Saban, LSU’s first-year head coach, had scheduled a non-conference opponent between SEC games against Auburn (a loss) and Tennessee (a win). And why not UAB? The Blazers hadn’t had a winning season since moving to Division I-A in 1995.
But the Blazers came up with the biggest win in program history, a moment judged the school’s greatest in sports.
And they didn’t just beat LSU, they dominated. The Tigers committed nine turnovers — five fumbles, four interceptions — and 13 penalties. The Blazers led 10-0 at halftime and won 13-10 on Rhett Gallego’s field goal as time expired.
The Blazers finished 7-4 that season, their only losses at Kansas by three points on a late 50-yard field goal and to three bowl-bound teams that finished a combined 24-12. Three defensive players were drafted by NFL teams, including first-rounder Bryan Thomas, who played 11 seasons at defensive tackle for the New York Jets.
It was also the beginning of the Saban Dynasty. LSU fell to 2-2 after losing to UAB, but in 14 SEC seasons (five with LSU and nine with Alabama) Saban has lost only 34 games — nine to non-conference opponents, including bowl games.
“It was pretty quick to figure out he was a pretty good coach because they beat [No. 11] Tennessee and [No. 13] Mississippi State in the next month,” Gallego told LSU Now in 2013. “You sit there and win our ballgame, and then you’re watching them winning these games … It made us realize, well, he is pretty good. But so are we.”
Beating Saban put UAB football, which returns in 2017 after a two-year hiatus, in elite company.