The final week of the college football regular season is always somewhat arbitrary, since the Thanksgiving holiday falls on Thursday.
South Alabama continued training for Saturday’s home final against Old Dominion on Wednesday morning and will then resume training early Thursday. Players are then released for the remainder of the day to enjoy the afternoon and evening with friends and family before reuniting for the final round on Friday.
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“We’re going to be having a big Thanksgiving dinner downtown on Friday for everyone, including the seniors and their families,” head coach Kane Wommack said. “(Thursday) we’re going to do a big grab-and-go breakfast for them, and then we’re going to do a little practice so they can take off. Those who are local can go home, and those who can’t either cook for themselves or go to the Coach Houses for Thanksgiving.”
South Alabama (9-2, 6-1 Sun Belt) hosts Old Dominion (3-8, 2-5) Saturday at 11 a.m. at Hancock Whitney Stadium. More than 18 Jaguars players are honored during a Senior Day ceremony prior to the game.
• Observant South Alabama football watchers may notice that when Diego Guajardo steps in for an extra point or field goal, he does so eight yards from the line of scrimmage — instead of seven, which is common at all levels of football.
Wommack said it was very intentional, both in terms of Guajardo’s penchant and to discourage opponents from blocking his kicks. It’s something he first picked up on while he was an assistant at Indiana.
“(Gujardo) doesn’t mind, and from an angle standpoint, the trajectory of the ball, it’s a lot harder to get a block from eight yards than it is from seven,” Wommack said. “That’s based on a study we did a couple of years ago. We did it a few times in Indiana and then carried some of the stuff over here as well. Some are seven and a half, some eight. A yard won’t usually make a difference if you miss or make it.”
This season, Guajardo is 15-16 in field goals and 41-42 in extra points and has yet to block a kick.
• Quarterback Carter Bradley injured his left (non-shooting) shoulder on a touchdown pass in the second quarter at Southern Miss last week, but he wasn’t the only Jaguar to take a hit in the game.
Wide receiver Jalen Wayne tripped while catching Bradley’s 5-yard throw and slid against a concrete sidewall at MM Roberts Stadium. His helmet hit the wall first, but his right knee may have been the worst hit.
“I was trying to get two feet in and fell,” Wayne said. “I thought they had padding on the wall so I’d be ok to slide in. Then as soon as I hit it I found out it was concrete and I hit my knee. I hit my head too, but I had my helmet on so it didn’t hurt that much. But my knee still hurts.”
Wayne — who leads the Jaguars in receptions (53), yards (732) and touchdown catches (8) this season — stayed on all fours for a while before jogging off the field. After a brief visit to the injury tent, he stayed in the game.
Bradley left the lineup briefly later in the quarter but came back in the second half to finish the game without further incident. He threw for 238 yards and three touchdowns and is expected to be in the lineup against Old Dominion on Saturday.
• South Alabama’s safety position group was chaotic early in the Southern Miss game, beginning with Rover Jalen Jordan being out in the first half with a goal suspension carried over from the previous week.
Then, just a few games into the game, Rickey Hyatt – Jordan’s backup – got himself ejected for aiming. CJ Thompson replaced Hyatt and was injured after a tackle.
That kept the Jaguars at nickel safety with freshman Tremel States-Jones on the field, with the game on the line for the first time this season. Regular nickel security yam banks switched to free security and free security Jaden Voisin switched to Rover.
Voisin had the best game of his career, finishing with 17 tackles and one interception. On Monday, he was named Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
“He played really well,” South Alabama safety coach/defensive coordinator Corey Batoon said of Voisin. “I think you saw the anticipation and understanding he has of the system and being able to position himself at the attacking point.
“Die (Interception) was a really fabulous piece. He saw the pullers on the offensive line and committed to the run, he saw the quarterback pulling the ball and he was able to get into that trajectory and make a nice play. I’m just really looking forward to his further development, his acceptance of what we’re trying to do from a program and culture standpoint. I’m very happy with his game.”
South Alabama has played all year without Keith Gallmon, a three-year starter as a free safety who tore a pectoral muscle during preseason camp at the end of the season. Sophomore safety Marvin Martin was seriously injured in training after a collision with a team-mate in late October and remains in rehab after suffering a spinal injury.