The numbers tell the story for the South Alabama offense early in the 2022 season.
The Jaguars are 15th in the country in pass offense, 20th in total offense and 32nd in scoring offense. They are holding the football for more than 36 minutes per game, which is the sixth best in the country. Quarterback Carter Bradley, running back La'Damian Webb and wide receiver Jalen Wayne each have categories they rank in the top 10.
"It's one of those deals where you're just pleased for the players themselves to see them have their success because they're executing," said South Alabama offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. "It's continuing to believe and buy into the details and things that we're teaching each and every day. And we need to continue to improve our teaching and play calling and continue to put our guys in good situations."
Saturday, the Jaguars will play on their biggest stage thus far. South Alabama (2-0) takes on a UCLA team that will also give the Jaguars' offense their biggest challenge. UCLA is in the national top 25 in total defense (13th), rush defense (ninth), passing efficiency defense (23rd), red zone defense (fourth) and scoring defense (24th).
The Bruins average 7.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks per game. Linebacker Laiatu Latu and defensive end Grayson Murphy have two sacks each.
"When you look at their defense, they have some guys up front who are very 'twitchy' in terms of their pass rush," said South Alabama head coach Kane Wommack. "We have to win our one-on-one matchups. We have to be smart about putting ourselves in position to protect Carter so that we can do some of the dynamic things that we do in the passing game."
Bradley could garner some national attention with a big game on Saturday. The transfer from Toledo has quietly – at least from a national perspective – started the season with success. Through two games, the 6-foot-3, 216-pound senior from Jacksonville, Fla., is 43 of 67 for 614 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. He's thrown three touchdowns in each of the first two weeks.
"I was very impressed with (Bradley) and the steps he took forward from game one to game two," Wommack said earlier this week. "I thought he was more in sync with what we were trying to accomplish with our game plan. He did a really good job of managing our offense and also took advantage of some opportunities that they gave him to showcase his talent, which is quite vast."
Bradley pointed in a different direction to explain the success.
"(Applewhite is) up here from sunrise to sunset and sometimes even past that," Bradley said. "He does a great job of getting the quarterback room ready with the guys around us. He sets the tone for the week on what we need to do. He does an unbelievable job of getting us ready for the game."
Webb, a 5-foot-7, 208-pound junior, is another important piece of the offense. He was Alabama's first Mr. Football underclassman as a junior when he led Beauregard High to a state championship while rushing for 3,242 yards and 47 touchdowns. He began his college career at Florida State before transferring to Jones (Miss.) Community College. In his lone junior college season, he rushed for 1,399 yards and 14 touchdowns in 10 games. This season, he has 189 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
"We are getting more and more comfortable with each other each week as we go on," Webb said. "Our offensive line is doing a great job, Carter keeps making the right calls, and Coach Applewhite keeps putting us in situations to win."
On Saturday, they have the opportunity to show that to the nation.
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