It was an ugly afternoon for the Troy faithful who attended Saturday's homecoming game against the Idaho Vandals. For those there, we expected to see a Troy team determined to beat an inferior opponent as the Trojans started what would hopefully become a turnaround.
Instead, Trojan fans saw no signs of life from the team for three full quarters as they faced off against an Idaho Vandals team that has become a laughingstock to some this year.
But things quickly turned around for those who were in attendance, as the Troy coaching staff replaced Saturday's starting quarterback Dontreal Pruitt with Dallas Tidwell as the third quarter came to an end.
Tidwell provided the spark that the Trojans so desperately needed. Down 16-3, the Trojans moved the ball down the field to set up a Jed Solomon field goal in the early seconds of the fourth quarter. Tidwell then led the offense down the field again, this time finding wide receiver Teddy Ruben for a 43 yards touchdown strike.
On Troy's next possession, Tidwell once again led the Trojans down the field on the way to a 34-yard Jed Solomon kick that completed the comeback, knotting things up at 16. Idaho would then regain confidence on offense as they answered back with a field goal of their own to reclaim the lead.
Then things got good.
Troy went on an incredible drive, one that involved quarterback scrambles, crazy catches, and huge fourth down conversions. Veterans Memorial Stadium was rocking, and the Trojans looked to have all the momentum.
After moving the ball into the red zone, the offense stalled out and was forced to once again send out kicker Jed Solomon, who had been exceptional all game long.
Unfortunately for Troy fans, he was as far from exceptional as one can be in that moment. Solomon's kick smacked straight into the upright, and the game ended shortly after as Idaho delivered one last gut-wrenching blow to Trojan fans with a quarterback kneel.
Players on the Idaho sideline erupted as they finished off the road victory, while Troy fans came to the painful realization that the season may have ended with the conference loss to Idaho.
Dallas Tidwell: With Brandon Silvers ruled out with an injury and quarterback Dontreal Pruitt struggling, senior quarterback Dallas Tidwell stepped up in a big way. He put the Trojans in a position to score with every drive that he led. Tidwell finished with 168 yards and a touchdown. With the poise he showed in the pocket and the precision with which he threw the ball, I would not be at all surprised if he was given a chance to start in the near future.
Turnovers: For the third consecutive game, the Troy Trojans shot themselves in the foot with turnover-after-turnover. The Trojans totaled four turnovers on the afternoon while the Vandals did not have a single giveaway. Troy flew down the field to open the second half, only to cough the ball up on a fumble at the two-yard line.
That fumble, among the four other turnovers, is largely the reason why Troy was forced to fight back late in the game. If the Trojans can't get this issue worked out soon, it's going to be an ugly rest of the year.
Mixing it up: In my preview of Saturday's game, I said that mixing up the playcalling against the Troy defense would be critical to any success Idaho was to have. The coaching staff did just that, as the Vandals hit the Trojans with a healthy mix of both the run and pass. The team finished with 123 yards on the ground along with 207 yards through the air.
Dezmon Epps: Idaho wide receiver Dezmon Epps was a game changer for the Vandals. The senior put up a career performance, hauling in 10 passes for 131 of Idaho's 207 passing yards. Troy's defense had no answer, as Epps seemed to get open at will.
Troy drops to 1-5 on the year, and will travel to New Mexico State next week. Idaho improves to 2-4, and will return home to take on ULM next Saturday.