The 2015 Troy Trojans had their work cut out for them before the season even kicked off. With a legendary head coach stepping down after a 3-9 campaign and the youngest head coach in college football taking over, it was unfair for anyone to expect a big season out of this year's Trojans.
The season started off almost as badly as possible. The team had to visit three Power Five schools (North Carolina State, Wisconsin, Mississippi State) in its first five weeks of play, with all three games going as you would expect. Sandwiched in with those three opponents was an easy game against FCS Charleston Southern and an absolutely brutal rivalry loss at home against the South Alabama Jaguars.
So, through five games the Trojans sat at 1-4, and much of the fanbase had checked out. The Trojans followed that up with a home loss to the mighty Idaho Vandals, and the team had officially hit rock bottom in the eyes of the fans.
But then, everything changed. Led by their passionate, energetic head coach, the Troy Trojans put up offensive numbers like we had not seen all season and the defense started to settle down and limit opposing offenses. The team would go on the road and obliterate the New Mexico State Aggies by a final of 52-7, visit Appalachian State and take the then Sunbelt-leading Mountaineers to triple overtime, and win in blowout fashion over the ULM Warhawks to cap off a three-game stretch that caught the attention of many in the Sunbelt conference.
Just as things were looking up, the Eagles of Georgia Southern came to town. After the Trojans took a 10-0 lead to open the game, Georgia Southern scored 45 unanswered points to eliminate the Trojans from bowl contention. Troy would then fall on the road to Georgia State to set up a season-ending matchup with the ULL Ragin' Cajuns.
This is where the point made in my title finally comes into play. Heading into the final game of the year for both teams, this was a matchup that was overlooked, and rightfully so. With Troy sitting at 3-8 and ULL not much better at 4-7, there were not many reasons for the casual fan to watch this game.
But one storyline was significantly overlooked, and that was Troy having the chance to actually improve their record in Neal Brown's first year as head coach.
As I previously mentioned, the Trojans finished 3-9 in Larry Blakeney's final year at Troy. Should Troy have fallen to ULL, the team would have finished with the exact same record. While this year's team showed us many, many more positive signs, it takes a bit of excitement out of a rebuild if the team does not even improve by a single game in the new coach's first season, and leaves fans feeling like the rebuilding process has not actually begun.
But the Trojans were able to blowout ULL by a final of 41-17 and improve over last year's record by a single game. While a 4-8 record is nothing special, it signals the start of a new era, one that has fans fairly optimistic. It shows that the team has improved and that things are only going up from here. The 2015 Trojans showed tremendous potential, and it will be exciting to see where Neal Brown takes the team from here.