By Taylor Fraze
Troy head football coach Jon Sumrall earned his first win as Troy’s head coach with a 38-17 victory over Alabama A&M Saturday night. Troy reported attendance at 87-percent capacity as 26,189 fans waited in anticipation for Sumrall’s first home game leading the Trojans.
The weather was not pleasant, but the fans remained fired up and contributed to the electric atmosphere at The Vet.
The game kicked off at 6:02 p.m. with A&M receiving the ball first. The offense was dormant on both sides as the weather seemed to influence their performance. A&M only gained 21 yards on their first drive after Troy’s defense forced a punt in five plays. Troy’s offense did not follow the defense’s mentality. The offense went three-and-out on their first drive in what looked to be the trend for the first quarter.
Troy’s defense, however, continued their dominant performance. A&M’s offense, led by quarterback Xavie Lankfords, was driving down the field with ease until Troy’s defense put a halt to the drive. Lankford threw a bad pass to the left side of the end zone that was picked off by Taiyon Palmer. Palmer prevented Troy from going down on the scoreboard and helped Troy gain their momentum back.
The Trojan offense continued its downward trend and punted after Palmer’s interception. The fans were getting anxious waiting for the offense to do something positive with the football.
They did not have to wait long to see this positivity as the defense remained steady. After another impressive drive led by Lankford, Troy’s defense halted A&M with tackles for loss from Carlton Martial and Richard Jubinor. A&M would score first with a 47-yard field goal from Zach Alvarez to go up 3-0 at the 3:37 mark of the first quarter. Troy still could not find the end zone as Gunnar Watson threw an interception and lost a fumble in the first half. Troy would finally find pay dirt in the second quarter as Watson connected with RaJae Johnson on a 12-yard touchdown. Troy led at the half 7-3 after a very sloppy first half from the offense.
The second half was a completely different story. Troy opened the second half with a scoring drive on a 40-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Deyunkre Lewis. The defense followed this momentum and continued their dominance. Lankford was under pressure the entire second half behind sacks from TJ Jackson and Javon Solomon. After A&M’s punt, Troy only needed one play to score. Watson connected with Jabre Barber for a 59-yard touchdown putting Troy up 21-3.
A&M was not done yet and looked to score again. Lankford was connecting with his receivers effortlessly until Terry Thomas intercepted an underthrown pass. After his previous two touchdowns, Watson was feeling confident. In another deep pass attempt Watson underthrew his receiver and had his pass intercepted by Avian Rice.
Troy’s defense did not let this stop them, and after a sack from Antoni Showers, A&M was forced to punt. Sumrall trusted Watson even after the interception and put the ball back in his hands. Watson delivered another touchdown to Des Stoudemire to put Troy up 28-3. With the score getting out of hand, Sumrall inserted Jarrett Doege into the game. Doege showed us what he has to offer with some pretty passes on his first drive, but his drive was cut short after the A&M defense forced a Troy field goal.
Brooks Bruce connected on a 30-yard field goal to put Troy up 31-3. A&M did not back down and scored as well. A&M’s second-string quarterback Quincy Casey facilitated a scoring drive to put A&M on the board making the score 31-10. Troy wasted no time and scored on a wide-receiver screen to Peyton Higgins to put Troy up 38-10. A&M gave Troy one last scare as the scored on a 1-yard rush from Harold Jemison and recovered the onside kick. Troy would win the game after sacking Casey on a fourth down.
Watson finished with a career high 341 passing yards and four touchdowns. Doege in his limited play time finished with 113 yards and one touchdown. Barber had the best performance from the receiving core after a five reception 105 yard and a touchdown showing. The Troy defense forced two turnovers and had a total of four sacks. A&M’s Lankford finished the night with 182 yards and two interceptions. A&M’s defense forced three turnovers and had two sacks.
College Gameday has recognized Troy’s next game as the location for their next showing. Troy continues its season at Appalachian State to open conference play Saturday, Sept. 17 at 2:30 p.m.