Even with an impressive performance against Troy last week, the Blazers may get burnt as they prepare to face the Tennessee Volunteers for the fourth time as an underdog.
UAB faces an old foe as it enters Neyland Stadium this Saturday. With an 0-3 record against the Vols, the team has little hope outside of a miracle.
“We have to play the most challenging football team we’ve played,” said head coach Neil Callaway. “Everybody talks about them being down, but watching them on film and all that, I think they’re every bit as talented as they’ve been in the past.”
Callaway was encouraged with his team’s performance on Saturday and said that it was a definitely a big win for the team and one that it needed. He was especially proud of the way the team came back from a 23-0 deficit and played hard until the end to win the game 34-33.
“The way that they won it was also outstanding,” Callaway said. “It shows their class and their grind and their guts to grind that out and compete for the whole 60 minutes. I’m proud of them for that.”
The team made some mistakes in the Troy game that Callaway is aware of and would like to adjust before facing the Vols.
“Offensively we had way too many turnovers,” Callaway said. “Defensively, I think we’re at a point where we need to be a lot more physical defensive football team.”
The team is not the favorite for the upcoming game, and Callaway is aware of the odds. He said it will be a great experience for the team, but it will be very challenging.
“They’ve got some young players they’re playing with,” Callaway said, “but one thing I will say is Coach Dooley’s got them playing hard and they’re pretty impressive to watch.”
Though aware of the challenges of this coming game and aware of the team’s need for improvement, Callaway has only communicated faith and hope to his players. The team is confident as the week draws to a close.
“It’s not intimidating because, like coach has told us since Day One, ‘Everybody puts their pads on the same way,’” senior wide receiver Mike Jones said. “Everybody has a chance to win it. It will definitely be a good experience for our guys, and (the big crowd) may motivate them to go out and play at a higher level. It may bring out the best in a lot of our players.”
The Blazers have a plan for game-day preparation and want to make sure they’re ready to face the Vols. A few of the things Callaway is looking for in the team are confidence and an ability to play hard throughout the game without giving up, which are two things the Blazers have proven they are capable of.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Callaway said. “We need to have a good week’s work and make sure we’re ready to go.”