Football to face new and improved Aggies team

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

Following their 34-7 win over Alabama State, the Troy Trojans will open up Sun Belt play on the road as they travel over 1,300 miles to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to take on the New Mexico State Aggies.

Troy and New Mexico State will be meeting as conference foes one last time before the Aggies leave the Sun Belt following the end of the season.

The Trojans are 3-1 all-time against New Mexico State, with the only loss coming in the teams’ first-ever meeting in 2004. Troy has won the last three by an average score of 48.3-12.3.

Despite the lopsided results, the Aggies are a much different team in 2017. After losing by just six points to Arizona State in the Aggies’ season opener, New Mexico State defeated Mountain West rival New Mexico 30-28 on Saturday.

The Aggies’ hot start can be attributed to their revamped defense. New Mexico State’s pass rush has come alive this season with eight sacks in two games. In comparison, the Aggies had 11 sacks all of last season.

Fending off that pass rush will be Troy’s offensive line, which allowed four sacks against Boise State. That’s nearly half of what it allowed a season ago. However, in Troy’s 34-7 win over Alabama State on Saturday, the offensive line kept the pocket clean with zero sacks allowed and only two quarterback hurries.

The Trojan offense as a whole was much improved against the Hornets, tallying up 605 total yards. However, Troy scored only 34 points. Excluding the Arkansas State game, Troy averaged 12.9 yards per point last season compared to Saturday’s 17.8 yards per point.

The problem lies in discipline. Troy committed 10 penalties against the Hornets for a total of 110 yards. The Trojans are currently second in the Sun Belt in total penalties with 18 so far this year.

Without the penalties, Troy’s offense can be electric. Running backs Jordan Chunn and Jamarius Henderson lead the way behind quarterback Brandon Silvers.

Silvers, who has yet to throw a touchdown, has multiple targets around him, including the emerging Damion Willis. Willis currently leads the team in receptions and yards with nine catches for 120 yards.

For the defense, the Trojans’ front seven has been a force to be reckoned with. Troy leads the Sun Belt with 21 tackles for loss and is third in sacks with seven. The secondary has also played well, giving up just 145 passing yards per game on only 4.8 yards per attempt.

The defense must come prepared for an Aggies offense that can score through the air and on the ground. Senior quarterback Tyler Rogers is currently fourth in the country in passing at 399.5 yards per game.

At running back, New Mexico State boasts its own 1-2 combo in Larry Rose and Jason Huntly. Rose is just 863 yards away from becoming the Sun Belt’s all-time leading rusher.

Troy held New Mexico State to six points last season despite Rogers’ 400-plus yard performance. With a deeper receiver corps and a new-look defense, the Aggies could give Troy more trouble than some may think.

The game will start at 7 p.m. this Saturday at Aggie Memorial Stadium and will be aired on ESPN3.

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