0-1 Troy to host FCS Rattlers

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy Trojans are preparing to host Florida A&M after losing the home football opener against Boise State, the first opening loss at home since 2014.

Troy has its eyes set on improvement after the worst loss of the Neal Brown era, a 56-20 dismantling at the hands of the Broncos.

The offense sputtered out of the gate with a new starting quarterback and running back duo, while the defense struggled to contain the Boise State receivers.

As Troy Head Coach Neal Brown said  on Monday, “This loss should awaken some folks.”

With the Rattlers of Tallahassee heading into town, fundamental improvement is on the mind of Troy’s players and coaches.

Quarterback Kaleb Barker made his first start and managed the offense well on Saturday. He completed 20 of his 29 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown. 

However, negative plays stunted the offense. The Trojans lost a total of 54 rushing yards, resulting in team yards per carry of 2.8.

Florida A&M’s rush defense was stifling in the Rattlers’ win over Division II Fort Valley State on Saturday, only allowing 14 yards on 26 carries.

The Troy backfield is a different beast, though. The Rattlers also gave up 303 passing yards on just 17 completions.

Troy recorded 44 rushes and 34 pass attempts against Boise State and has a chance to establish another balanced attack this week.

Playing sound and minimizing mistakes will also be key. The Trojans turned the ball over four times last week, and the Broncos capitalized, scoring 21 points off those turnovers.

On the other side of the ball, the Trojan defense will be tested against Florida A&M. 

The Troy secondary was exposed by Brett Rypien, who carved up the secondary at every level of the field.

After not allowing a single play of 50-plus yards last year, Troy allowed two on Saturday.

The front seven were stout, but not disruptive. Take away a late 44-yard touchdown run, and the Broncos only picked up 2.4 rushing yards per carry.

Troy only recorded one sack, though, and it came on the first defensive play of the game. A lack of pressure on the quarterback gave Rypien more time to find his targets.

The new-look Florida A&M offense is led by Coach Willie Simmons, who is in his first year as the Rattlers’ head coach.

The man under center, junior Ryan Stanley, is an experienced quarterback with his name already etched into the Rattler record book.

He completed 64.4 percent of his throws last year, a program record, for 2,190 yards and 16 touchdowns. 

With the new spread offense, Stanley could see those numbers climb. Florida A&M kept to the ground in week one, though, tallying up 276 rushing yards on 43 attempts for a 6.4 yards per rush average.

This will be a chance for Troy’s defense to get on track after what Brown called a “disappointing performance” from the unit.

Brown noted the Boise State game wasn’t make-or-break, and said he believes his team will bounce back.

“We have a starting point, and we have to get better, but I do think we will be fine,” Brown said Monday. “We are going to find out if this ‘We Fight’ thing is something we put on T-shirts or if it is for real.”

Saturday’s game will kick off at 6 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium and will be aired on ESPN+.

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