Football needs to rise to the occasion

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The top two teams in the Sun Belt conference will collide in Veterans Memorial Stadium for a highly anticipated battle that will give the victor possession of first place in the conference.

The Troy Trojans (7-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) will play host to Appalachian State, a team that has cruised through its conference schedule without a loss thus far. Troy has also made it to this November bout unscathed in conference play, and is currently riding a six-game win streak.

Football games are won and lost at the line of scrimmage, and Saturday’s matchup could not exemplify that in a better way.

The Trojan offensive line has allowed just two sacks this season, which is best in the country. On the other side, the Mountaineer defense is tied for first in the Sun Belt with 24 sacks.

Senior left tackle Antonio Garcia anchors an offensive line that has not only protected junior quarterback Brandon Silvers, but has also opened running lanes allowing Troy running backs to pick up an average of 198 rushing yards per game.

Moving the ball through the air will present a different set of challenges for Troy. The Mountaineers are tied for first in the nation with 16 interceptions, and they are allowing just 216 passing yards per game.

True freshman defensive back Clifton Duck has been a pleasant surprise for Appalachian State, leading all freshmen with five interceptions this season.

Troy can keep the pressure off Silvers by continuing to be effective on first downs. The Trojans are second in the conference with 5.3 yards per carry on first-down runs.

On offense, the Mountaineers boast the conference’s leading rusher in sophomore Jalin Moore. Moore is averaging 5.8 yards per carry, but he will face a Trojan defense that has held opposing teams to less than three yards per carry.

Third downs will also be key in this matchup, as Troy has allowed 3.44 yards per carry on third and short situations, while Appalachian State is picking up an average of 3.88 yards on third and short.

Dual threat quarterback Taylor Lamb has been vital for the Mountaineers this season. Lamb is responsible for 16 touchdowns this year, with five of them coming on the ground.

“Their quarterback Lamb is a winner,” Troy Head Coach Neal Brown said at Monday’s press conference. “He takes care of the ball. He finds a way and is real accurate.”

Lamb and Co. may try to keep the offense on the ground in order to limit the Trojans’ opportunities to force a turnover. Troy is first in the Sun Belt with 20 takeaways and a plus-eight turnover margin.

Troy and Appalachian State have met five times before, with the first being a 42-0 romp by the Trojans in 1970. The Mountaineers hold a three-game win streak, though, dating back to 2000 and the FCS playoffs.

There is just as much on the line in this sixth edition of the series, as the Trojans look to gain control of the Sun Belt Conference.

Furthermore, there is an unofficial initiative by Troy students to encourage all fans to bring white rally towels to the game to help cheer on the home team.

For more information on this, visit the Facebook page named “Bring a White Towel and Cheer until the Clock Stops!”

Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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