UAB focusing on improving third down defense, correcting special teams mistakes

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The fact that UAB played Ball State on the road closer than a 51-31 final score would indicate still had coach Bill

The fact that UAB played Ball State on the road closer than a 51-31 final score would indicate still had coach Bill Clark shaking his head on Monday.

But with a winnable home game on Saturday against Coastal Carolina coming up, UAB must move past it and correct the mistakes that plagued them in Muncie, Ind. Saturday's game is at noon and will be televised locally by WBRC FOX 6.

One week after holding Alabama A&M to just 1-of-14 on third downs, Ball State went 11-of-17. That's a big reason the Cardinals led UAB by nearly 10 minutes in time of possession.

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Clark credited Ball State receivers for making tough catches with UAB players "draped over them."

UAB outgained Ball State 336-160 on the ground and 504-377 in total yardage. One busted play on the ground went for a Ball State 52-yard touchdown. Otherwise, UAB holds the Cardinals to 108 rushing yards.

"We were so concerned with their running game," Clark said. "Maybe I could have put us in more third and longs in practice."

Clark said that the Blazers had four third down busts that were mental errors.

"The big thing is that it's disheartening," Clark said. "We do such a good job in the run game, gave up one play that busted, or they would have had 100 yards. "Go 1-for-14 (in third down conversions allowed) first game, then whatever they did (Saturday), it was just sickening.

"I knew they were good. For us to do such a good job in their run game, and to not get off the field on third downs, you can tell how frustrated I am."

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Penalties also assisted Ball State drives. Linebacker Tevin Crews said his hand grazed the helmet of quarterback Riley Neal on a third down incompletion. But the rule doesn't care about intent, just actions. The roughing the passer penalty gave the Cardinals a first down and eventually led to a fourth-quarter touchdown.

That was part of several mistakes Crews said the defense is working on.

"Not blow a coverage," he said. "That would be a great start. Not blow an assignment. If you have the quarterback wrapped up, don't miss a sack. I feel like everyone can do better, including myself. I look at myself first. If I keep pushing myself, everybody else will come along."

Special teams doomed UAB late. After cutting BSU's lead to 31-24 late in the third quarter, Malik Dunner returned the kickoff 93 yards for a score.

Later, Jonathan Haden fumbled a Ball State kickoff after the Cardinals had scored. It was one of two UAB turnovers. Ball State had zero.

"The kickoff, we had a bad kick," Clark said. "Nick (Vogel) had a really good day with his (45-yard) field goal and kicked well. He kicks a line drive. Two guys get double teamed and get sucked in. Our safety doesn't get out like he supposed to. Just a mistake on a bad kick. It's hard to get out and cover a ball that's just a line knuckle drive.

"Every play is a new play. The fumble is just ball security. Haden had a good day. We work ball security five minutes a day every day and before, we talk about it every second. You've got to protect the ball."

Clark said that some players will get new opportunities in special teams this week.

"Let's see what they do with it," he said.

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