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Sun Belt East Division at stake

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Scott Shelton

Staff Writer

The Troy football team will head to Statesboro, Georgia, on Saturday to play Georgia Southern in a game between two of the top teams in the Sun Belt Conference. 

With Troy’s win and Georgia Southern’s loss on Saturday, the Trojans now have sole possession of first place in the Sun Belt East Division.

Last week, Troy defeated Louisiana behind 317 passing yards from quarterback Sawyer Smith.

Smith’s favorite target of the day was senior wide receiver Damion Willis, who caught 10 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown. 

“What can you say about Damion Willis?” said Troy Head Coach Neal Brown. “He’s been the best player on the field two games in a row.

“He’s been our best practice player this whole 2018 season.”

Willis now leads the Sun Belt Conference in receiving yards with 718 and receiving touchdowns with eight.

Georgia Southern was building momentum after starting out Sun Belt Conference play with five consecutive wins, including a victory over No. 25 Appalachian State. 

But the momentum came to a halt Saturday at Louisiana-Monroe, where the Eagles lost to the Warhawks by 19 points. 

Despite the loss, the Eagles are still the top rushing team in the Sun Belt Conference and are in the top 10 in the entire country in that statistic due to their run-heavy scheme. 

Georgia Southern’s triple-option offense will face Troy’s defense, which leads the Sun Belt in rush defense.

Last week, the Trojans held the Ragin’ Cajuns to just 100 yards on the ground, well under their season average of 217 yards per game. 

The Eagles’ rush defense is no slouch either. Georgia Southern ranks 58th in the FBS and third in the Sun Belt in rush defense, allowing 158 yards per game.

The Eagles’ secondary ranks among the best in the Sun Belt, but it can be inconsistent. Against Appalachian State, the Eagles caught four interceptions and limited the Mountaineers to just 139 yards through the air. 

The very next week, Georgia Southern gave up 337 yards and two touchdowns through the air to Louisiana-Monroe quarterback Caleb Evans.

Despite giving up yards, the Eagles’ secondary makes plays with interceptions. The Eagles have 14 interceptions as a team, which is tied for fourth in the FBS and leads the Sun Belt Conference.

Junior cornerback Kindle Vildor leads the Eagles and the entire conference with four interceptions on the season, including two against Appalachian State. 

Second in the Sun Belt in interceptions is Troy, which has 12 interceptions on the season.

Since taking over the starting job,  Sawyer Smith has increased his output every game. Last week, the sophomore quarterback threw for over 300 yards without a pick.

Smith will need to keep these efficient numbers against a stingy Eagles secondary. 

Running back B.J. Smith will look to continue to write his name in the program’s record books.

Last week against Louisiana, B.J. Smith became the first player in Troy history to rush for over 100 yards in five consecutive games. 

Sawyer Smith leads all players in the Sun Belt Conference with 860 yards and 10 touchdowns, which is tied with Georgia Southern’s Shai Werts for most touchdowns.

Werts doesn’t throw often in the triple-option offense, but he’s efficient when he does. On the season, the sophomore quarterback hasn’t thrown a single interception through nine games.

The Trojans will take on the Eagles at noon on Saturday. The game will be played on ESPN+. 

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