-36 passing.
''You have to hit those downfield throws, and we did not get that done,''
Callaway said. ''We made too many mistakes that cost us certain plays. We are not the kind of team that can withstand mistakes like that.''