Hilltoppers secure final win of season at R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl


Tucker Covey

The Hilltoppers run onto Feix Field ahead of their Homecoming matchup with UNT on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022. WKU lost 40-13.

Jake McMahon

Editor’s Note: This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

WKU Football (9-5) wrapped up their 2022-23 season with a blow-out victory, 44-23, against the South Alabama Jaguars (10-3) in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Caesars Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Graduate transfer quarterback Austin Reed had a dominant performance on the night. Reed accumulated an astounding 497 yards and four touchdowns in the game. The QB had 36 completions and had a quarterback rating of 161.7 in the game.

The Hilltopper receivers were cooking in the contest. Redshirt sophomore Dalvin Smith led the game with 145 yards in the game. Smith had a touchdown reception and a touchdown passing against the Jaguars. 

Graduate transfer Jaylen Hall also had a great game. Hall had 138 yards and a touchdown in the game

Sophomore receiver Malachi Corley also dominated against South Alabama. Corley went for two touchdowns and 114 yards receiving on the night.    

First Quarter

The Hilltoppers came out of the gate fast. Quarterback Reed dropped a 44-yard dime to redshirt-sophomore Dalvin Smith to open up scoring early, 7-0. 

The Hilltopper defense continued the strong start on their side of the ball. WKU forced a South Alabama punt after sophomore linebacker JaQues Evans batted down a pass on third down. 

WKU continued to widen their lead on the next drive. A 42-yard bomb to Dalvin Smith set up Reed’s second touchdown pass of the game to redshirt junior tight end Joey Beljan to make it 14-0 early. 

WKU’s defense kept their strong play alive, forcing a Jaguar three-and-out. However, the Hilltoppers were unable to capitalize on the defensive stand. Back-up kicker Cory Munson shanked his 34-yard field goal attempt to give the ball back to the Jaguars near the end of the first quarter. 

Second Quarter

WKU’s defense began the second quarter in a big way. The Hilltoppers were able to get a fourth down stop to terminate a South Alabama drive. WKU then capitalized on the defensive stand.

Head coach Tyson Helton got tricky on a double pass play as Dalvin Smith found graduate transfer Hall for a 25-yard touchdown pass to widen the WKU lead 21-0. 

WKU’s defense followed up the touchdown by forcing another three-and-out. A 38-yard dart from Reed to Hall set up a 23-yard field goal from junior kicker Munson to make the score 24-0. 

South Alabama responded with their best drive of the night so far. However, WKU redshirt-sophomore corner Kaleb Oliver intercepted the ball to end the Jaguar possession. 

The Hilltoppers drove down the field after the interception but a one handed pick from Jaguar corner Yam Banks gave the ball back to South Alabama at their own 25. South Alabama took advantage of the pick with a 30-yard field goal to make it 24-3 late in the half. 

Nevertheless, WKU responded to the Jaguar field goal with a huge late drive. A one-yard touchdown pass from Reed to Corley on an untimed down capped off the dominant first half 31-3.

The Hilltoppers went off on both sides of the ball for the first thirty minutes. WKU’s offense accumulated a staggering 434 yards compared to the Jaguars’ 170. Reed also had an impressive first half. Reed had 329 yards and three touchdowns in the two quarters. 

Third Quarter

The Jaguars opened up the second half with their best drive of the contest. South Alabama capped off a two minute, 75-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 31-10. 

Following the touchdown, Reed was able to find Corley for a 39-yard wide-open pass, making the game 38-10. South Alabama was looking to respond to the Hilltopper touchdown with a nice drive but redshirt-freshman defensive back Upton Stout gathered his fourth pick of the season, ripping the ball out of the hands of a Jaguar receiver to give the ball right back to WKU. 

The Hilltoppers capitalized on the interception with a 31-yard Munson field goal to make it 41-10. South Alabama answered the Hilltopper touchdown with one of their own. A five-yard shovel pass touchdown that was set up by a 47 yard Jaguar completion to make it 41-17. 


Fourth Quarter

Munson opened up scoring in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard field goal following punts from both teams. The Jaguars responded with their second touchdown of the game on a beautiful 12-yard throw and catch to cut the Hilltopper lead to 20. 

Both offenses slowed down for the final minutes of the game. WKU ended up taking the victory 44-23 against South Alabama. 

“We really wanted to end the season off with a big bowl win,” said Helton. “We talked about having championship mentality in this game and our guys had their draw set and [I’m] just really, really proud of how they played tonight.”

This is the ninth and final win for the Hilltoppers in the 2022-23 season as the year comes to a close.