by Taylor Fraze
The Troy Football team travelled to Mobile, Alabama, for the annual Battle of the Belt rivalry game last Thursday.. The Trojans have not lost to the Jaguars in four straight seasons, and this game was no different. Troy would leave Mobile with a 10-6 victory and their fifth straight win in the rivalry.
Troy’s defense was in lockdown form as Carlton Martial and O’Shai Fletcher both tallied eight total tackles to lead the defense. Reddy Steward also shined for the Trojans defense with six total tackles and an interception.
Troy’s offense flowed through their run game as DK Billingsley rushed for 86 yards and Troy’s only touchdown. Both Trojan quarterbacks saw action with Jarret Doege getting the nod to start. Doege completed 10-of-15 passes for 84 yards and an interception. Troy’s most pivotal player was punter Mike Rivers. Rivers punted six times for 257 yards with the average punt being 42.8 yards. Rivers’ punts pinned South back in their own territory helping the Troy’s defensive efforts. Another Trojan special team’s member kicker Brooks Buce made a career long 51-yard field goal during the game. South Alabama’s offense was able to gain yards but could not cash into the endzone. South Alabama quarterback Carter Bradley completed 29-of-40 passes for 215 yards and a interception. South Alabama’s defensive effort was led by Trey Kiser who finished the game with nine total tackles on the day.
The long-awaited Battle for the Belt rivalry kicked off in front of a sold-out crowd at Hancock-Whitney Stadium. South Alabama received the ball to start the game but did not do much with it. Troy’s defense stepped up to the task and forced a fourth down early after two rushes and a pass by the Jaguars. South Alabama then converted the fourth down with a 15-yard rush by La’Damian Webb to gain momentum for the drive. A holding call sent the Jaguars in the wrong direction halting their first drive efforts and forcing a punt. Troy did not do much with the ball on their first drive either as they went three and out. On the punt, however, South Alabama ran into the Troy punter Mike Rivers gifting Troy another chance of offense, but Troy would punt three plays later. The first quarter had a lot of defensive effort and very little offensive production. Both teams held the ball twice, but Troy dominated time of possession. At the end of the first quarter, the Trojans drove the ball down to the South Alabama 5-yard line before the quarter ended.
To start the second quarter, Troy’s running back Billingsley cashed in on a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Trojans up 7-0. This would be the only touchdown of the entire game on either side. South Alabama’s answering drive was riddled with penalties, killing the momentum that the Jaguars amassed. A deep ball to Brandon Crum would put South Alabama on the Troy 4-yard line, but a holding call called the play back. The very next play, South Alabama quarterback Bradley challenged the Troy secondary with an attempted pass outside that was picked off by Reddy Steward at the Troy 34-yard line. Troy’s offense did not capitalize on the turnover and punted from the South 40-yard line. The defenses continued to play aggressively and did not allow the offenses to find any breathing room. To end the half, South Alabama kicker Diego Guajardo connected on a 41-yard field goal to make the halftime score 7-3.
Troy began the third quarter with ball and continued their offensive struggles. The Trojans punted after a three and out on their first drive of the game. South did not do much with the ball either and punted after a three and out on their first drive. Troy found life on the offensive side of the ball in their second drive with connections on slant routes from Doege to RaJae Johnson. Johnson got two catches on the drive, one for 14 yards and one for 18 yards. Troy looked to score their second touchdown of the game, but an ineligible man downfield penalty halted the Trojans’ momentum. South Alabama stopped Troy and forced a 37-yard field goal attempt from Buce. Buce missed the field goal wide left keeping the score 7-3. Later in the third quarter after the continuous offensive struggles, Head Coach Jon Sumrall brought in Gunnar Watson at quarterback to revitalize the offense. Watson connected on two straight passes for two yards each to end the third quarter.
The Jaguars received the ball on a Troy punt to start the fourth quarter and turned their drive into points. Bradley connected on several deep throws to Devin Voisin to put the ball on the Troy 17-yard line. South Alabama was looking to take the lead, but Troy’s defense held steady forcing a 32-yard field goal from Guajardo to bring the score to 7-6. Troy answered South Alabama’s scoring drive with two deep passes to Tez Johnson for 36 yards and 14 yards. It looked as if Troy would score another touchdown after two effortless passes from Watson to Johnson. South Alabama’s defense held strong by sacking the Trojan quarterback two straight times. Troy kicker Buce lined up for a 51-yard field goal and connected to make the score 10-6. This was Buce’s longest field goal of his career. South Alabama received the ball after the Trojan field goal, but they were forced to punt after Troy’s defensive stand. The Trojan offensive ran the clock with several runs by Billingsley. Facing a third-and-1, Troy looked to end the game but South Alabama stopped the Billingsley run. South Alabama got the ball back with 12 seconds left on the clock, on their second play of the drive, Flecther forced a fumble on a huge hit on South Alabama wide receiver Devin Voison to end the game.
Troy improves to 6-2 on the year and 4-1 in the con conference. With their win, the Trojans are now first place in the Sun Belt West division headed into the bye week. South Alabama drops to 5-2 and 2-1 in the conference. Troy visits Louisiana to continue their season on Nov. 5. Kickoff is set for 4:30 p.m.
Photo by Brayden Varnado