COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) — Normally a break from Southeastern Conference play with a game against a Conference USA team might be seen as a nice breather for Texas A&M before the Aggies wrap up the regular season by hosting No. 10 LSU on Nov. 24.
However, Saturday’s game against UAB (9-1) doesn’t fall into that category. The Blazers have won a school-record eight straight games and clinched their first C-USA West Division title with an overtime win against Southern Miss last week.
Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher knows the Aggies can’t take this game lightly because of the resurgence of UAB, which shut down its football program for six months after the 2014 season for financial reasons.
“This is a great football team,” he said. “They can flat-out play.”
UAB coach Bill Clark took a little time to appreciate the accomplishment his team made in winning the division title, but soon shifted his focus to the Aggies.
“It really is that sweet. It really is that good,” he said. “Of course, it doesn’t slow us down from how hard we’re going to work. We know what is in front of us.”
UAB linebacker Fitzgerald Mofor agreed with his coach and shared the team’s mindset after winning eight games in a row.
“There’s never a feeling that we are complacent or that we have arrived,” he said. “There’s never that feeling because we still have three games left. The plan is always to win as many games as we can. We never feel like we’ve arrived.”
The Aggies (6-4) scored their most points in conference play this season in a 38-24 win over Mississippi last week to snap a two-game skid. Trayveon Williams ran for 228 yards and Kellen Mond threw for three touchdowns and ran for a fourth to lead Texas A&M.
Now A&M will face a UAB defense that ranks in the top five in the nation in several defense categories. The Blazers lead the country with a school-record 38 sacks, rank third in total defense (260.7 yards a game) and fourth in both scoring defense (13.2 points) and yards passing allowed (153.8).
“When you take all the things together on defense they may be the best defense in the country,” Fisher said. “They’re coming in here with a very, very good defensive football team.”
Some things to know about UAB’s visit to Texas A&M.
UAB keeps inching closer to a ranking in the AP poll. The Blazers haven’t been ranked since debuting at No. 24 in the initial BCS rankings on Oct. 16, 2004.
Williams has a career-high 1,159 yards rushing which leads the SEC. Williams, who is second in the SEC with 11 rushing touchdowns, had his second 200-yard rushing game this season last week and has accumulated 3,014 yards rushing in three seasons with the Aggies. Fisher shared what he believes makes Williams special. “His competitive nature. His ability to want to lead and be great,” Fisher said. “I think he has a drive inside of him. You can see it when he runs.”
It’s unclear who will start at quarterback for UAB on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Tyler Johnston has started the past two games and topped 200 passing yards in both. A.J. Erdely has been out with a shoulder injury sustained against UTEP. He’s 15-6 as the Blazers’ starter.
Saturday will be just the second meeting between these teams. Texas A&M won the first56-19 on Sept. 26, 2009.
The Blazers have many players who have contributed to the pass rush. Jamell Garcia-Williams leads with 7½ sacks and Tre’ Crawford has six on a team where 16 players have at least one sack this season. UAB has a knack for tackles behind the line of scrimmage and the Blazers are fifth in the country with 85 tackles for losses this season. Garcia-Williams and Chris Woolbright are tied for first on the team with 11½, Crawford has 8½ and Mofor has seven.
Texas A&M sophomore receiver Jhamon Ausbon had a strong game in his return from a four-game absence because a foot injury last week. Ausbon had five receptions for 66 yards to give him 20 receptions for 287 yards this season.
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AP Sports Writer John Zenor contributed to this report.