Troy football is the best it has ever been.
For the first time in the program’s FBS history, Troy (6-2 Sun Belt) won ten games, beating Ohio (8-6, 6-2 MAC) 28-23 in the Dollar General Bowl.
At the beginning of the season, coach Neal Brown said the team was “maybe a year away” from winning a bowl game.
It’s safe to say the Trojans are ahead of schedule.
They jumped on the board first with the first of junior Jordan Chunn’s three touchdown runs. Chunn, the game’s offensive MVP, had not scored more than two in a game.
The next drive ended with a Troy interception, the first of seven turnovers and four picks for the Trojan defense.
Game MVP Justin Lucas, Cedarius Rookard, Kris Weatherspoon, and lineman Trevon Sanders all snagged a pick.
Ohio responded by grabbing one of its two picks on the next drive. Quarterback Greg Windham led the team on a 99-yard drive that ended on a 44-yard touchdown pass to Papi White.
Windham went 23-for-47 with 315 yards, four picks and two touchdowns. White caught four passes for 64 yards and the one touchdown.
After trading another pair of interceptions, Chunn ran in his second score. Kicker Louie Zervos hit a 33-yard field goal a minute and a half into the second quarter.
With the score at 14-10, Troy took its biggest lead of the night. Brandon Silvers hit Emanuel Thompson for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
Silvers finished the game 24-of-41 with 235 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Thompson caught eight passes for 83 yards and that touchdown.
His next biggest target, Deondre Douglas, caught six passes for 113 yards, a career high.
Windham found his no. 1 target Jordan Reid with a minute left in the half. The five-yard pass cut the lead to four.
Reid caught 12 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
In the second half, the defenses came alive. Troy was held to one touchdown, and Ohio to two field goals.
That said, two of the three scores were record-setting. Chunn has rushed for more touchdowns than anyone in Troy history, and Zervos hit a 47-yard field goal in the third quarter—a record long for the Dollar General Bowl.
Zervos only missed one of his four field goal attempts. Troy kicker Ryan Kay, special teams MVP, missed his only opportunity.
Kay won not for his kicking but for his punting. Kay booted it seven times for 293 yards, dropping it inside the 20-yard line four times and averaging 42 yards per punt.
In the end, Brown said the defense and special teams play made the difference. In addition to the four picks, junior defensive tackle Seth Calloway recovered a fumble, giving the Trojans a +3 turnover margin.
That advantage was enough to give the Trojans their first bowl win in six years. The Trojans’ last bowl game, a 48-21 win over the same Bobcats, was in 2010.
It will likely not take Troy five years to get to another bowl game—it could very well repeat next year. That said, it’s clear Brown only expects this team to get better.
The Trojans open next season at Boise State on September 2.