1cr> LINCOLN, Neb. -- So this is what they mean by laugh ing all the way to the bank.
Along with its $450,000 opening-day payday, the UAB foot ball program received the stan dard operating instructions offered to every sacrificial lamb led into Memorial Stadium:
1. Roll over.
2. Play dead.
The Blazers acted as if they never got the memo.
Instead Nebraska got the mes sage. If you wanna play UAB, you better play. Even if you're the best college football program in the land. Even if you're Nebraska.
"When we came here, nobody in Nebraska knew where UAB was," head coach Watson Brown said. "Now they know where UAB is."
This is where UAB was late in the first half Saturday afternoon: Nine seconds away from walking to the locker room down only a touchdown. By comparison, Flor ida trailed Nebraska 35-10 at the half of the 1996 Fiesta Bowl.
This is where UAB was late in the third quarter: Eleven yards away from the touchdown that would send the Blazers into the fourth quarter down only a touch down. By comparison, Tennessee trailed Nebraska 35-9 at the end of the third quarter of the 1998 Orange Bowl.
This is where UAB is in just its third year as a Division I-A pro gram: The Blazers didn't stop Ne braska at the end of the second quarter. They didn't score at the end of the third quarter. They didn't pull off the greatest upset in college football history and lost 38-7.
Has a team ever lost by this many points and earned this much respect?
Nebraska rushed for at least 300 yards in every single game last season en route to a share of the national title. Nebraska rushed for 236 yards against UAB.
More perspective? When Ne braska ran for 524 yards against Florida in the 1996 Fiesta Bowl, UAB was eight months away from its first season in Division I-A.
For 7 1/2 minutes in the second quarter, UAB did to Nebraska what Nebraska has done to the country for the past quarter cen tury. The Blazers ran the option to perfection. They took 16 plays to drive 80 yards and score a touch down. They also placed a giant gag in the mouths of 75,921 Husker backers.
When was the last time 75,000 people dressed in red suffered in such silence? When was the last time Alabama played a home game? Before they expanded the stadium and opened up the offense.
UAB did not become the first I A program from the state of Ala bama to win this season. The Blaz ers did become the state's first I-A program to do itself proud.
A comparison between 0-1 UAB and 0-1 Auburn:
UAB opened on the road against the best program in the land. Au burn opened at home against one of the better programs in the ACC. The Blazers rushed for more yards, totaled more yards and scored more points than the Ti gers.
Lucky for Auburn it opened with Virginia and not Nebraska. Lucky for Auburn it opened with UAB in 1996 rather than 1998.
As for the Blazers, the money they made for playing Nebraska was exceeded only by the credibil ity they earned. Three years ago, during its last season in Division I AA, UAB played at Southwestern Louisiana. The night before, the team went to a movie. An innocent bystander asked Brown, "What is UAB? Are you a soccer team?"
Ouch. UAB got kicked 56-21 the next day.
That was then. This is what UAB is now: A football program with a real future. You wanna play the Blazers? Whip out your check book and strap on your helmet. In more ways than one, you're gonna pay.
© 1998 The Birmingham News. Used with permission.