/South Alabama edges Troy in “Battle for the Belt”

South Alabama edges Troy in “Battle for the Belt”

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Michael Shipma

Sports Editor

The Troy football team fell 24-18 at home to South Alabama on Saturday, Oct. 10, losing the inaugural “Battle for the Belt” trophy to its rival.

Despite tremendous effort and solid play on defense, turnovers and penalties slowed the Trojan (1-3, 0-1 Sun Belt) offense en route to a disappointing loss in its conference opener.

“Offensively, we didn’t get anything done,” said first-year head coach Neal Brown. “We were undisciplined, as disappointed in a performance offensively as I can remember. The lack of attention to detail was glaring, and I think that’s the story of the game on offense.”

The Jaguars (3-2, 1-0 Sun Belt) jumped out to an early lead, scoring midway through the opening quarter. Sophomore running back Xavier Johnson capped off a nine-play, 80-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run that put South Alabama on the scoreboard first.

Troy regained the lead later in the same quarter on a six-yard score through the air from sophomore quarterback Brandon Silvers to sophomore wide receiver Emanuel Johnson. Silvers struggled to find his rhythm in the game, completing 16 of 35 passes for 146 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions.

In a gutsy call from Brown, the Trojans went for the two-point conversion, and senior running back Brandon Burks punched it across the goal line, making the score 8-7 in favor of Troy.

It was the last time the home team would have the lead in the game.

Senior quarterback Cody Clements put South Alabama back on top with a pair of touchdown passes to junior tight end Gerald Everett. Clements finished 11-21 passing for 205 yards to go along with two touchdowns and one interception.

Troy came back to make it close in the second quarter with a 20-yard touchdown run from sophomore running back Andre Flakes, making the score 21-15 with 8:39 left in the first half.

The back-and-forth battle continued into the second half, with both teams’ defenses stepping up to make big plays. Junior linebacker Kalen Jackson intercepted Silvers’ third of the night, which was the break the Jaguars needed.

Junior kicker Aleem Sunanon extended South Alabama’s lead to 24-15 with a 35-yard field goal in the closing seconds of the third quarter.

The fourth quarter continued to be a battle of defenses, and despite a field goal of their own early in the fourth quarter, the Trojans were unable to score the elusive game-winning touchdown. The Trojans went for it on fourth down twice down the stretch, but came up short both times, allowing South Alabama to escape with the victory.

“We’ve had a couple losing seasons here,” Brown said. “When you’re trying to turn a program around, everybody just wants to jump up and say, ‘All right, we’re going to take it from point A to point E, or whatever, and we’re going to go to a bowl game,’ and all that stuff. That’s our goal without a question, but there’s a process you go through.”

The Trojans will face another powerhouse in Mississippi State on Saturday, Oct. 10, in Starkville, Mississippi. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.