Photo | Mike Kittrell
There’s always something special about Senior Day for football teams, usually held during the team’s final home game. That’s the case Friday afternoon when South Alabama plays its final regular-season game of the year against Sun Belt Conference opponent Coastal Carolina.
Kickoff for the game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Hancock Whitney Stadium.
But this particular Senior Day has a lot more riding on it than some others; if the Jaguars defeat Coastal Carolina — they enter the game as a 15-point favorite — they will become bowl eligible. That has been one of the team’s goals since the start of the season and it’s still within grasp.
With last Saturday’s 60-14 loss at Tennessee, South Alabama is 5-6 overall on the season. They also bring a 2-5 Sun Belt Conference record into the game. Coastal Carolina is 9-2 overall and 5-2 in league play.
“Here’s the thing, as you get to the end of the season you start reflecting on, what are the things that we did well, what are the things we have to do moving forward? We’re really fortunate to go into this last game and be able to compete and be able to go after a bowl opportunity,” South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack said. “… It’s really special to be able to do that at the end of the season and when you have something like that to play for you’re able to bounce back [from a tough loss].
“These guys are so hungry for the opportunity. There’s two guys in this room who have been part of a bowl game opportunity at South Alabama and that’s myself and Chris Henderson as a true freshman here that I recruited six years ago [when Wommack was defensive coordinator on Joey Jones’ staff]. So it’s a special opportunity. So it’s about us. The future is really bright and exciting, but this one’s about us right now.”
Coastal Carolina is expected to be led by quarterback Grayson McCall, who returned to action last week after missing some time with an injury. South Alabama knows what that situation is like. Starting quarterback Jake Bentley was injured on the first offensive possession against Troy and has a torn MCL. His availability for Friday’s game is doubtful.
“You can see what’s on film,” Wommack said of McCall and the Coastal offense. “Obviously, he played last game and threw a bunch of touchdowns. … He can do so much even on third downs and converting the third down with his feet and extending plays with his feet or throwing it. That’s where he’s been so dynamic, in being able to create things with his feet and in the passing game.”
Wommack said it’s not accurate to say all of South Alabama’s eggs are in one basket for this game.
“Would it be great to get this team to a bowl game in Year 1? Absolutely,” he said. “But I’ve said from the beginning, we’re process-oriented and we really have been that way during the season, and I love some of the things that I’ve seen from this program in Year 1. Even the demeanor on our sideline. We didn’t play to our standard [against Tennessee] and I know that team outplayed us and on paper and on the field they were better than us. But at the same time, not to be able to go execute to our standard, that doesn’t negate all the things that we have accomplished to this point and the things that we have created.
“The good thing is we’ll be healthier than we have been [for the Coastal Carolina game] than we have been for about five weeks and that’s great. We need that shot in the arm a little bit. But for us, seeing us play hard, clean football and operating at a high level, the outcome is going to be what it is.”
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