One week after Josiah Yazdani kicked a game-winning field against Miami in 2014, the Bobcats knew they wouldn't be playing in another game that season. 6-6 wouldn't be good enough for a bowl game.

In Alabama, however, UAB players didn't know if there would be another UAB game ever again.

On Dec. 2, 2014, UAB President Ray Watts announced the university would be cutting its football program due to budgetary reasons. After a 6-6 campaign, the Blazers program grew dark. More than 50 players transferred, but Blazers coach Bill Clark stayed. 

The decision to shut down the program was met with intense backlash from UAB fans, all of whom demanded answers from the administration about just why the program was cut.

Over the following weeks, support for Watts and the university's athletic department drained, especially after questions arose about the budget that was used to determine UAB's fate. Students and fans protested, even chanting for Watts to be fired at basketball games.

But Friday at the Bahamas Bowl, chants won't be for anyone to be fired. Instead, the chants will be for UAB against Ohio as it ends its first season back.

"I can't recall coaching against a situation like that," Ohio coach Frank Solich said.

The UAB program — the only FBS program in the previous 20 years to be shut down — was reinstated in June 2015. After a two-year hiatus, the Blazers are back in a big way. 

After a 2-2 start that included a 20-point loss to a weak Ball State team, the Blazers responded to finish the season at 8-4. 

"It's remarkable they've been able to accomplish what they did," Solich said. "It should be a great matchup.”

Using some junior college transfers and a few holdovers from the 2014 team, they were able to piece together a remarkable season by any standard.

"Obviously, that's a tough way to start off the season and not have previous playing experience with that group," Solich continued. "To play as well as they did early on and to not let that season slide downhill, be competitive and finish the way they have speaks highly of their coaching staff and their athletes."

The Bobcats, facing a program with all kinds of motivation, stressed playing their own game and focusing on what it can control. That might be difficult, however, considering the large contingent of UAB fans expected at the game Friday. UAB's only other bowl game was a 59-40 loss to Hawaii in the 2004 Hawaii Bowl.

“Obviously, it’ll be the last game played for a lot of people on our team," Quentin Poling said. "We have a lot of seniors, a lot of fifth-year guys, really just thinking about how we want to end our careers, what kind of note we want to go out on, as opposed to worrying about how excited they’ll be that they’re coming back."

For Ohio, another bowl game was expected this season. Solich said, proudly, that his team wasn't focused on bowl eligibility. It wasn't even brought up. 

Rather, they were focused on bigger and better things. For an Ohio team focused on reaching yet another Mid-American Conference title game, that's to be expected. 

On the other side, however, the opponent for the Bobcats doesn't particularly care who they're playing. For the Blazers, the only thing that matters is that they're playing. 

The Blazers might succumb to the Bobcats' heavy rush offense and stout run defense, but either way, it's been a season to remember.

UAB is back, a program reborn. The bowl game is just extra.

"It was like a victory," UAB safety Jordan Petty said on making a bowl game. "It was an achievement. We had our eyes set on something big, and we knew we could accomplish a goal the first year back. To come to the Bahamas to end it, it's really sweet."

@Andrew_Gillis70

ag079513@ohio.edu

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