/“Battle for the Belt” preview: Chunn, Troy look to stay hot

“Battle for the Belt” preview: Chunn, Troy look to stay hot

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After rushing for 191 yards and a touchdown against LSU, senior running back and Doak Walker Award candidate Jordan Chunn is looking to have another big game at home against arch-rival South Alabama. ESPN2 will broadcast Wednesday’s “Battle for the Belt” at 7 p.m. from Veteran’s Memorial Stadium.

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy football team will be carrying its four-game win streak into the annual Battle for the Belt on Wednesday night against the South Alabama Jaguars.

The Trojans are coming into the in-state rivalry after a much-needed bye week following Troy’s upset win over LSU. The Tigers have a tendency to cause more wear and tear on opponents than others as opposing teams are 0-4 in games after playing LSU this season.

This will be the sixth meeting between the two schools and the third in the Battle for the Belt series. This is the second consecutive year the two have met on a weekday and also marks the first Wednesday game in Troy football history.

Troy senior running back Jordan Chunn is coming off back-to-back 100 yard rushing games for the first time in his career. Chunn had 110 rushing yards against Akron before picking up a career high 191 yards against LSU.

He’s joined by senior Brandon Silvers at quarterback. Silvers has been consistent at spreading the ball around, completing 64.8 percent of his passes to 14 different receivers.

On the other side of the ball, the Trojan defense has been a stout unit. Troy is first in the Sun Belt and 20th in the nation in run defense, giving up just 108.8 yards per game.

The run defense has been especially strong when backed up inside its own 20-yard line. When opponents enter the red zone, Troy has allowed only 11 rushing yards on 19 carries this season.

As a team, Troy saw an improvement in discipline against LSU. The Trojans are one of the most penalized teams in the country, and entered the bout with the Tigers averaging 10.8 penalties per game. The Trojans were penalized just five times against LSU.

Third down was also a major key for Troy as the Trojans converted on 55.8 percent of their third down attempts against LSU and are third in the conference with a 43.2 percent conversion rate for the season. Defensively, the Trojans kept LSU from converting a single third down.

Coming to town are the Jaguars, who are led on offense by quarterback Cole Garvin and running back Xavier Johnson. This will be Garvin’s third start this season and first against a Sun Belt team.

In two starts, Garvin has completed just over half of his passes for an average of 219.5 yards per game. Johnson, who has been managed to save carries, is averaging six yards per attempt this season and has found the end zone four times.

“Their running back Xavier Johnson is a kid that’s hurt us in multiple years,” said Troy Head Coach Neal Brown at Monday’s press conference. “He’s a downhill runner that very seldom goes down on initial contact.

“It takes more than one person to tackle him.”

On defense, South Alabama’s front seven has been strong, giving up 129 rushing yards per game. The Jaguars have also gotten to the quarterback 11 times so far.

The pass defense, on the other hand, has been less than stellar. The Jaguars are last in the Sun Belt in pass defense, allowing 292.2 yards through the air per game. South Alabama has registered only one interception this season.

Brown has quickly put Troy’s win over LSU in the rear-view mirror and stressed the importance of the rivalry.

“This is the biggest game on our schedule; I don’t make any if, and’s or but’s about it,” Brown said. “We put a lot of importance on this.”

The game will kick off at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The game will be aired nationally on ESPN2.