Our series on the top five Redemption Games in the Sun Belt rolls on with the Battle for the Belt...
#3 Troy vs. South Alabama
Last year’s score: South Alabama 19, Troy 8
Chance for Redemption comes: October 23 at Troy’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium, 8 p.m. (ESPN2)
Let’s call it a hangover.
Two weeks prior, Troy had fans of G5 programs everywhere clinking glasses—a toast to beating LSU.
But even with an extra week’s preparation, South Alabama effectively smashed the bottle over the Trojans’ collective head. The Jaguars stormed into Troy for a 19-8 win in the Battle for the Belt.
Side note: any rivalry trophy that involves an actual belt puts even more on the line for me. You can keep your old oaken buckets, thank you very much.
The South Alabama defense forced four turnovers, Khalil McDonald made an outstanding play on a Trojan read-option to net a first half safety and dominated time of possession (about 36 minutes to Troy’s 24) to help deliver the road win.
If there is one unit in need of redemption from last year’s low-scoring contest, it’s Troy’s special teams unit.
A fumbled punt by Troy gave the South Alabama offense a spark that they converted into the first score of the game and a 7-0 lead. Before the fumble, South Alabama’s first three possessions accounted for -10 yards on 10 plays.
Troy also missed two makable field goals—a 27-yard boot right before halftime that could have trimmed a 9-0 lead down and maybe given the squad a touch of momentum. The other was a 30-yard kick with about three minutes to play that would have made it a one-possession game.
Still, give the credit to South Alabama, who has seemed to carve out a niche for ruining big dreams at least once a season for either a G5 or P5 team. Their defense was clearly locked in. The Jaguar offense was not exactly fluid, but they made just enough plays to eke out the win.
The Battle for the Belt took place early in the conference schedule, giving Troy the opportunity to rebound and win their remaining Sun Belt games. But this is the sort of “what if” redemption that can linger.
What the loss theoretically cost Troy in the long run:
- Outright Sun Belt title
- Chance to, with successive wins, poach a Top 25 spot later in the season
- Undefeated conference season
- Undefeated home record
- In-state bragging rights
- The Belt
Redemption for Troy will be returning the favor against South Alabama and having the offense score put on a show in Mobile.
That LSU win went down smooth.
The Jaguars are everyone’s 2018 sobering reminder to bring it every week.