/Troy bounce back against red-hot Panthers

Troy bounce back against red-hot Panthers

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Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Trojans of Troy will be traveling 192 miles northeast this week in a visit to Atlanta and the newly minted home of the Georgia State Panthers.

Troy is looking to shake off a disappointing home loss to South Alabama and bounce back against one of the Sun Belt’s up-and-comers on Saturday.

By kickoff time, Georgia State will have waited 50 days to play in its new home since opening the season with a disappointing loss to Tennessee State. The Panthers were slated to host Memphis earlier this year, but had the game canceled due to Hurricane Irma.

Georgia State has steadily improved since its first few weeks, and made waves through the Sun Belt with a 47-37 win over Louisiana-Monroe last week. The Panthers set multiple school records in the victory, including a program-high 670 yards of offense.

The Trojans are led on offense by quarterback Brandon Silvers and running back Jordan Chunn. Silvers attempted a season-high 46 throws last week and completed 24 of them for 263 yards. It’s been nearly a month since Silvers’ last touchdown pass, a go-ahead strike to Deondre Douglas against Akron.

Troy has the weapons offensively, but has struggled to convert yards into points due to numerous mistakes. The Trojans are currently 11th in the conference in yards per six points with 126.6. This means that Troy has needed to gain well over the full length of a football field to score a touchdown. The only Sun Belt team worse is 1-6 Texas State.

This is partly due to the fact that Troy has committed more penalties than any other Sun Belt team, is last in the conference in field goal percentage and has turned the ball over 11 times.

The Trojans have hung their hats on the defensive side of the ball, though. Troy leads the conference in scoring defense, allowing just 18.7 points per game.

That’s partially thanks to a run defense that has been more than stifling. Troy is first in the Sun Belt in run defense, giving up only 98.7 yards per game. That’s also good for 12th nationally.

It’s not the run defense that will be tested in Atlanta, however, as  the secondary will have to contain one of the top quarterback-wide receiver duos in the Sun Belt in Conner Manning and Penny Hart.

Hart is on pace for his second 1,000-yard season with 555 receiving yards on 42 catches. He accounts for 41 percent of the team’s receiving yards and 40 percent of the team’s receptions.

Manning, a former Utah quarterback, currently leads the Sun Belt in passing yards per attempt with 8.5. Manning is especially lethal early in the game, completing 71.8 percent of his first passes and throwing three touchdowns to zero interceptions.

“The quarterback, Conner Manning, may be our most improved player in the conference,” Troy Head Coach Neal Brown told media at Monday’s press conference. “He’s really playing at a high level.

“You can see his confidence continue to grow.”

On special teams, Troy’s placekicking issues continue to be a glaring problem. After freshman kicker Evan Legassey missed two field goals against the Jaguars, and with junior Bratcher Underwood nursing a strained back, Troy will be trying a third route at kicker.

“We’re going to put (punter) Tyler Sumpter in there,” said Brown. “He’s done a great job for us punting, but we’ve got to be able to make field goals and extra points.

“He did a good job in high school kicking field goals, so we’re going to give him an opportunity this week.”

The game will kick off at 1 p.m. CDT at Georgia State Stadium on Saturday. The game will be aired on ESPN3.