Rue's Rant on College Sports in Alabama

September 7, 2009 6:44 PM

Blazers' Webb worth watching

OK, UAB football fans. Get off your duffs and head out to Legion Field on Saturday for the Blazers’ Conference USA game against SMU.

You have something – or somebody – worth watching.

I know you are skeptical, especially after Neil Callaway’s first two seasons as the Blazers’ head coach resulted in a 6-18 record. But you have to admit, he walked into a tough situation after the program nosedived in 2006, Watson Brown’s final season at the helm.

At any rate, senior quarterback Joe Webb is worth the price of admission. A dual threat, he is the most talented quarterback in the state at a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) school and that includes Alabama’s Greg McElroy and Auburn’s Chris Todd.

Jacksonville State’s Ryan Perrilloux, playing for a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school after transferring from LSU, might be better, but you never know if he’s going to be playing, given his penchant for being suspended.

If you can’t take my word that Webb is the must-see QB in the state, then listen to what Rice head coach David Bailiff had to say before Webb torched the Owls for 415 yards total offense, setting a C-USA record for rushing yards (194 on 20 carries) by a quarterback and accounting for four touchdowns (two rushing and two passing) in the Blazers’ 44-24 season-opening victory.

“You remember Rocky I, where he went and got the chickens?,” Bailiff said. “I told our d-line coach he better go buy a couple of chickens to see if we can't catch them. (Webb) is amazing. You watch the tape and there are times eight people miss him and then he completes a big pass down the field or he scrambles for a long yardage touchdown. He is definitely a threat."

Then, after Webb’s spectacular game, including a nifty 71-yard touchdown run, against an experienced Rice defense that returned eight starters, Bailiff said, “He put us on our heels, and instead of risking to be great we turned passive.”

Only 14,316 of you bothered to show up last Saturday to witness Webb average 9.7 yards per carry and complete an astounding 80 percent of his passes (12-of-15).

You should have already known about Webb. After all, during his junior season in 2008 he set a C-USA record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 1,021 and also ran for 11 touchdowns. He passed for 2,367 yards and 10 touchdowns, but did throw 16 interceptions.

"Joe is by far our best playmaker offensively," Callaway said. "And we've asked him to do an awful lot."

Remember the UAB glory days – that shouldn’t be hard since it was only a few years ago – when you flocked to Legion Field to watch quarterback Darrell Hackney’s amazing feats (and those of wide receive Roddy White). Well, Webb is a bigger (6-foot-4, 225 pounds), faster and stronger version of Hackney, although he doesn’t have anyone like White to throw to. Junior Frantrell Forrest has emerged as Webb’s go-to receiver – he caught both of Webb’s TD passes against Rice, including an acrobatic grab late in the first half – but he’s not on White’s level.

I know it was rainy last Saturday and that probably kept some of you away. I overheard a guy in the press box say the crowd was so small you could hear the rainfall. He was right.

I have checked the forecast for this Saturday and there isn’t any rain in the forecast, so you can’t use bad weather as an excuse. It will be a little cloudy, but pleasant for the 3 p.m. kickoff.

Besides, neither Alabama nor Auburn is playing anyone worthwhile and their games are at night. The Tide plays Florida International, while Auburn plays Mississippi State, which is picked to finish last in the SEC West.

The most compelling national game – USC at Ohio State (not Notre Dame at Michigan) – also is at night and you’ll have plenty of time to get home to watch it on TV.

So, get on out there and watch Webb weave more magic.

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