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Down goes South, 38-17

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Scott Shelton

Staff Writer

The Troy football team scored 31 points in the first half and made key defensive plays on its way to defeating arch-rival South Alabama 38-17 on Tuesday night. 

With the win, the Trojans move to 4-0 in Sun Belt Conference play and into a three-way tie for first place in the Sun Belt East.

The Trojans are now 6-2 overall and have achieved bowl eligibility for the third season in a row under head coach Neal Brown. 

“The standard here is we expect to win every game,” Brown said. “All of our goals are still out there. (We’re) 4-0 in the league; that’s the only number we look at.” 

The win marks 10 consecutive Sun Belt Conference wins for the Trojans, which is second-best in the FBS behind only UCF with 12 wins. 

The last conference loss for the Trojans came at the hands of the Jaguars a season ago after beating LSU.

In this rivalry, the Battle for the Belt, the away team has now won four consecutive games in a row. 

Since the rivalry began in 2012, the road team has won five of the seven matchups. 

The Trojans started the game with five consecutive scoring drives, including four touchdowns and a field goal. 

Troy continued its theme of fast starts with 16 points in the first quarter. Since the loss to Boise State, the Trojans have outscored opponents 89-14 in the first quarter.

Of the Trojans’ 410 yards of offense, 339 came in the first half alone.

The offense was powered by the connection between quarterback Sawyer Smith and senior wide receiver Damon Willis. 

Willis caught five passes from Smith totaling 132 yards and two touchdowns, needing just one quarter to cross the century mark in yards.

“Damion Willis is a special player,” Brown said. “I think we’re just scratching the surface on his ability.”

After South Alabama scored its first touchdown of the night, the pair connected on passes of 30 and 44 yards to respond with a touchdown and counter any momentum the Jaguars were building.

In his second career start, Sawyer Smith had all three of his passing touchdowns in the first half and accounted for four total in the game, bouncing back after last week’s loss at Liberty. 

Troy’s early success through the air helped open the path for Troy’s running game led by running back B.J. Smith. 

Smith once again crossed the century mark with 170 yards and a touchdown off 22 rushing attempts. 

Tonight’s game marked Smith’s fourth consecutive game with over 100 yards, with 171 yards being his career high in rushing yards. 

If he breaks 100 yards Saturday against Louisiana, B.J. Smith will be the only player in Troy history to break the century mark in five consecutive games.

The Trojan defense prevented any threat of a Jaguar comeback after Troy extended its lead to three touchdowns in the first half. 

Three Trojans caught an interception off South Alabama quarterback Evan Orth, and the defense accounted for four sacks and seven tackles for loss on the night.  

Marcus Jones made a pick, and at the end of the first half Cedarius Rookard made an interception in the end zone to keep Troy’s lead at two touchdowns going into halftime.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Terence Dunlap made a crucial interception back for a touchdown before it was called back because of a penalty. 

The ground game for Troy, both offensively and defensively, continued to be a steady force for the Trojans.

The Trojan front seven held strong against the run, too, holding the Jaguars, the worst rushing team in the Sun Belt, to 110 yards on the ground. 

The Jaguars also allow the most rushing yards per game in the Sun Belt, and the Trojans took advantage with 252 yards on the ground total. 

Troy is now 20-0 under Coach Brown in games when the team rushes for at least 150 yards.

Next, Troy will return to Veterans Memorial Stadium for its homecoming game against Louisiana-Lafayette, scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 3, at 2:30. 

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