Trojans Return Attention to Sun Belt Conference Play

By: Matt Harris Email
By: Matt Harris Email

*From Troy Media Relations*

TROY, Ala. – After taking No. 23 Mississippi State to wire last week, the Troy Trojans regrouped this week with the task of returning to Sun Belt Conference action Saturday night at North Texas. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:04 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN3.

The Trojans gashed the Bulldogs, who entered the game with the 11st rated defense in the NCAA, for 572 yards on the night. It was the second most yards gained against a Dan Mullen coached team and the second most yards gained against a Southeastern Conference school this season; the other was Texas at Ole Miss last week.

What hurt Troy’s chance to pull off the upset was Troy. The Trojans committed four turnovers on four straight possessions in the first half that led to 20 of Mississippi State’s 30 points on the night. The Bulldogs final seven points came with the visitors leading by just two, 23-21, in the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-5, Tyler Russell found Chad Bumphis in the back of the end zone for what was ruled a touchdown on a controversial play.

Fast forward to this week and the Trojans (1-2, 0-1 Sun Belt) have a test against a team who has already faced some of the best the country has to offer in No. 2 LSU and No. 13 Kansas State. North Texas (1-2, 0-0) hung with the Wildcats through three and a half quarters before Kansas State built a 22-point lead in the fourth quarter last week.

Troy head coach Larry Blakeney addressed what it would take for the Trojans to go into Apogee Stadium and come out with a win on Saturday during his weekly press luncheon on Monday.

“If I could have two or three things, it would be no turnovers, well under 50 yards in penalties, and to outkick them. If we can get those three things, we'll have a chance to win. Anything less than that gives them more opportunities, and they don't need more opportunities because they are good.”

The Trojans enter their first Sun Belt road test of the season loaded with an offense full of confidence. Troy ranks 14th in the country averaging 537.7 yards per game and eighth averaging 356.0 yards per game through the air. The Trojans also have the Sun Belt Conference’s leading passer in Corey Robinson (330.7) and rusher in Shawn Southward (124.7).

“It should be good, but if you take it the wrong way and go to Denton, Texas, and think they are going to waller up for you, then you got the wrong idea,” Blakeney said about the offense’s confidence. “We're going to have to execute, play fast, we got to be able to run it and throw it against these guys to keep them off balance. If we do that and don't turn the ball over, we will score points, hopefully enough to win the game. The confidence level on the offense is pretty high, but that can be changed or shattered in one outing.”

A big key to Troy’s success on offense has been the play of the offensive line. The Trojan big men have allowed just one sack this season in an astonishing 145 pass attempts. Only five teams in the country have not allowed a sack this season and only one (Oklahoma State, 134) has attempted more than 90 passes.

On the other side of the ball the Trojans have plenty to build on as the season progresses. The Troy defense has forced opponents into a three-and-out almost 30 percent of the time and the Trojans are tied for 37th in the country allowing opponents touchdowns only 50 percent of the time in the red zone.

The Trojans have held their last two opponents, Louisiana-Lafayette and Mississippi State, without a third-down conversion from four to nine yards (0-for-12).

The Mean Green have established a solid running game early in the season and enter this weekend’s matchup third in the Sun Belt averaging 191.0 yards per game on the ground. However, the air attack has struggled to take flight netting just 165.3 yards per game.

Quarterback Derek Thompson bounced back from a rough first two games of the season to complete 25-of-28 pass attempts for 208 yards last week at Kansas State. Antoinne Jimmerson (76.7) and Brandin Byrd (69.0) share the bulk of the carries for the Mean Green.

Defensively North Texas is 37th in the NCAA against the pass having allowed just 192.0 yards per game this season, but played two predominantly run orientated offenses in LSU and Kansas State.

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