BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Shawn Southward rushed for a career-high 204 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead Troy past UAB 39-29 in the 2012 season opener for both clubs Saturday at Legion Field.
“I’m really proud of Shawn’s effort today and for his team,” Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. “Our guys didn’t give up when there were some times they could have.”
The Trojans led 25-23 early in the fourth quarter before pulling away with a pair of touchdowns in less than a minute. Following a De’Von Terry interception that gave the Trojans the ball of their own 31-yard line, Corey Robinson hit a pair of big pass plays to put Troy in the end zone at the 6:53 mark.
A 44-yard strike to Chip Reeves pushed the ball to the UAB 25-yard line and then Robinson found B.J. Chitty for his only reception of the day for the touchdown and 32-23 Troy lead.
Freshman Tyler Roberts delivered the knock out blow for the Trojans on UAB’s first play of the ensuing drive as he knocked the ball loose from quarterback Jonathan Perry. Tony Davis fell on the fumble to give Troy possession on the UAB 13-yard line.
A UAB penalty moved the ball to the Blazer 5-yard line and Southward did the rest as he punched in his third touchdown of the day. It was Southward’s sixth multi-touchdown game of his career and just one shy of the school record that he tied back in 2009.
Southward’s 204 rushing yards were the sixth most in a game in Troy history and he moved into fourth place on the Troy career rushing touchdown list with 26.
The Trojans won the turnover battle on the afternoon as they forced four Blazer turnovers and lost just two offensively.
Robinson finished 12-for-21 for 184 yards and two touchdowns on the day, while Reeves grabbed six receptions for 125 yards and a score. The Trojans tallied 262 yards on the ground, which was their highest total since burning Middle Tennessee for 296 in 2009.
The Troy defense set the tone on the opening drive as it stuffed UAB on a fourth-and-1 from the Blazer 45-yard line. Will Scott connected on a 44-yard field goal attempt on the ensuing drive to put the Trojans on the board.
After being stopped on its third drive of the game Troy was forced to punt, but a great bounce on the rugby punt by Scott deflected off a Blazer and was recovered by Jacoby Thomas at the UAB 36-yard line. Troy stuck to the ground from there with seven straight rushing plays that was capped off by a 1-yard touchdown leap by Southward.
Robinson hit a streaking Reeves down the left side for a 55-yard touchdown with 12:08 remaining in the second quarter. Troy and UAB traded turnovers on their next possessions before Jacki Williams caught a 47-yard pass from Perry to jumpstart the following UAB drive.
With just 34 seconds remaining in the second, Perry found Greg Franklin streaking down the middle for a 21-yard touchdown to cut the Trojans lead to 17-7 at the half.
The third quarter began with a UAB onside kick which caught the Troy kick return team off guard. The Blazers capitalized on the Trojans misfortune as Franklin capped a five-play drive with a 9-yard touchdown run, his second score of the game.
“It’s easy to get low when something (third quarter onside kick) happens in a game like that,” Blakeney said. “It worries you sick and sometimes in a football game stuff happens. You can’t fold a tent and go over there and sit down. You’ve got to fight your way back and find a way to respond and maybe make something else happen for your team.”
The Trojans defense held strong on the next Blazers possession, including a sack by Marty Stadom for a loss of 8 yards on third-and-4. A botched snap on the UAB punt attempt led to a Troy safety and a 19-14 lead midway through the third quarter.
The ensuing drive ended with Troy’s second turnover of the game as Southward rushed up the middle for 15 yards before losing the ball at the Troy 20. The Trojans defense held its ground again conceding just 13 yards on six plays before a 27-yard field goal by Ty Long.
Southward kicked off the next Trojan drive with a monster 55-yard rush and wrapped it up with a 7-yard touchdown run, his second of the game, to give Troy a 25-17 lead with 1:22 remaining in the third quarter.
On the next UAB drive, Perry picked his way through the Troy defense helped by two Trojan pass interference penalties. The Blazers advanced to the Troy 1-yard line after a 28-yard completion to Patrick Hearn and closed out the drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak for the score. UAB’s two-point conversion attempt failed and Troy maintained its lead, 25-23.
UAB put the final points on the board as Perry found Lamarcus Nelson streaking through the end zone for a 24-yard score. The 2-point conversion attempt failed.
“I’m proud of the win,” Blakeney said. “I’m proud of the way our guys fought and conducted themselves. Hopefully we can make a jump into a conference opener that we really need to win.”
The Trojans open Sun Belt Conference play next week when Louisiana-Lafayette comes to Veterans Memorial Stadium for Troy’s home opener. The game is scheduled to kickoff at 6 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN3.