Cougars, Blazers set for Independence Bowl

The 45th Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl will kick off on Saturday, December 18 at 2:30 p.m. CST on ABC, and the matchup is set, as the No. 13 BYU Cougars will take on Conference USA’s UAB Blazers in Shreveport. 

Ranked No. 13 in the final College Football Playoff Rankings, BYU will be the highest-ranked team to play in an Independence Bowl in the game’s 45-year history. The last and highest-ranked team entering an Independence Bowl was LSU in 1997, when the Tigers entered the bowl ranked No. 15.

“Both BYU and UAB have had great seasons this year, and we are excited to have a compelling matchup in Shreveport on Saturday, December 18 on ABC,” said 2021 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl Chairman Frank Auer. ” Our bowl has a reputation for providing teams with the best experience possible, and we plan on doing the same for BYU and UAB this year.”

Coach Kalani Sitake has led the Cougars to a 10-2 regular season and No. 13 College Football Playoff ranking in 2021, after an 11-1 season and No. 11 final ranking in 2020. It’s the first time BYU has had back-to-back seasons with 10 or more wins since 2008-09.  The Cougars beat six teams from the Power 5 in 2021, including a perfect 5-0 against Pac-12 opponents. BYU also claimed the Beehive Boot in 2021 with in-state victories over Pac-12 champion Utah and Mountain West champion Utah State.

After BYU had five players selected in the 2021 NFL Draft, including quarterback Zach Wilson going No. 2 overall to the New York Jets, Sitake’s team this year has excelled under the leadership of quarterback Jaren Hall and running back Tyler Allgeier, who has more than 1,400 rushing yards while being tied for the nation’s lead with 20 rushing scores.

BYU will be making its first bowl appearance in the state of Louisiana, and just its third game ever in the Bayou state. The Cougars played in the Superdome against LSU in 2017 and Tulane in 2009. This year’s game will be BYU 39th bowl overall dating back to the 1974 Fiesta Bowl. Among their 39 bowl appearances, the Cougars have played in 20 different bowl games in 12 states. BYU’s 39 postseason bowl invitations ranks tied for No. 20th among college programs — more than storied programs such as UCLA, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and Stanford. The Cougars have gone bowling in 16 of the past 17 seasons.

The Blazers (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) are playing in the program’s fifth bowl game and their fourth since returning to action in 2017. UAB has been bowl eligible all six seasons under the direction of head coach Bill Clark (2014, 2017-2021). Clark sports a 48-26 record in his six seasons as UAB’s head coach.

UAB enters bowl season with the nation’s 15th-ranked defense and a ground attack featuring sophomore DeWayne McBride who currently has the fifth most single season rushing yards in school history with 1,188. Quarterback Dylan Hopkins has helped lead an efficient Blazers offense, ranking second in C-USA in quarterback rating (164.5).

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