The New Orleans Bowl ended with Western Kentucky running South Alabama out of the Superdome. The Hilltoppers scored 31 points in the 1st half and beat South Alabama 44-23 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Their game plan was perfectly executed and was “lightning fast” as they scored on 3 of their first 4 possessions. South Alabama was “not ready for primetime” as they were constantly caught off-guard and unprepared. Austin Reed and his running mates, Malachi Corley, Dalvin Smith and Jalen Hall looked as if they were running a fast break in a basketball game.
New Orleans bowl setup to be a good game
In my preview article here on the game, South Alabama knew what the “Air Raid” offense was like, playing against it earlier in the season versus Georgia Southern. Georgia Southern’s coached by Clay Helton the older brother of WKU Coach Tyson Helton so, there would definitely be identical concepts and execution. That notion was quickly thrown out the door in the first two drives. Western Kentucky’s 1st drive took 1:49 and moved 75 yards. Their 2nd drive took 1:36 and moved 80 yards.
South Alabama had no answers. NONE. Then on the fourth possession, Reed threw a backwards pass to Dalvin Smith which fooled the Jaguar defense. Jaylen Hall was WIDE. OPEN. down the right sideline to catch the touchdown pass and it was 21-0. South Alabama scored a field goal to cut the lead to 24-3, but they left 1:38 on the clock. The offense came out on the field and drove 88 yards in 10 plays to score on an untimed down to drive the dagger into any chance the Jaguars had of making a comeback at 31-3.
New Orleans Bowl had a lot of highlights
The Jaguars were definitely, obviously unprepared for the execution of the Western Kentucky offense. Trailing 24-0, Western Kentucky began to drive again, with no pushback from the Jaguar defense. To South Alabama’s credit, they kept playing even though they were in a deep deficit. Western Kentucky got to the Jaguar 17 yard line when Yam Banks made one of the plays of the game, making a one handed “OBJ-style” interception to prevent the score. At the start of the second half, Carter Bradley and the offense showed life when they drove 75 yards in 7 plays to score a touchdown. Bradley finished with 360 yards passing on 53 attempts, 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. Devin Voisin had 11 catches and 153 yards receiving with a touchdown.
New Orleans Bowl ended up being a mismatch
This was the second matchup of Conference USA vs. Sun Belt. UTSA could hardly move the ball against Troy in the Cure Bowl. Read my recap here. Perhaps UTSA would’ve benefited from playing on the turf of the Caesars Superdome instead of the grass of Exploria stadium. Western Kentucky looked as if they were running a basketball fast break, speeding down the field with perfect execution. South Alabama’s defense showed poor judgement on the final drive of the 1st half for Western Kentucky. They were called for two straight penalties, defensive pass interference and roughing the passer that led to an untimed down in which Malachi Corley scored from one yard out.
As South Alabama beat writer Creg Stephenson writes in his recap here, South Alabama had demonstrated an ability to adjust at halftime to defensive mistakes. They were one of the best defenses in the FBS in most statistical categories. In this game they looked as if they didn’t deserve to be on the same field. Defensive players were constantly raising their arms up in the air in frustration at blown coverages. The trick play from Dalvin Smith to Jaylen Hall was one and the touchdown to Malachi Corley early in the second half was the other. Western Kentucky receivers didn’t have any defenders around them.