Oct. 23, 2007
By Doug Segrest
The Birmingham (Ala.) News
It didn't take Joe Henderson and the UAB defense long to learn Matt Forté's forte.
The Tulane running back runs as well backward as he does forward, spinning out of a hit and getting extra yards backpedaling.
Coming and going Saturday night, he rushed for 209 yards on 32 carries, the fourth time he's cracked the 200-yard mark for the Green Wave.
So Henderson decided another approach might work.
After all, what damage can one do without the ball?
Henderson stepped in front of a screen pass intended for Forté midway through the first quarter, setting the tone for a defense that gave up tons of yards, but little on the scoreboard as UAB pulled out a 26-21 victory at Legion Field.
"I was man-to-man with Forté on the play," said Henderson, UAB's weakside linebacker. "I saw him fake a block and knew he was going to get the screen.
"He had (the pass) first, but I took it away from him."
Forté and the Green Wave had a big night solely based on numbers, racking up 504 yards of total offense against a UAB defense plagued by injuries and inexperience.
The final numbers weren't surprising. UAB came into the game ranked 108th nationally in total defense.
But, somehow, the Blazers kept Tulane off the scoreboard for nearly 36 minutes, a stretch from midway through the second quarter until the final two minutes of the game.
"The key for us was if our defensive line could play in their backfield," UAB coach Neil Callaway said. "The first half, we didn't do that. But I thought in the second half we came out strong."
Henderson added, "We knew our defensive line would have to play well."
The Blazers had to get a push up front despite the early loss to injury of defensive end Joe Happe. While Tulane quarterback Anthony Scelfo threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns, he also went down five times on sacks.
The pressure was doubly important after the loss of cornerback Kenny Sanders midway through the first half.
Enter backup Brandon Carlisle, who ended up playing most of the game.
"There's no better feeling than winning," said Carlisle, who posted four solo tackles. "All the hard work on Tuesday and Wednesday and Thursday doesn't mean anything if you don't win."
Mission one remained unchanged: Keep Forté, a likely high NFL draft choice, from adding to his highlight reel.
"He's as good a runner as there is in the country, to be honest," Callaway said. "OK, I don't know if he's as good as the guy from Arkansas (Darren McFadden), but I hope we don't face anyone as good as him the rest of the season."
Forte broke off one long run, a 34-yard scamper. But unlike Mississippi State's Anthony Dixon last week, he couldn't take over the game.
"We knew we had to gang tackle him because he's hard to bring him down by yourself," Henderson said.
For Gang Green, mission accomplished.