Nov. 2, 2004
SportsLine.com wire reports

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- On just one play in UAB's first game of the season, receiver Roddy White and quarterback Darrell Hackney showed why they are among the nation's most prolific passing duos.

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White was running his route when he noticed Hackney scrambling away from pressure. The roommates knew what to do.

"I just took off to the end zone," White said. "He tucked it in and threw it, and I knew we were on the same page then. I didn't know what he was going to do and he didn't know what I was going to do, and we still hooked up together."

They haven't stopped since, putting Alabama-Birmingham (5-2, 3-1 Conference USA) into contention for their first bowl bid entering Wednesday night's game with South Florida (2-4, 1-3).

Hackney, the nation's fifth-rated passer, is finally healthy and is leading the league in yards passing after missing the final five games last year with a dislocated thumb.

Hackney and White began rooming together over the summer, and they frequently stayed after workouts for extra passing work along with other receivers.

Hackney has completed 56.7 percent of his passes with 18 touchdowns, both career highs, and has thrown just four interceptions.

"He's feeling his dream right now," said White, the nation's leading receiver with 886 yards and nine touchdowns. "Nobody knew how good he could be because he was hurt. Now, everybody's seeing what he could do. He just wanted to prove that he's one of the best quarterbacks in the nation."

Hackney passed for a career-high 448 yards in a 59-55 loss to Tulane two weeks ago, finding White for 253 of them. Both were league highs for the season, providing some substance to White's opinion about where they rank as a passing duo.

"I think we're (No.) 1 on the nation. Nobody's doing what we're doing," said White, who is averaging 21.6 yards on 41 catches. "If we're not 1, we're one of the best at hooking up together. We're on the same page all the time. We're inside each other's head."

Hackney is proving as polished off the field as well. He credits his coaches and teammates for his success and even shoulders much of the blame for the 23 sacks UAB has allowed.

"The two biggest assets to my play this year are my preparation with coach (Pat) Sullivan and the people around me," said Hackney, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior. "They're making me look good and I have to give credit to them."

And the sacks?

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"Half the sacks you can blame on me because I always run right to them and always hold the ball too long," Hackney said.

He had shown signs that he was capable of this kind of season, starting eight games and passing for 1,977 yards and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.

Hackney was well on his way to even better things last year - and had UAB on the brink of an upset at No. 16 TCU -- when he went down for the season. The Blazers wound up losing that game, missing a chance for an attention-getting win for a program starved for recognition and starting a 2-4 tailspin to end the year.

Now, the Blazers remain in contention for their first CUSA title and are a win from becoming bowl eligible, with Hackney leading the way.

"I'm staying healthy and just trying to take charge and lead this team to big things and all our goals," he said.

White said the Blazers feed off Hackney's confidence, not just his passing.

"I think he's just being a leader out there," he said. "When the play's there to be made, he's making it. And he's got everybody believing that he can do it. He's a real confident guy and he's getting that confidence spread all over the team, and everybody's making plays."