#By BRENT STUBBS
#Senior Sports Reporter
#After losing to Ohio in their initial appearance here in 2017, interim head coach Bryant Vincent said there’s still no better place for his University of Alabama at Birmingham Blazers men’s football team to be than here at the HomeTown Lenders Bahamas Bowl.
#“This is the bowl game that our team wanted to go to. We were excited to be here. I don’t know if there’s another bowl in the country that our team would rather be at,” Vincent said. “To come to the Bahamas and play a really good Miami (Ohio) team is an opportunity that they’re excited about.
#“Where else can you come to paradise and also play a football game against a good football team and end the 2022 season and a lot of great careers here? It’s the opportunity of a lifetime and our players realise that, and they’re excited about that. They’re ready to go out there and play one last game together.”
#Vincent will be leading the Blazers this time around as they take on the Miami RedHawks in today’s bowl game at 11:30am on ESPN at the Thomas A Robinson National Stadium.
#Vincent said after giving his Blazers a chance to enjoy themselves during the week, they are ready to face their opponents with the same intensity that they did all season long.
#“It’s really not going to change. What we do at UAB offensively is what we’ve done here the last six years. We’re going to establish the run, we’re going to play-action pass, we’re going to do what we do. To win championships, you’ve got to be able to run the football. We’re going to establish the run, that’s our rule every game, and then everything else feeds off the run.
#“Defensively, we’ve got to stop the run. I know that’s a cliché, but it’s proven true. We have the opportunity to win our 50th football game since our programme’s return. That’s 50 wins in six years, that’s pretty impressive.”
#That’s more wins than anybody in Conference USA. We’re going to stop the run, cover up the receivers, be great in the kicking game and find a way to finish it off in the fourth quarter. That’s really our game plan every game.”
#Miami head coach Chuck Martin, whose team is making their debut here, said they are just as eager about the game.
#“The biggest thing is UAB really likes to run the ball and they like to throw it over your head. They are fifth in the country in rushing this year so if we don’t stop the run it is going to play into their favour,” Martin said.
#“We also have to stop them getting big plays in the pass game. Offensively, we need to be able to run the ball and they have a very stingy defence. We need to have big chunk plays in the passing game. Our defence is excited for the challenge and our offence is excited to compete against a very good defence.”
#When asked what’s going to be the difference in their approach for the Bahamas Bowl compared to other bowls Miami has played in, Martin said they try to approach them all the same.
#“We get extra practices back home and have two and-a-half weeks to prepare for the game. We are going to do all the work at home. When we get on the plane to wherever we are going, we are prepared to win the game before we leave,” he said.
#“What we try to do when we get to the bowl site is to let everybody enjoy the experience. This is the best place I have been to, but we have enjoyed the other bowls we have been to. We let the kids and coaches and families enjoy being at a bowl and then starting two days before the game we get locked in.”
#Both teams are coming into the game with a 6-6 win-loss record. But for some of the players, it’s an experience here in the Bahamas off the field that they will never forget, win-loss or draw on the field.
#For Miami, on transitioning from the water slides at the Atlantis to the game on Friday, said freshman quarterback Aveon Smith:
#“It was pretty cool to get the experience, spending time with coaches and teammates whether it was on the slides or kicking it in the lobby,” he said. “At the end of the day we came here to win a bowl game. When it is time to lock back in, we will lock back in.”
#As for the game, Smith said it’s important to send the seniors out with a win.
#“It is pretty important. We have a lot of seniors on offence, and defence as well,” he said. “They have put in a lot of work from one season to another they have been grinding. It is only right to send them off with a victory.”
#One of those players are senior linebacker Ryan McWood.
#“I have been to other bowls before and this was definitely an awesome experience. When it is time to work, it is time to work but you need to do what you need to do to win the game,” he said. “The first two days were in kind of vacation mode and yesterday we had practice and got back into game mode.
#“It is about having that switch inside you that we have practice for two hours today and let’s lock into that and then we can get off our feet after.”
#The UAB players are just as ecstatic about being here for the Bahamas Bowl.
#“It’s been a really special week, especially for us and it being our last game here,” said redshirt senior linebacker Noah Wilder. “Coming here, being with the guys, especially at a place like this, it’s just really special to come here and be able to enjoy yourself and have that camaraderie, one last ooh-rah together.
#“There would be no greater feeling than to go out with a win. These have been some of the best years of my life. These guys – they’re friends that I’ll have forever, and this is just a great place to be with those guys.”
#On what the team needs to be successful, Wilder said they just have to get back to what got them here in the first place. “We think they play really hard. We play really hard,” he said.
#“Just like every week, as long as we stick to UAB football and do what we do, that’s what we’re going to do.”
#And redshirt junior offensive lineman Will Rykard said this will definitely be a trip he will never forget.
#“It’s been a once-in-a-lifetime experience for most of us. There are a lot of guys that have never been out of the country, so this will be the first [international] place they’ve been. It’s pretty cool. “To spend it with all the guys and finish out the season with one last game, it’s just a great experience. We’ve all been able to relax the last few days with the lazy river, the pool, stuff like that, but we’ll be ready come tomorrow.”
#On balancing the off-field experiences with the game this weekend, Rykard felt they did a fantastic job.
#“A lot of us have played a lot of football. We know what it is. Back home there are a lot of distractions just like there are here. It’s just different – there’s school, other people,” he said.
#“We’ve gotten to enjoy the past few days, the coaches let us enjoy a lot and have some time off. Yesterday we started reeling it back in and we know what it is, we know it’s time to go.”
#On what he knows about Miami, Rykard said they play hard defensively, and they are a good, sound football team.
#“They’re disciplined up front. We know we’re going to have to come out as an offensive line and play hard, play well,” he noted.
#“At the end of the day, just like every game, we think it’s about us. If we go out there and handle what we’re supposed to handle and do what we’re supposed to do, we’ll be alright.”
#The game will be carried live on ESPN with Steve Levy handling the play-by-play duties, while Joey Galloway will serve as the colour analyst. Kris Budden will cover the sidelines.