WKU Dominates South Alabama to Win 2022 New Orleans Bowl Championship

NEW ORLEANS – Led by its electric offense and dominant defense, WKU defeated South Alabama, 44-23, to win the 2022 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Championship Wednesday night at the iconic Caesars Supderdome.

The Hilltoppers put up 677 yards of total offense on the night, including 522 yards passing. Those 522 yards set a New Orleans Bowl record, marking the best passing display the bowl game has ever seen.

Of those 522 passing yards, 497 belonged to quarterback Austin Reed. That mark set the individual record for passing yards in the New Orleans Bowl and led to him being named the bowl game’s Most Valuable Player. It was also the most passing yards a Hilltopper quarterback has ever thrown for in a bowl game, passing Brandon Daughty who threw for 486 in the 2014 Bahamas Bowl.

Reed’s receivers were dynamic on the night, as Dalvin Smith, Jaylen Hall and Malachi Corley all surpassed 100 yards on the night. It marked the first time three WKU receivers have passed the century mark in a single game since 2017 against Middle Tennessee. Smith and Hall both caught a touchdown a piece while Corley hauled in two scores. Hall’s touchdown reception came on a double pass, with fellow-receiver Smith recording the touchdown pass.

Defensively, the Tops took the Jaguars out of the game early by allowing only three points through the first half. The nation’s leading defense in forced turnovers added two more off of interceptions by Kaleb Oliver and Upton Stout. Oliver’s interception occurred in the end zone to keep the Jags off the scoreboard, and Stout picked off a pass with South Alabama in WKU territory, threatening to score.

Derrick Smith led WKU in tackles with nine in his final game in a Hilltopper uniform. Stout was close behind with eight, and Will Ignont recorded seven takedowns in his WKU finale. The Tops got after the quarterback all game long, recording four sacks between JaQues Evans, Tre Shaw, Dareon Goodrum and Mike Allen.

The bowl victory was WKU’s second in a row and sixth all time. It was also the second year in a row the Hilltoppers defeated a 10-win team from the Sun Belt Conference in a bowl game. The win also gave WKU a 9-5 record overall for the second-consecutive season.