In the 68 Ventures Bowl, South Alabama won’t have to go too far. They aren’t even going to leave their campus.
The Jaguars will host Eastern Michigan at Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday.
Both teams finished 6-6 in the regular season, narrowly missing out on a bowl berth.
The Jaguars are aiming for the first bowl victory in program history after losing to Western Kentucky in the New Orleans Bowl the previous season.
Coach Kane Wommack remarked, “Over the last two years, we’ve had a number of firsts.” This one has consistently ranked highest on all of our lists. Being able to tick that box here in Mobile is a fairly fantastic opportunity.
Last year, South Alabama had a 10-3 record. It was a lot more of a grind this season.
The Jaguars ended their Sun Belt campaign with four losses, including a 52-44 shootout at Texas State in the regular season finale, despite a memorable 33-7 victory over Oklahoma State on September 16.
Transfer from Toledo, Carter Bradley completed 19 of his 2,660 yard passes for 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
Chris Creighton, the coach of Eastern Michigan, described them as “incredibly gifted.” “They have excellent coaching. They have both offensive and defensive weaponry. It always begins in the front, but yes, we are attempting to ascertain how we will attack and protect them.
The decision by starting quarterback Austin Smith (1,775 passing yards, nine touchdowns, seven interceptions) to retire has also cost the Eagles greatly in the passing department.
Regarding the transfers, Creighton remarked, “I don’t think there’s a single bowl game that’s not affected by it.”
Samson Evans is the team’s best rusher with 635 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Eagles defeated Howard 33–23 in the first game of the season, although they never scored more than 28 points in regulation. They went into their final two games on a three-game losing run. To earn a bowl game, they defeated Buffalo 24-11 and Akron 30-27 in overtime.
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.”