Austin Reed threw for 497 yards and four touchdowns as Western Kentucky flew past South Alabama 44-23 at the New Orleans Bowl on Wednesday.
Western Kentucky led 31-3 at halftime thanks to its up-tempo offense and cruised to its third bowl victory in the past four years. Dalvin Smith caught six passes for 145 yards and a touchdown and threw a 25-yard touchdown pass for the Hilltoppers (9-5).
Malachi Corley had 11 catches for 114 yards and two touchdowns for Western Kentucky, and Jaylen Hall added nine receptions for 138 yards and a score. Reed completed 36 of 55 passes and was intercepted once.
Carter Bradley finished 36 of 53 for 360 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions as South Alabama (10-3) failed to earn the program’s first bowl victory. The teams combined for 1,098 total yards, 677 by Western Kentucky.
The Hilltoppers scored 1:49 into the game when a wide-open Smith hauled in a 44-yard touchdown to conclude the opening drive. They went 80 yards in just 1:36 on their next possession, when Reed connected with Joey Beljan for a 27-yard score to make it 14-0.
Early in the second quarter, the Hilltoppers struck again using a double pass. Reed tossed the ball to Smith, who flicked it down the right sideline to Hall to make it 21-0. Cory Munson chipped in a 23-yard field goal with 9:32 remaining before halftime.
South Alabama had a shot at the end zone for the first time on its fifth drive, but Kaleb Oliver intercepted a wobbly pass by Bradley. The Jaguars’ Yam Banks struck back with a leaping, one-handed interception of Reed in the end zone minutes later.
Diego Guajardo’s 30-yard field goal got the Jaguars on the board with 1:38 before halftime, but Reed guided the Hilltoppers to the doorstep again. The Jaguars nearly kept them out of the end zone, but penalties on the defense allowed for an untimed down, and Reed shoveled a pass to Corley on a jet motion play for a 1-yard touchdown.
Reed had compiled 329 passing yards and three touchdowns by halftime.
South Alabama engineered its first touchdown drive to start the second half, with DJ Thomas-Jones catching a 10-yarder to make it 31-10.
Western Kentucky needed just 1:38 to score its final touchdown, however. Corley danced into the end zone on a wide-open 39-yard catch late in the third quarter.
The Hilltoppers were held to two 31-yard field goals the rest of the way. For South Alabama, running back La’Damian Webb caught a 5-yard TD pass late in the third and Devin Voisin (11 catches, 153 yards) grabbed an over-the-shoulder, 12-yard score with 6:01 to play.
–Field Level Media