South Alabama doubled its 2021 overall wins after a 27-20 win over Old Dominion on Saturday at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
The Jaguars (10-2 overall, 7-1 Sun Belt Conference) trailed for most of the day – including seven at halftime – before eventually taking the lead 6-20 in the game on Carter Bradley’s third touchdown pass. South Alabama’s defense also held the Monarchs (3-9, 2-5) to just 99 yards and no points in the second half.
RELATED: South Alabama turns on the intensity in the second half, beating Old Dominion 27-20
Troy defeated Arkansas State 48-19 to secure the Sun Belt West championship and a berth in the conference title game, meaning South Alabama won’t play again until his bowl game. Before that, here are five things we learned from a seven-point win over the Monarchs:
1. Wommack’s Jaguars continue their remarkable turnaround
Outright winner or not, it was a memorable season for South Alabama, which set its first win record as an FBS program and is among just 13 FBS teams with double-digit wins. The Jaguars’ two losses totaled five points combined, so it’s realistic to think that a game here or there going the other way would have resulted in a 12-0 regular-season draw. It was truly remarkable to see how quickly Kane Wommack turned this program around and there is more room to grow.
2. The South Alabama defense makes excellent halftime adjustments
The Jaguars honestly looked lost on defense in the first half as the Monarchs ran and threw the ball over them for almost two quarters. But South Alabama scored a second-half shutout and completely took the running game away from ODU. As a one-dimensional passing team, the Monarchs just couldn’t protect quarterback Hayden Wolff well enough against the Jaguars’ front seven, who could blitz and pass with devotion. South Alabama has conceded 20 points total in the fourth quarter in their last six games.
3. Jaguars QB Carter Bradley is tough and leading by example
Bradley played a painful left (non-throwing) shoulder injury for the second week in a row and left the game briefly in the first half after taking a hard shot from an ODU defender. However, he returned after just one game and ended a passing day with three touchdowns by throwing two for two points in the second half. Bradley also ran the ball with abandon when needed, including a 19-yard run that included a hurdle from a Monarchs player. Coaches and fans may cringe at Bradley’s lack of concern for his own well-being, but there’s no doubt he commands the respect and admiration of his team-mates.
4. South Alabama is best with a power running game
Running backs Braylon McReynolds, Omni Wells and Marco Lee all had their moments on Saturday and have mostly played well all season, but La’Damian Webb’s return from injury was a welcome sight for the Jaguars’ offense on Saturday. He rushed for 74 yards on 18 carries, including several keep-the-chains runs in the second half that aided South Alabama’s comeback, and then killed the clock as the Jaguars took the lead. Webb was ailing for most of the season, but he still put together one of the best years by a running back in the history of the Jaguar program.
5. That loss to Troy on October 20 had a huge impact
Most observers knew at the time that Troy’s 10-6 win over South Alabama in the Battle for the Belt about five weeks ago would go a long way towards deciding the Sun Belt West Division title. Neither team lost after that, meaning the Trojans’ head-to-head victory was the deciding factor not only for the division, but also for which team hosted the conference championship game. Both South Alabama and Troy had some narrow wins along the way, but credit the Trojans for making the plays required and never allowing the Jaguars to pass them.
next up: South Alabama awaits a bowl goal. The official postseason pairings will be announced on December 4th.