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Gio Lopez leads South Alabama to 59-10 rout of Eastern Michigan in 68 Ventures Bowl

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — Freshman Gio Lopez threw for three touchdowns and ran for another, and South Alabama trounced Eastern Michigan 59-10 in the 68 Ventures Bowl on Saturday night.

Playing on their home field at Hancock Whitney Stadium, the Jaguars (7-6) scored on their first three possessions, led 38-3 at halftime and outgained Eastern Michigan (6-7) 627 yards to 150. It was the first bowl victory for South Alabama, which joined the FBS in 2012 and had lost three previous bowl games.

“A lot of work goes into a moment like this,” South Alabama coach Kane Wommack said. “It goes way beyond just our players this season. … We’ve had a great past, great moments in our present and certainly our best days are ahead of us and that’s really exciting. This is a great moment to build upon and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Lopez split time with Desmond Trotter, who started in place of Carter Bradley, out with a knee injury. Lopez completed 14 of 19 passes for 192 yards and touchdowns of 5 and 42 yards to Jamaal Pritchett and 20 yards to DJ Thomas-Jones, and ran for a 27-yard score. He led the team with 88 yards rushing and was named MVP of the game.

Trotter threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Thomas-Jones and ran for a 3-yard TD. Pritchett caught eight passes for 127 yards in place of All-Sun Belt receiver Caullin Lacy, who transferred to Louisville.

Two-time 1,000-yard rusher La’Damian Webb (turf toe) also missed the game for South Alabama. Sophomore Braylon McReynolds started and totaled 111 scrimmage yards (71 rushing).

South Alabama had the highest scoring total in program history against an FBS opponent. The Jaguars scored 55 points against both Louisiana-Monroe and Southern Miss earlier this season.

South Alabama’s defense held Eastern Michigan to 6 for 20 on third and fourth down, and did not allow the Eagles to surpass 100 total yards until the final six minutes. EMU was also playing without its starting quarterback after Austin Smith entered the transfer portal.

Ike Udengwu started at quarterback for the Eagles, but freshman Cam’Ron McCoy ended up playing most of the game. McCoy completed 12 of 27 passes for 73 yards with two interceptions and rushed for 73 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown with 58 seconds left.

“Congratulations to South Alabama, they were certainly the better team tonight, really in every way,” Eastern Michigan coach Chris Creighton said. “This was gonna be a battle that started with running the ball and defending the run. We knew that they were going to be loading the box and playing a lot of man. They’re 6-0 when they’ve outrushed their opponent and 0-6 when they have not. I think they got us both ways on that.”


South Alabama was the visiting team despite playing on its home field. The Jaguars wore white jerseys and used the visitors’ sideline and locker room. Their fans sat on the visiting side.

Being the home team was no help for the green-clad Eagles, who suffered their second blowout loss in Mobile in three years. Eastern Michigan lost 56-20 to Liberty in the same bowl game two years ago, when it was sponsored by LendingTree.


South Alabama: The Jaguars finished with a winning record for the second straight season, a first for the school in its FBS era.

Eastern Michigan: The Eagles were noncompetitive and finished with a losing record for the first time since the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, when they went 2-4.


This story has been corrected to show that South Alabama’s injured quarterback’s last name is Carter Bradley, not Bailey.

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