BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- It was only a scrimmage, but UAB football was back in action Saturday, nearly two-and-a-half years after the school initially shuttered the program.
The Green team beat the Gold team 49-7 in front of 7,822 fans at Legion Field. The result of the game took a back seat to the knowledge that the next time the public will see UAB football, it will be in the program's return to competition Sept. 2 against Alabama A&M.
The university closed down the program in December 2014, citing the high costs of fielding a competitive team. The school reversed its decision and officially reinstated the program in July 2015.
For coach Bill Clark, simply getting to this point has felt like a long time coming. Seeing the fan support, he said, was remarkable.
"It goes without saying just what a great feeling, what an emotional feeling it was to get off that bus and see that unbelievable crowds at 11 o'clock on a Saturday," he said. "For our fans, alumni, recruits and former players to be out here was amazing."
Quarterback A.J. Erdely, who had 167 total yards on the day, couldn't help looking up at the crowd toward the end of the game and taking stock of the turnaround. Collin Lisa, who led all receivers with 115 yards and a touchdown, likened it to a bout of deja vu.
"It was like the first game I played here," he said. "I had to take a step back for a second and think, 'I'm really back now, and this is really happening on Sept. 2."
Having not played a game since the 2014 season, Clark said he and the staff tried to make the spring game as much of a game-type atmosphere as possible.
"There was no talking today," he said. "There was no talking in pregame meal. There was no talking in walkthrough. Until we got over here, it was game time. And hopefully they felt what it will feel like later this year. So we're trying to put them in as many situations as you can, but some of it is you have to play."
There were areas to nitpick, such as ball control, penalties and missed tackles, but overall Clark was pleased with the performance. Simply getting a feel for a game atmosphere was most important, he said.
For veteran linebacker Shaq Jones, the feeling couldn't be beaten. He was there before the program was dissolved, and rather than leave, he stuck it out. Now, he said, the support is even better than it was before.
"It's go time," he said. "We're excited. Sept. 2 we'll put on a show."