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Troy defeats South Alabama 38-17 and takes back the Belt

What a difference 10 days makes.

Troy v Nebraska Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images

Troy’s offense raced out to an early lead and never looked book, winning back the Belt from the Jaguars 38-17. Troy capitalized on big plays, while South Alabama played it slow and steady.

The Trojans opened the scoring with a quick two-minute touchdown drive, set up by a Sawyer Smith to Damion Willis bomb to get in USA territory. A Smith toss to Deondre Douglas opened the scoring at 6-0 after a failed two-point conversion.

A quick 3-and-out from the Jaguars was followed by a more methodical 11 play drive to set up a field goal, and Troy took a 9-0 lead before the Jaguars responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Evan Orth, who was under duress all night, completed passes of 38 yards and a TD strike to Jordan McCray of 16 yards to close the gap 9-7.

However, allowing big plays haunted the Jaguars all night as Smith once again hooked up with Damion Willis on back to back plays, covering 74 yards for a touchdown and extending the lead to 16-7. Troy was able to extend the lead 23-7 to open the 2nd quarter, as BJ Smith snuck his way around and through the Jaguar defense for a 36 yard TD run.

The offensive action continued at a furious pace as USA would take on a field goal and touchdown, while Troy would add a touchdown before the half to make it 31-17 with 3:28 to go in the half.

The end of the first half can be described at best as comical, and at worst as a coach’s nightmare. The Trojans drove into Jaguar territory late in the 2nd quarter with the ability to extend the lead. An ill-advised Smith throw on a deep dig led to an interception, but USA’s return was nullified by a targeting penalty. The Jaguars were unable to move the ball, electing to punt with 13 seconds left, only to see their errant punt bounce off a Troy player and recovered by the Jags with 3 seconds remaining. This marks the second time in as many games that Troy special team’s has given a turnover.

With three seconds left and at the end of FG range, South Alabama elected to toss to the end zone, only to see Cedarius Rookard return the ball 60 yards before being stopped in USA territory and sending the game to half time.

The second half was a series of missed opportunities for the Jags, as the defense finally showed up to slow down the Troy offense. Interceptions, poorly timed sacks, and missed field goals saw any chance of a comeback bid fade, before Sawyer Smith powered in the game-sealing TD with just over 4 minutes left to take a commanding 38-17 lead.

Thoughts & Notes

South Alabama’s offensive line needs a chewing out after this one. Evan Orth was harassed from the opening whistle on, as nearly every drop back resulted in him on the ground. He was visibly frustrated with the pressures, but hung in to deliver strike-after-strike to his receivers. He finished the night with an ugly stat line, but it doesn’t do justice to the quality he played with. It helps to have some large receivers to throw to, and they have plenty of size on the outside. The young group of Jamarius Way, Jordan McCray, Jalen Tolbert, Malik Stanley, and Kawaan Baker all stand over 6’ and presented match up problems all night.

The Jaguars DL is not very big, but they’re extremely active and none more so than Tyree Turner. Turner finished the game with 3 tackles, 1 for a loss, but was a constant presence in the Troy backfield. Coach Brown said earlier in the week he can’t wait for Turner to graduate, but he will have to deal with him for at least one more season.

On the Troy side, the game plan was pretty simple- get Smith out on runs or throwing deep. Smith was bombing deep on all of his attempts, and running the option with BJ Smith. Smith had himself a game and needs to start being considered on the most dangerous playmakers in the Sun Belt. Averaging over 7 YPC, BJ finished the night with 170 yards and a TD. Damion Willis was a huge contributor as well and finished with 2 TDs of his own, but the loss of Deondre Douglas will be concerning if he’s out for any extended time.

On the Trojan defense- Tron. Folsom. Cedarius. Rookard. These guys were everywhere and THUMPING folks. The pair combined for 22 tackles and kept those methodical Tra Minter 4-yard runs from turning into 20+ yard runs like last week.

Both teams will get long weeks to prepare for their next opponents, as the East co-leading Trojans will face off against Louisiana at home, and the Jaguars travel to Arkansas State in the West.