MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Alabama State Hornets open their season Thursday against the UAB Blazers, a team they haven’t played since 2008. A win Thursday night for the Hornets would give them something they haven’t had in almost a decade.
Last year Alabama State defeated Tuskegee in overtime in the Labor Day Classic. A win over UAB Thursday would mark the first time Alabama State’s won the first game of the season in back-to-back seasons since they defeated Mississippi Valley State (2010 and 2011) in back-to-back openers.
In that 2011 season the Hornets also finished 8-3. After a 4-7 finish last season, an 8-3 mark would be more than welcome this year.
The Hornets and Blazers are meeting for the first time to open the season since 1995. The Hornets stung the Blazers 13-3 to kick off a season which finished 8-3, including a six-game winning streak to close the season.
ASU leads the all-time series with UAB 2-1.
State has a workhorse back in Ezra Gray who’s a couple hundred yards shy of 1,000 for his career. Gray is the face of the offense and will look to pace the Hornets rushing attack while the defense will be led by senior ball hawk Joshua Hill.
It won’t be an easy season-opener as the Blazers are the defending Conference USA champs. They’re led by the duo of running back Spencer Brown and quarterback Tyelr Johnston III. Spencer is on the cusp of becoming the program’s all-time leading rusher while Johnston is just a redshirt sophomore who threw for over 1,200 yards and 11 touchdowns in just five starts last year.
The Blazers introduce eight new starters while returning veteran experience on the defensive side of the ball at key positions.
Alabama State is entering its second full season under the direction of Donald Hill-Eley. Predicted to finish fourth in the SWAC East, the Hornets have a lot of work to do to prove their doubters wrong and it starts with UAB.
UAB and Alabama State kick things off from Legion Field in Birmingham. Game time is 7 p.m. The matchup can be watched on ESPN+.