/Troy seeks bowl eligibility at home

Troy seeks bowl eligibility at home

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Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy football team will look to defend its home turf against the winless Georgia Southern Eagles on Homecoming this Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Troy bounced back from its loss to South Alabama by rolling through the Georgia State Panthers 34-10 and keeping itself in the hunt for a Sun Belt title. The Trojans went to Atlanta and controlled the game nearly the entire way, all without star running back Jordan Chunn.

Georgia Southern has had a tumultuous season thus far. Following Saturday’s blowout loss to a previously winless Massachusetts team, Georgia Southern announced it had fired Head Coach Tyson Summers after an 0-6 start.

Summers, a former graduate assistant at Troy, had gone 5-13 in 1.5 seasons. In the previous 18 games before Summers took over, the Eagles went 13-5. Now, the once-proud program is one of just three FBS schools that have yet to win a game in 2017.

Without Chunn, the Trojans took to the air against Georgia State. Quarterback Brandon Silvers threw for 335 yards and had two touchdown passes. By comparison, Silvers had thrown only two touchdown passes through the first six games.

Nine different players caught a pass from him, including freshman wide receiver Tray Eafford. Eafford caught a season-high three receptions for 67 yards.

Troy Head Coach Neal Brown mentioned that the game plan and personnel use would change ahead of the Georgia State game, and it showed.

Trojan wide receiver Sidney Davis picked up an 18-yard run and a key first down on an option play, while wide receiver Deondre Douglas took a 35-yard reverse to the house on a fourth-and-two play in the second quarter.

The play-calling was noticeably different as well. While running back Josh Anderson gashed the middle of the defense with 57 rushing yards, running back Jamarius Henderson won the perimeter and gained 62 receiving yards on several swing passes.

Defensively, Troy matches up well in Saturday’s game against Georgia Southern. The Eagles moved away from the spread option of last year and now run a true triple option this year. The Eagles are run-heavy and have thrown the ball on roughly 23 percent of their plays.

The result is 52 running plays per game, which is sixth in the country. Despite this, the Eagles are 33rd in the nation in rushing yards per game.

This bodes well for Troy, which boasts the seventh-ranked rush defense in the country, giving up just 92 yards a game on the ground.

Georgia Southern has struggled to reach the red zone this season and has struggled even more once it does get inside the 20-yard line. The Eagles have reached the red zone just 14 times this year and have scored a touchdown on only 35.7 percent of those trips.

On the other side of the ball, Troy has the nation’s No. 1 red zone defense. Opponents are scoring on just 54.5 percent of their red zone trips. The rush defense has much to do with that number, as Troy has allowed only 29 rushing yards on .78 yards per carry when backed up inside its own 20-yard line.

Even after a big win over Georgia State, Brown says there is still plenty of room to grow as the Trojans head into the back half of the schedule.

“We had a win that got us to 5-2, and now we have got to worry about being 1-0 this week,” Brown said during Monday’s press conference. “We have to continue to progress and correct some things.

“I still don’t think we’re playing our best football in any phase.”

Troy will host Georgia Southern on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN3.