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Trojan football takes best record in Sun Belt

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Scott Shelton

Staff Writer

The Troy football team exploded for 554 yards of offense and forced two turnovers on defense to defeat the Georgia State Panthers 37-20 at home on Thursday night. 

This win moves the Trojans to 3-0 in Sun Belt play, the best record in the conference and 5-1 overall. 

“I am proud of the players and staff on the short week,” said Troy Head Coach Neal Brown. “I was impressed with what they did. 

“We had several guys that went down. We always talk about a ‘next man up attitude,’ and I thought we did that.”

From the first play from scrimmage, the Trojans proved too much for the Panthers’ defense.

Quarterback Kaleb Barker scrambled and took off for a 75-yard run. Three plays later, running back B.J. Smith scored his seventh rushing touchdown of the season, which leads the Sun Belt Conference. 

Barker’s 75-yard run was the longest play from scrimmage for the Trojans this season until the fourth quarter, when Smith had a 78-yard scamper for his second touchdown of the game. 

B.J. Smith is now tied for seventh in the FBS in rushing touchdowns with eight on the season. 

Barker played only in the first half, but the junior quarterback accumulated two touchdowns and 136 yards through the air with 111 yards rushing through two quarters. 

Barker and linebacker Tron Folsom left the game in the first half. On Monday, Neal Brown revealed that Barker suffered an ACL injury and will miss the rest of the season. Folsom is questionable for next Saturday’s game.

Backup quarterback Sawyer Smith did his part with 81 yards passing and 56 yards rushing on just five attempts.

The defense did its job, recovering two fumbles in Trojan territory and limiting the Panthers’ offense in the first three quarters. 

After seeing Troy score on its first drive, Georgia State drove into Trojan territory, but Tyler Murray forced a fumble, which was recovered by safety Melvin Tyus. 

In the second quarter, when the Trojans failed to convert on a fourth and goal, senior Hunter Reese had a tackle for a loss in the end zone, which resulted in a safety for the Trojans. 

The safety was the first for Troy since Nov. 29, 2014, against Louisiana-Lafayette. 

In the third quarter, the Panthers started a drive on their own 1-yard line and moved into Trojan territory, only to see Marcus Jones recover a fumble forced by K.J. Robertson.

After being held scoreless for the entire third quarter, quarterback Sawyer Smith threw a 41-yard touchdown pass to Damion Willis early in the fourth quarter. 

The Trojans kept the Panthers out of the end zone until the 10:21 mark of the fourth quarter, and the Panthers would score again with 4:33 left in the game.

The Troy defensive front held strong, allowing just 116 yards rushing for the Panthers. But the Trojans produced 337 yards rushing of their own, including 140 yards from B.J. Smith and 111 from Barker.

Next, the Trojans will travel to Lynchburg, Virginia, to take on the Liberty Flames, which will be aired on ESPN3.