South Alabama will hope to put a bow on its most successful FBS season by winning a bowl game for the first time in program history.
At the end of a 10-2 season, South Alabama was selected to play in the New Orleans Bowl against Western Kentucky on Wednesday inside the Superdome.
The Jaguars had never finished a season over .500 since joining FBS in 2012. Their only two losses this year came by one point on the road against UCLA in September and by four points to rival Troy in October.
Troy and South Alabama ended up tied atop the Sun Belt West, so Troy advanced to the Sun Belt title game and won the conference championship.
A trip to New Orleans is not a bad consolation prize for the Jaguars, who are 0-2 in bowl games. Second-year coach Kane Wommack, who received a contract extension earlier this month, said the bowl trip is both a reward and a way to carry momentum into spring practices.
“There are a lot of things to be excited about in a bowl game and there are certain things that I want the players to enjoy in the bowl process and the overall experience,” Wommack told reporters. “But at the same time, like I told the guys again this morning, the ball gets spotted at 8:05 p.m. and South Alabama is there to win the football game.”
The Jaguars are led by quarterback Carter Bradley (2,976 passing yards, 25 touchdowns) and running back La’Damian Webb (1,014 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns).
Western Kentucky (8-5) will play in its ninth bowl game in 11 years.
The Hilltoppers won three of their final four games, including a 32-31 overtime win over Florida Atlantic in their regular-season finale. After FAU scored first, Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed ran in a 1-yard touchdown and threw the game-winning two-point conversion to Joshua Simon.
Reed, who transferred from Division II West Florida, was named Conference USA’s Newcomer of the Year after throwing for 4,249 yards and 36 touchdowns, ranking second and fourth in FBS, respectively.
“I think the past couple years have shown that it’s just not the Power 5 that produces quarterbacks,” coach Tyson Helton said. “Here’s Austin Reed at the Division II level. He just needed an opportunity to be on that platform. There’s a lot of intangibles there that he has similar to (last season’s quarterback) Bailey Zappe that we saw.”
–Field Level Media