Our series on the top five Redemption Games in the Sun Belt continues with a dramatic ending to the 2017 regular season...
#2 Arkansas State vs. Troy
Last year’s score: Troy 32, Arkansas State 25
Chance for Redemption comes: Potentially, Dec. 1.
OK, OK, this game does not exist quite yet.
However, given the heart palpitations still thundering from last year, this would be the most redemptive storyline for the Sun Belt Championship.
The 2018 edition of the Sun Belt will conclude with the conference’s inaugural championship game on December 1st.
Last year’s tilt between Troy and Arkansas State did not have a snazzy, official title and trophy, but was the de facto championship game.
The entire fourth quarter played out like a prize fight:
- Troy misses a field goal.
- Arkansas State misses a field goal.
- Arkansas State forces a fumble and gets the ball back.
- Troy denies Arkansas State with a 100-yard interception return for touchdown to increase the lead.
- Trojans pick off pass on very next play from scrimmage, only to be stuffed by the Arkansas State defense on a three-and-out.
- Red Wolves drive 93 yards to cut the lead to five.
- Arkansas State takes back the lead when Hansen finds Christian Booker for a 39-yard score with 1:28 remaining.
- Troy drives inside Arkansas State’s side of the field and converts huge fourth down
- Brandon Silvers earns the hero cape for throwing a game-winning, 14-yard touchdown strike to Deondre Davis with 17 seconds left
- Hansen Hail Mary comes up just short
Round 12 bell rings
Cue the celebratory co-championship t-shirts. It was a moment of pure elation when the final pass hit the ground for Troy and heartache for an Arkansas State team who had a chance to tie Appalachian State for the conference title on their home turf.
Justice Hansen put up his usual gaudy numbers in defeat (31-for-50, 489 total yards of offense). Analysis of why Troy won is partially about turnovers.
The three Hansen interceptions negated much of Arkansas State’s ability to move the ball. The Red Wolves out-yarded (that’s a thing, right?) 606-293 in total offense, collected 18 more first downs and controlled the ball longer.
But the real game-changer was Troy’s Marcus Jones.
He found a crease and sprinted down the left sideline in the first half to put Troy on the board, and then changed the dynamic of the game in the fourth with his 100-yard pick-six.
Two Marcus Jones plays, 199 yards (explains why total yards from scrimmage can sometimes be an imperfect stat) and two timely touchdowns.
If he hadn’t wrapped up Sun Belt Freshman of the Year honors prior, those two plays clinched it. If Arkansas State wants redemption, maybe kick away from Jones at all times. Out of bounds, perhaps? His three kickoff return touchdowns were tops in the nation last year.
And yes, this only happens if Arkansas State and Troy can both win their respective Sun Belt divisions. They are both favored to do so.
However, true redemption for the Red Wolves will be if Offensive Player of the Year Justice Hansen can carry Arkansas State just a few yards further and take the inaugural conference championship game.
Troy or no Troy, it’s trophy or bust in 2018 for this pack of Red Wolves.