BIRMINGHAM - No one really thought UAB's return to football after a two-year absence would be successful at all.
But the Blazers defied the odds, deserving a lot of credit for hard work with the results of being bowl eligible and a respectable second place finish in the West Division of Conference USA.
UAB closed out the regular season Saturday afternoon at Legion Field in defeating UTEP 28-7. UAB is 8-4, 6-2 in C-USA and waiting to see where they will be going in the bowl season.
Bill Clark's Blazers set a record for wins in a single year since becoming a part of FBS football back in 1996. The Blazers also compiled a perfect regular season record of 6-0 playing at the ole lady on Graymont Avenue.
Hard work shows how a team can be brought back to life and for it to reward the university and the Birmingham area. They are Birmingham's team, now that Alabama and Auburn no longer play the Iron Bowl inside Legion Field.
UAB has been an attention item to Conference USA all season, getting headlines as often as Lane Kiffin has in his first season at Florida Atlantic, after recently working as offensive coordinator for Nick Saban at Alabama.
Conference USA has bowl tie-ins with the New Orleans Bowl, New Mexico Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl, Gasprilla Bowl, Bahamas Bowl and the Armed Forces Bowl.
The conference can send teams to the Independence Bowl and Frisco Bowl if the SEC and ACC can not provide a representative.
Going into Saturday, C-USA had eight bowl eligible teams with Florida Atlantic and North Texas to participate in the league championship next week. FAU is the champion of the East with North Texas a game better than UAB in the West.
A local connection will look forward of playing in a bowl game for UAB.
He is former Hanceville and Cullman athlete Brontae Harris.
Harris came to UAB after playing basketball for one year at Alabama A&M University. He is listed on the roster as a red-shirt freshman.
Harris plays the cornerback position. He made an impact in a 52-21 win over Rice on November 4 when he returned an interception 64 yards for a touchdown.
Harris is the third Blazer to accomplish the pick six task this season.
Harris was involved in five defensive series on the afternoon. He threw a block on an interception return that set up the Blazers' first touchdown in the game in the second quarter.
He played on the final snap, covering his receiver tight with the pass being picked off in the end zone to preserve a 14-7 UAB halftime cushion.
Harris broke up a pass in the third quarter that forced UTEP to give up the ball with the Blazers turning a touchdown lead into a 28-7 advantage, scoring twice in the stanza.
Quarterback A.J. Erdley tied a school record for rushing TDs when he scored from 10 yards out in the third. That was No. 13 on the season, joining Jordan Howard and Darrin Reeves as record setters.
Erdley is a balanced player. He threw for two touchdowns with Collin Lisa catching one for 30 yards and Logan Scott taking in an 11-yard hookup.
Erdley has more rushing TDs to move past well-known Blazer Joe Webb who accounted for 12 in 2009.
For Harris, he had a season best six tackles two weeks ago when the Blazers won at Texas San Antonio 24-19.
Harris and his UAB teammates experienced the opportunity of playing at an SEC school last week when they invaded the Swamp to meet a Florida team that has gone through a season of headaches. Florida posted a 36-7 win to prevent more embarrassment to a once superior club in the highly regarded SEC.
Nothing but positive has surrounded UAB football in 2017. This will serve well into the future in regards of recruiting, improving the fan base.
UAB has led C-USA in attendance all season with an average of over 28,000. Plenty of comments have been made with UAB playing at Legion Field, not having an on campus stadium.
The Blazers have overcome that obstacle among so many others.
They are a football team that is moving forward.
On Saturday, the Blazers rewarded those who stood behind them and will get to be rewarded for a bowl game coming up in December.