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South Alabama at home for 68 Ventures Bowl vs. Eastern Michigan

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South Alabama won’t have to venture far in the 68 Ventures Bowl. In fact, they’re not leaving their own campus.

The Jaguars have a home game, playing at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Ala., on Saturday against Eastern Michigan.

Both teams just barely qualified for a bowl, finishing 6-6 during the regular season.

The Jaguars, who lost to Western Kentucky in the New Orleans Bowl last season, are seeking the first bowl victory in program history.

“We’ve had a number of firsts over the last two years,” coach Kane Wommack said. “This is one that has been at the top of all of our lists. That’s a pretty great opportunity, to be able to check that box here in Mobile.”

South Alabama had a 10-3 record last year. This season was much more of a grind.

The Jaguars had a signature 33-7 win at Oklahoma State on Sept. 16 but lost four games during their Sun Belt schedule, including a 52-44 shootout at Texas State in the regular season finale.

Carter Bradley, a Toledo transfer, passed for 2,660 yards and 19 touchdowns with seven interceptions. However, his status for the bowl is uncertain due to a knee injury.

“We’re still kind of waiting to make sure Carter has as much time to rest that knee as he can,” Wommack said.

Leading rusher La’Damian Webb (1,007 yards, 16 touchdowns) will sit out due to a toe injury. Braylon McReynolds will replace him in the lineup. Top receiver Caullin Lacy (91 receptions, 1,316 yards) entered the transfer portal and since committed to Louisville.

South Alabama still is favored by more than two touchdowns.

“They’re super talented,” Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. “They’re very well-coached. They’ve got weapons on offense and defense. It always starts up front but yeah, we’re trying to figure them out, how we’re going to defend them and how we’re going to attack.”

The Eagles also have taken a major hit in the portal, as starting quarterback Austin Smith (1,775 passing yards, nine TDs, seven INTs) decided to leave.

“I don’t think there’s a single bowl game that’s not affected by it,” Creighton said of the transfers.

Samson Evans (635 yards, 12 TDs) is the team’s top rusher.

Following a 33-23 season-opening win over Howard, the Eagles never scored more than 28 points in regulation. They had a three-game losing streak entering their final two contests. They defeated Akron 30-27 in overtime and Buffalo 24-11 to qualify for a bowl.

Eastern Michigan downed San Jose State 41-27 in the Idaho Potato Bowl last season after losing to Liberty in the Lending Tree Bowl in 2021.

“He’s done a phenomenal job building consistency in his program,” Wommack said of Creighton. “They are a very detailed, very tough football team. They don’t make a lot of mistakes and they play a smart style of football. They’re going to make you earn it against them.”

The Eagles finished 9-4 last season but like the Jaguars, they had to earn a bowl bid the hard way this season.

“Record-wise, it probably wasn’t what they (South Alabama) expected,” Creighton said. “Maybe both teams fall into that category.”

–Field Level Media

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