For a time we wondered if Larry Blakeney would become Bobby Bowden, losing an ugly public power struggle to close out an otherwise legendary career. We'll have to wonder what the conversation sounded like behind the scenes, but out front it was all peace and quiet when he called it quits Monday.
Blakeney announced his retirement and treated the local press to a barrage of war stories worthy of General Petraeus (okay, maybe they weren't that good) without a disparaging word about anybody. It's all over now but the shoutin' and, oh yea, the last seven games of the season. The Official Larry Blakeney Farewell Tour 2014 begins with a home date against New Mexico State.
Start Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV: What's the difference between the internet and TV these days anyway? Strap that laptop to the big screen and enjoy.
Records: Troy (0-5, 0-1 Sun Belt). NMSU (2-4, 1-1).
Live Stats: Yep.
Betting Odds: Troy -6.5. No, that's not a typo. Total of 63.5.
Troy Outlook: Vegas says good, so let's roll with it. Troy actually opened as a 7.5-point favorite and the line crept down a bit over the week. I don't really understand it. NMSU has two wins, one over Georgia State, who beat Abilene Christian, who beat Troy (you know, the transitive property of football). Troy has no wins. That said, they build massive structures with gambling debts in Sin City and they're pretty good at calling these things.
The line came out before Blakeney came out so that wasn't a factor. Still, I see his impending exit as a big boost to the team. Football is an emotional sport and the emotions in that locker room just launched into the stratosphere. The players want to win for their coach. The coach wants to go out a winner.
The biggest factor in Troy's favor is quarterback Brandon Silvers. The freshman is completing 67 percent of his passes with 7.4 yards per attempt, boasts four passing touchdowns against zero interceptions, a 141.2 passer rating and he's run for three touchdowns just for the hell of it. If anybody's going to turn the season around, it's Silvers.
If a friend asks about Troy's running game, change the subject back to Silvers. The team has 488 yards... for the entire year. Some programs rush for more in a single game. Longest run of the year? 18 yards. The rusher? Brandon Silvers.
Troy fans, I leave you with this inspirational quote from New Mexico-filmed The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: When you have to shoot, shoot.
Oh, Troy also has a defense. It's ranked 108th nationally. Have I mentioned Brandon Silvers?
The Opponent: New Mexico State is a pass-happy team that's looked pretty good at times. They hung 34 on Georgia State, 35 on UTEP and 28 on Georgia Southern last week. Sophomore quarterback Tyler Rogers already claims 1,471 yards through the air, good for 6.2 yards per attempt and 9 touchdowns. He's also run for two scores on the ground with 113 rushing yards overall.
The problem is Rogers does a great Brett Favre impression. He's got 11 interceptions so far. Any more picks and you'll see him in a Wrangler commercial. If Rogers hadn't given three INTs to Southern last week the Aggies might have sprung the upset.
On the ground, NMSU employs the "running back by committee" gambit as Larry Rose III, Brandon Betancourt and Xavier Hall split carries pretty much evenly. They've run for eight touchdowns as a unit, though none average more than five yards a carry. Teldrick Morgan is the most dangerous receiver with four touchdowns.
Defensively, the Aggies rank 95th overall. They give up 6.37 yards per play and 446 yards per game including 327 on the ground. Opposing offenses are averaging more than 40 points against them. "Paging Mr. Silvers. Are you there, Mr. Silvers?"
Prediction: It's Troy Troy Troy this week. Blakeney is leaving, it's homecoming, the bookies like them, Silvers is hot, the weather is hot and NMSU churns out more turnovers than a Pillsbury factory. The Trojans finally get the "W" this week, 35-21.
Message board watch: Talk of who will be the next Troy coach started long before Monday and will remain the biggest topic on campus until at least Dec. 1. Personally, I say up-and-comer yes, retread no.
Everyone's got their favorite, but there's one candidate lurking on the Troy message boards no one's mentioned. This could be the magic man.
You never know.
Speaking of that avatar: Troy Athletic Director John Hartwell will appear on the Worldwide Leader this weekend.
Outside the Lines airs Sunday, 7:30 a.m. on ESPN2. The topic is alcohol at college sporting events. Here's a preview if you're interested.
After watching, the tone sounds a little dark to me. If your team was 0-5 you'd drink too. Hey, it worked for SMU.