Big Win For Western
Over the last few years, there have been many great matchups on paper in the New Orleans Bowl. However many of them ended up as blowouts. This year’s edition featuring South Alabama and Western Kentucky certainly looked great on paper. In addition, it was billed as the Jaguars’ outstanding defense versus the high-octane Hilltopper offense. This one turned into a blowout as well. Let’s break it down as Western Kentucky wins the New Orleans Bowl 44-23.
A Hot Start
As many teams are doing this bowl season Western Kentucky wore a sticker honoring the late Mississippi State coach Mike Leach. The Hilltoppers run a variation of the “Air Raid” and their offensive display would have made Leach proud.
Honoring @HailStateFB Heach Coach Mike Leach at tonight's @NewOrleansBowl. ♥️#HailState | #GoTops pic.twitter.com/XyLSs6DIyY
— WKU Football (@WKUFootball) December 22, 2022
Coming into Wednesday night the Western had the second-best passing offense in the country. They took the opening kick and immediately went to work. It took their high-powered offense less than two minutes to get on the board. A 44-yard pass from Austin Reed to Dalvin Smith and just like that Western led 7-0.
On their next possession, it took them all of 1:36 to score again. This time going 80 yards in five plays with Reed’s hitting Joey Beljan on a 27-yard strike and it was 14-0. That’s how the first quarter ended.
South Alabama finally got some offense going getting the ball to the Western 46. However, Carter Bradley was stopped on fourth and four, and Tyson Helton’s high-powered offense went back to work. Reed tossed it to Smith who then hit Jaylen Hall and it was 21-0.
The Jaguars followed with their best drive of the game getting it down to the Hilltopper 21. Unfortunately for them, Carter Bradley’s pass was picked off in the end zone by Kaleb Oliver and they remained scoreless. They finally got on the scoreboard late in the second quarter on a 30-yard field goal by Diego Guajardo and it was 24-3. Western scored again when Reed hit Malachi Corley to go up 31-3 at the half.
Western Kentucky put up some Tecmo Bowl like numbers gaining 434 yards while Reed had 329 yards and three touchdowns.
More Of The Same
South Alabama tried to rally in the second half scoring on their first possession making it 31-10. However, for the Jaguar fans hoping for a Minnesota Vikings like rally, it wasn’t to be. Another Reed to Corley touchdown and a field goal made it 41-10 putting things out of reach.
South Alabama did score a couple of late touchdowns, one on a Bradley pass to La’Damian Webb and the final one on a 12-yard pass to Devin Voisin. In one of the more impressive performances of this young bowl season, Western Kentucky wins the New Orleans Bowl 44-23.
If you read our game preview, we said this was a classic match-up of a great offense versus a very good defense. It didn’t quite work out that way as Western simply overwhelmed the Jaguars. The Hilltoppers amassed 677 yards with Reed throwing for 497 yards and four touchdowns on 36 of 55 passing.
He set a new record for passing yards in the New Orleans Bowl and school records for yards passing, completions, and attempts for a WKU quarterback in a bowl game. Reed entered the transfer portal after the season but decided to return to Bowling Green.
Both teams combined for 74 completions, tying an NCAA record for overall completed passes in a bowl game.
Corley, Smith, and Hall each surpassed 100 yards receiving for Western Kentucky with touchdown catches. Reed completed eight passes of 20 yards or more while torching a South Alabama unit that ranked 12th nationally in total defense.
As for Reed he currently leads the nation with 4,744 yards and 40 touchdowns. Heading into Wednesday he trailed Washington’s Michael Penix who has 4,354 yards and can pass him in the Alamo Bowl on December 29th.
Wrapping Up The Season
Western finishes up the year at 9-5 and reached that win total for the third time in four years under Helton. On the other side of the ball despite the bowl disappointment, the Jaguars finish 10-3, the best record in school history. That far eclipses their previous best of six wins. They are still looking for their first bowl win as they drop to 0-3 all-time. Although, the future is definitely bright under coach Kane Wommack.
Again Western Kentucky wins the New Orleans Bowl 44-23. Thanks for checking out our recap here at Last Word On College Football.