The Trojans’ path to the top 25 continues.
The Troy football team will return to action by hosting the Minutemen of Massachusetts at Veterans Memorial Stadium on Saturday. Troy last saw the field two weeks ago in Mobile when it took home the Belt after beating South Alabama.
Troy Head Coach Neal Brown will also be coaching against his alma mater and his former coach on Saturday.
The Minutemen roll into town after capturing their second win of the season last week against Wagner.
“Personally for me, Massachusetts is a special place,” Brown said at Monday’s press conference. “Head Coach Mark Whipple is a guy that I played for. He was a huge influence on me, not only professionally, but allowed me to come up and really properly develop me as a man.”
The Trojan offense has been itching to get back on the field, having played just two games in a 33-day span. The game plan will be centered on giving junior running back Jordan Chunn the football.
The Minutemen defense, which has given up an average of 222 rushing yards per game against non-Power 5 opponents, ranks 102nd nationally.
The Trojans’ weakest point of the offense has been third downs. Long drives have stalled in opponents’ territory and left Troy with only a field goal attempt on a number of occasions.
The Trojans are 98th in the country on third-down attempts, having converted on only 35 percent of their tries. Strong running and efficient passing on first and second downs will be key in giving Troy more manageable third downs.
Junior linebacker Da’Sean Downey leads the Minutemen with 7.5 tackles for loss and five sacks. Downey has been the lone bright spot on a defense that has struggled to slow down any offense it has faced.
The Massachusetts defense has forced only five turnovers thus far, a far cry from Troy’s 18 takeaways.
On offense, the Minutemen prefer moving the ball through the air. Massachusetts leads all independent schools in passing yards per game with 237.
Sophomore quarterback Andrew Ford has 19 touchdowns this year, but he has also thrown 11 interceptions. Trojan sophomore Blace Brown is the leader of a secondary that is averaging two interceptions per game, enough to make it first in the nation.
In order to minimize turnovers against an interception-happy secondary, Massachusetts may have to work on establishing the run game early with sophomore running back Marquis Young. Young is a capable back, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Running against Troy is easier said than done, though. The Trojans boast the top run defense in the conference, allowing only 105 rushing yards per game.
The defensive line alone has 20 tackles for loss.
Troy has stopped the opposition from scoring on 98 percent of possessions that immediately follow a Troy touchdown. If the Trojans can get the ball rolling on offense, then expect the defense to follow suit.
Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium. ESPN3 and the Troy Sports Radio Network will provide coverage of the game.