Texas State preview: Trojans look to stay in the hunt for conference title

The Troy football team will seek to stay in the hunt for a Sun Belt title when it faces Texas State at home on senior day at 3 p.m.

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy football team is fresh out of its last bye week and set to defend Veterans Memorial Stadium for the final time in 2017 against the Texas State Bobcats.

The Trojans are riding a Sun Belt-high four-game win streak and looking to stay in the thick of the Sun Belt title race against Texas State.

The Bobcats are coming off of a road loss at Arkansas State, a game in which the Texas State offense mustered a season-low 188 yards of offense.

Before that game, Texas State’s offense had been much improved since the early portion of the season.

The Bobcats averaged 283.6 yards per game and 4.17 yards per play during the month of September but have been averaging 393.2 yards a contest and 5.27 yards per play in the six games since.

The sparkplug for the Texas State offense has been quarterback Damian Williams. The former Mississippi State quarterback is averaging 252 passing yards per game in the last four games after averaging just 131 passing yards a game through the first seven contests.

As a result, Texas State has scored 26 points per game in the past four contests. That’s nearly double the 13.4 points per game the Bobcats scored in the first seven games.

Williams and company are faced with the task of moving the football against a vaunted Troy defense. The Trojans lead the Sun Belt in pass defense, rush defense, total defense and scoring defense.

Troy also leads the nation in red zone defense, allowing a score on just 58.6 percent of its opponents’ red zone trips.

The Trojan defense has been strong as a unit, with no standout stars to hold the attention of opposing offenses. Troy does not have any players in the top five in the conference in tackles, tackles for loss, sacks or pass defenses.

Instead, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning deploys a stout defensive line that has totaled 36.5 tackles for loss as a unit and a bevy of linebackers that features four players with at least five tackles for loss.

One of the members of that front seven is senior defensive tackle Jamal Stadom. The lineman leads the team with 4.5 sacks on the year and is one of 22 players playing in their final home game at Troy during Senior Night.

“I’ve played a lot of games here; it’s a bittersweet moment,” Stadom said during Monday’s press conference. “I’m going to go out there and play my heart out, give it all I got.”

Offensively, Troy boasts a balanced attack that produces 407.3 yards a game. Senior quarterback Brandon Silvers and senior running back Jordan Chunn are responsible for 349.9 of those yards per game.

Silvers is second in nearly every school record and has been an efficient quarterback for Troy Head Coach Neal Brown. Silvers has had just 1.99 percent of his career pass attempts intercepted, a number that is best among active Sun Belt quarterbacks.

Chunn became the second Troy running back to eclipse 3,000 career rushing yards in the win over Coastal Carolina. The 6-1 235 pound back is just three touchdowns away from tying the Sun Belt record for career touchdowns.

In front of Chunn is an offensive line that has kept the backfield clean for much of the season. The Trojans have allowed a negative play on just seven percent of their snaps this season, good for 10th nationally.

The line will have its hands full against a formidable Texas State front seven. The Bobcats have a tendency to load the box and are third in the Sun Belt in run defense.

Linebackers Bryan London and Gabe Loyd have 162 combined tackles and anchor a defense that is tied for first in the conference with 12 forced fumbles.

On the back end, Texas State is 11th in the Sun Belt in pass defense and is one of just two teams in the country that has yet to record an interception.

“Defensively, (Texas State) is getting better,” Brown said at Monday’s press conference. “They’re doing a great job stopping the run. The linebacker tandem they have is as good as anybody in our league.”

Brown has lost both of his Senior Night games by an average of 33.5 points since arriving in Troy. The third year coach is optimistic things will be different this year.

“We just have to play better. There’s a couple of things working in our favor this year. Number one, we’ve been in this situation before. Number two, we’re a lot healthier and fresher than we were at this point last season.

“I think we’re playing our best football of the year and it’s our plan to finish strong.”

Kickoff is set for 3 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium and will be broadcast on ESPN3.

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