ESPN was back in town and Troy was hoping to put on a show in front of a national audience. With the return of star running back Jordan Chunn and the offense coming off consecutive 30-plus point performances, we thought Troy could possibly drop the hammer on Thursday night.
Not so fast, my friends.
Troy had to squeak out a 24-21 victory over a pesky Idaho team on Thursday night. This was a game that just got flat out wacky in the second half and the Fun Belt may be giving the Pac-12 a run for its money during late night action.
The game started off poorly for the Troy offense as Brandon Silvers coughed the ball up on the Trojans’ second and third possessions. After a short punt, Aikeem Coleman came up with a sack fumble that would lead to an Idaho touchdown and the first points of the night. The next possession, Troy would put together an impressive 11-play, 66-yard drive that would end with Silvers throwing an interception inside the Idaho five. Just like that, Troy found themselves in a grind it out football game against a feisty Idaho squad.
For the night, Silvers finished 20 of 30 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The senior bounced back after a horrible start as the Trojans outgained the Vandals, 395-378.
The return of Jordan Chunn to the lineup had to be a beautiful sight to all Troy fans as the senior looked like his old self. The big tailback finished the night with 113 yards on 18 carries and he proved once again he is the best running back in the Sun Belt.
After Idaho cut the lead to three with 8:55 left, Troy would put together one of their most impressive drives of the season as they went 75 yards in 10 plays for the game winning score. The biggest play on this drive happened on a second-and-20 when Troy decided to dial up a deep shot. Silvers connected with Damion Willis for a 47-yard gain that put the Trojans in the red zone.
Troy would need some help later in the drive as they had to settle for a a 29-yard field goal. However, Idaho ran into the kicker that setup a fourth-and-inches. Neal Brown decided to roll the dice and picked up a first down on a quarterback sneak. On the next play, Jordan Chunn ran in untouched from seven yards out.
If you’re an Idaho fan, you have to be proud of the effort the football team put up tonight. The Vandals fought for 60 minutes and just came up a bit short against a talented Troy squad. Matt Linehan led the team as the senior quarterback completed 23 of 34 passes for 282 yards with two touchdowns. On the final drive, Linehan was trying to make a play as he was sacked outside the pocket. It appeared that Linehan suffered an arm injury and was taken to the locker room before the end of the game. If Linehan is out, this team could go south quickly as they currently stand at 3-6 with three games left on the slate.
Aaron Duckworth was moderately successful against a very strong Troy run defense as the Sun Belt’s leading rusher picked up 64 yards on 13 carries. Alfonso Onunwor was the man for the Idaho passing attack tonight as he finished with nine receptions for 111 yards and two touchdowns.
One of the craziest moments of the night occurred on Idaho’s first two punts as the Vandal special teams unit was having some snapping issues. Punter Cade Coffey made spectacular plays on both attempts and you have to respect the punter for making something out of nothing.
Paul Petrino is attempting to get crafty with his offense as starting linebacker Kaden Elliss played multiple snaps at tight end tonight. The highlight of these plays came in the third quarter when Linehan connected with Elliss on a seam route for a gain on 44 yards. Idaho would later score a touchdown on that drive and Elliss is becoming a real option as a receiving threat.
Moving forward for Idaho, this was a brutal loss as again they came up just short of an upset win. The Vandals have played Western Michigan, Appalachian State, and Troy all tough in each outing but they just can’t get over the hump. However, the last three games are very winnable for the Vandals and they could sneak their way back in the bowl picture as long as Linehan is healthy.
Troy again leaned on their defense for a win and they cashed in. Until the fourth quarter, the Trojans had their way with this Idaho offense as they were able to stop the run and get to Linehan with their pass rush. The special teams play has been much improved ever since Tyler Sumpter took over the kicking duties and the Trojans were able to survive a negative-two turnover margin for the game.
It was good to get Jordan Chunn going, but the bad start held back the offense. The Trojans will be heavy favorites in games against Coastal Carolina and Texas State before they head on the road to take one Arkansas State in the season finale.