TROY, Alabama – Troy heads to a Death Valley for the second straight season looking to make a statement that will be heard across the college football landscape.
Troy (3-1) travels to No. 22 LSU (3-1) for its final non-conference game of the season on Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU. The Troy Sports Radio Network will have full coverage beginning at 4 p.m.
The Trojans went to the other Death Valley in week two last season and put a scare into the eventual national champions. Trailing 13-10 early in the fourth quarter, a critical decision from the officials turned a Troy lead into a 10-point deficit after a missed call on a forced fumble; Clemson would go on to escape with a 30-24 victory.
Coming of a thrilling 22-17 victory over Terry Bowden’s Akron team last week, Troy makes the trip to Red Stick riding a three-game winning streak despite not putting together a complete effort in all three phases of the game.
“I don't think we're playing anywhere close to our potential,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said. “I don't think we've played our best football in any phase and our attention to detail is lacking. We need to play more consistent and pay more attention to detail. We're either going to do that or LSU is going to do it for us. We're getting ready to go down and play one of the top teams in the country.”
Troy’s defense, especially against the run, has put up some of the best numbers in the country through four games. The Trojans have held three straight opponents under 100 yards rushing and rank 14th nationally allowing 95.5 yards per game on the ground.
Producing stops behind the line of scrimmage has been a staple of Vic Koenning coached defenses, and Troy is averaging more than seven per game led by 3.5 from Sam Lebbie and 2.5 by Tron Folsom.
Offensively, Troy is averaging 526.7 yards over its last three games; however, the Trojans have not been able to translate those yards into many points as they are averaging 27.7 points per game over that same period.
The Trojans are balanced on offense with only 26 more passing attempts (6.5 per game) than rushing attempts. Leading the running attack are senior Jordan Chunn and sophomore Jamarius Henderson, who have combined for eight rushing touchdowns this season, which is more than 86 teams.
Brandon Silvers is among the nation’s leaders in passing yards (27th), completion percentage (28th) and total offense (36th). The senior quarterback is averaging 271 yards per game through the air and has completed 66.2 percent of his attempts. His favorite target the past two weeks has been junior Deondre Douglas who has caught 14 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown in those games.
LSU opened the season with convincing wins over BYU and Chattanooga before slipping in its SEC opener at Mississippi State; the Tigers bounced back to beat Syracuse, 35-26, last weekend.
Star running back Derrius Guice is listed as questionable heading into Saturday’s game after rushing just eight times for 14 yards against Syracuse. The Tigers are expected to use multiple quarterbacks against the Trojans led by Danny Etling, who is averaging 180.8 yards per game with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
“We have to stop their running game and we have to at least limit their big plays,” Brown said. “We can't give up big balls over our heads and offensively we've got to hold on to the football. The speed of the game is going to be so much different than what we've experienced through our first four games. Our guys are going to get hit from the side and from behind more than we've been hit any time this year. We've got to generate ways to run it. If they can pin their ears back and rush the passer, we're going to struggle.”
This will be the third meeting between the two schools and Troy has led in the fourth quarter in both of the previous two games. The Trojans led 31-3 in the final minutes of the third quarter in 2008 only to see LSU score 37 unanswered points to win 40-31. In 2004, Troy took a 20-17 lead with 3:59 to play in the game, but LSU scored less than two minutes later to escape with a 24-20 victory.
• The Trojans are 16-0 when leading after three quarters and 12-0 when rushing for over 150 yards in the Neal Brown era.
• Jordan Chunn is seven rushing touchdowns shy of setting the Sun Belt Conference career record held by UL Lafayette’s Tyrell Fenroy (48).
• Troy is 1-20 since moving to the FBS level against ranked foes … The Trojans defeated No. 17 Missouri, 24-14, in 2004. The Trojans have had plenty of close calls – No. 2 Clemson (30-24, 2016), No. 14 Arkansas (38-28, 2011), No. 19 LSU (40-31, 2008), No. 10 Georgia (44-34, 2007), No. 9 Florida State (24-17, 2006) and No. 17 LSU (20-24, 2004)