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It’s not uncommon for college football teams to deal with illness this time of the year. However, South Alabama took it to the extreme last Saturday.

South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack explained what his team was facing heading into a critical Sun Belt Conference road trip to Georgia Southern.

“I thought our team handled and dealt with a lot of adversity,” Wommack said. “You look at the week of preparation, and I thought our guys did a great job of handling the unknowns of who's going to be out with us having 31 guys out [throughout the week] with the flu, including 17 of our 22 offensive/defensive starters.”

Running back La’Damian Webb was sick. Safety Yam Banks was so sick that the team left without him on Friday.

“On Friday, I wanted to play regardless,” Banks said. “I just took my medicine and then waited until the morning. I got a lot of rest and made sure I had fluids."

Wommack didn’t sound as certain that his standout safety, who is one of the best at his position in the Sun Belt Conference, would be available.

"There were constant conversations about how he was feeling, hourly check-ins, talks with the doctors, talks with Chad Stefano, our head athletic trainer, and his staff on a number of guys,” Wommack said. “You're also worried about who you are going to have available when you wake up Saturday morning. Fortunately, we were able to navigate through that.”

In Banks’ case, he hopped on a plane on Saturday morning and headed to Statesboro, Georgia.

“Yam had felt okay as he went through the day Friday, so we booked him a flight,” Wommack said. “We also had a backup plan in place to drive him over if need be. We basically had it planned down to about 30 minutes prior to kick if needed.”

Not only did Banks play, the 6-foot-1, 208-pound sophomore also had a big hand in the Jaguars’ 38-31 win in Statesboro. He had two tackles and came up with one of the biggest defensive plays of the game early in the second half. Georgia Southern had a 24-17 possession at the Jaguars' 15-yard line following a muffed punt. However, Banks ended the threat in one play with an interception in the end zone.

“It was pretty impressive to watch Yam go in the game knowing that he wasn't feeling at his best and be able to play every snap,” Banks said. “He had a huge takeaway and did some other good things as well.”

It didn’t take special arrangements to get Webb to the game, but he was perhaps more impressive.

“You can also point to [Webb’s] ability to rush for 247 yards on the back end of the flu and that's pretty impressive in itself,” Wommack said. “I'm not sure I could have done that healthy."

Despite not being full strength, Webb had a school-record 35 carries. In the fourth quarter, alone, he had 15 carries. South Alabama scored an unanswered 14 points in the final quarter to pull out the win. He had five carries, including a 5-yard touchdown run, on the fourth-quarter drive that tied the game at 31. He had six carries, including a 9-yard touchdown run, that gave his team a 38-31 lead. He had four carries on the drive that ran out the final 4:17 on the clock.

It was an impressive effort.

“He's competitive and has a competitive pride about him,” said South Alabama offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. “He understands the flow of the game, knew he was seeing things well and was in that zone, so to speak. He was taking care of the ball, seeing things the right way and feeling the flow of the game. When you have someone like that in that kind of rhythm, you just let them go."

To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email steve.irvine@1819news.com.

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