In 2014, UAB’s Bill Clark was a coach without team. Now, he’s considered one of the best college football coaches in the country.
After leading the Blazers to an 11-3 season record– which includes the program’s first Conference USA championship and its first bowl victory– Clark was named the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year. “I am truly humbled to receive the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award and would like to thank the Football Writers Association of America and the Allstate Sugar Bowl for this prestigious recognition,” Clark said. “This honor is the epitome of a team effort and it would not have been possible without the countless hours of the entire staff and the relentless motivation from our student-athletes in striving to make history every day.”
Yes, it did seem UAB made history every day last season. This honor was simply the cherry on top for Clark, who experienced unprecedented success in one of the most trying scenarios any college coach could ever face after his UAB program was leveled in 2014.
Four years later, UAB recorded its 12th straight home victory since the program’s revival, marked its first-ever 11-win season, and played in its second consecutive bowl game and only the third in its history. The Blazers claimed their first bowl victory with a 37-13 pounding of Northern Illinois in the Boca Raton Bowl. UAB also broke into the Amway Coaches Poll at No. 25 in Week 11, marking the first time the Blazers had been ranked in one of the nation’s major polls since 2004.
But the Blazers’ most impressive achievement came when UAB made its C-USA Football Championship Game debut against Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders had bested the Blazers 27-3 just the week prior in the final regular-season game, but UAB returned to Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, for a second straight week with a completely different attitude. A 27-25 win and UAB’s first conference championship title was the final result of the thrilling rematch.
It didn’t happen by accident. Clark built the Blazers around a traditional hard-nosed run game and a forbidding defense, so it came as little surprise the team was one of the best in the country in these areas. UAB ranked ninth nationally in total defense (giving up 299.2 yards per game), second in getting offenses off the field on third down (.260), fifth on fourth-down percentage (.318), fourth in blocked punts (3), fifth in team sacks (48), and 11th in tackles for loss (111). In addition, UAB was the first team in C-USA history to pitch three shutouts in a single season.
On the offensive side, sophomore running back Spencer Brown rushed for a school record 16 touchdowns and ranked 10th in the nation for total TDs with 17. Brown rushed for 1,227 yards and averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2018. Senior receiver Xavier Ubosi led the nation with 23.9 average yards per reception and broke the school record for most yards in a single game during the Boca Raton Bowl with 227. Ubosi finished the season with 35 receptions, 837 receiving yards, and 8 touchdowns.
The 2018 squad also owns the school record for most total offensive yards in a game (668) and most single-game rushing yards (419) after defeating Southern Mississippi 26-23.
UAB quickly became the nation’s favorite underdog, and the Blazers and Birmingham have Clark to thank for sticking around to make it happen.
Clark built a team capable of tearing up offenses, defenses and record books alike. The Coach of the Year honor was indeed well deserved, but this award will likely not serve as the peak of his career.
We’re witnessing just the beginning of this coach’s story. H&A