For the third week in a row, the Troy Trojans (5-1, 3-0) jumped out to an early lead and then cruised to a victory to remain undefeated in the Sun Belt. This time it was the Georgia State Panthers (2-4, 1-1) who couldn’t contain Troy’s offense as they piled up 554 yards with 337 coming on the ground.
Troy’s quarterback, Kaleb Barker set the bar for big plays early. On the first play from scrimmage, he scrambled through the Panthers’ defense and ran 75 yards to the Panthers’ four-yard line before he was caught from behind. This set up B.J. Smith’s first touchdown to give Troy a 7-0 advantage 90 seconds into the game.
It looked like the Panthers would even the score, but Tyler Murray made a bone-jarring hit on the Panthers’ receiver, Cornelius McCoy, and he fumbled the ball on the Troy 12-yard line. Melvin Tyus recovered the fumble, and Troy took advantage of the turnover when Barker connected with Tray Eafford for 50 yards and the Trojans’ second touchdown.
On Troy’s third drive, Barker connected with Damion Willis for 28 yards and then to Deondre Douglas for 12 yards, and Troy was ahead 21-0 early in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, except for the Panthers’ opening drive, Troy’s defense was crushing the Panthers offense, holding them to just 52 yards while Troy had 213 yards in the first quarter.
Troy’s fourth drive looked to be just like the first one when backup quarterback Sawyer Smith ran for 63 yards. Like Barker’s earlier run, he was caught from behind, and the ball was on the Panthers’ five-yard line. But this time the Panthers’ defense stopped Troy on a fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line. On the next play the Panthers’ quarterback, Dan Ellington, was sacked in the end zone by Hunter Reese, and the Trojan defense recorded their first safety of the season.
Georgia State finally got on the scoreboard as the first half ended when Brandon Wright kicked a 32-yard field goal to make the score 23-3 at the mid-point.
Kaleb Barker didn’t start the second half. It was reported that he had an injury and Sawyer Smith finished the game for Troy.
The third quarter was uneventful except for one long drive by Georgia State which resulted in another Wright field goal to make the score 23-6.
It looked like Smith was going to get his first touchdown pass, but instead was intercepted by Tyler Gore at the Panthers’ one-yard line. But Georgia State didn’t hold onto the ball long when K.J. Robertson knocked it loose from Seth Paige and Marcus Jones recovered it for Troy.
Troy capitalized on the turnover when Smith connected with Damion Willis for 41 yards and Troy pulled ahead 30-6.
This time the Panthers answered. First with a 66-yard pass to their leading receiver, Penny Hart, and then a one-yard TD by Tra Barnett. The two-point conversion failed, and the score was 30-12 with a little over six minutes left in the game.
Georgia State wasn’t giving up, but Troy put the game out of reach (37-12) when B.J. Smith broke loose again; this time for 78 yards and his second TD of the game.
The Panthers scored one more TD on a deep pass to Christian Owens. The two-point conversion was good to make the final score 37-20. The Panthers’ onside kick failed, and Troy was able to run out the clock.
Troy won this game on explosive plays. B.J. Smith rushed for 140 yards, while quarterbacks Kaleb Barker and Sawyer Smith ran for 111 and 63 yards and threw for 136 and 81 yards respectively. Each quarterback also had a long touchdown pass for the highlight reel.
Georgia State’s defense couldn’t contain the Trojans.
Troy has a five-game winning streak since dropping the first game to #22 Boise State. They are in good shape for another Sun Belt Championship, but the November 24th game with Appalachian State looks like it will decide who plays in the championship game.
Georgia State still has a chance to win the East Division, but they’ll need some help from the rest of the conference. With both Troy and Appalachian State playing like they are, it’s unlikely Georgia State will be in the mix.