The Troy Trojan football team is looking to hit a groove and a third straight win in a late night battle with cross-country Sun Belt foe Idaho on Thursday.
Troy is coming off of back-to-back wins over Georgia schools, most recently a 38-16 homecoming victory against Georgia Southern to give Troy bowl eligibility.
Idaho comes to Troy coming off of a 31-23 home win against Louisiana-Monroe, ending a three-game losing streak and a five losses in six games skid.
The Trojans have been on a roll offensively, scoring 30-plus points in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
Following the loss against South Alabama, Troy Head Coach Neal Brown stressed the importance of finding explosive plays. The Trojans have been able to improve in that area since then, averaging 7.77 yards per play in the past two games after averaging 5.75 yards per play through the first six games.
The emergence of freshman wide receiver Tray Eafford and the hard running of senior running back Josh Anderson have played key roles in the Trojans’ ability to pick up chunk yardage.
Six of Eafford’s eight season catches were made in the last two games. He has averaged 20 yards per catch in that span.
Anderson, who has started in relief of an injured Jordan Chunn, had a career-high 96 rushing yards against Georgia Southern and has 153 rushing yards on 28 carries in the past two games.
Defensively, Troy remains the top rushing defense in the conference and top 15 in the nation despite playing a run heavy Georgia Southern squad.
The Eagles ran the ball 62 times against the Trojans, which was more than any team had run since Georgia Southern ran 66 times in 2015. In that 2015 game, the Eagles had 395 rushing yards on 4.9 yards per carry, compared to just 227 yards on 3.7 yards per carry last Saturday.
On offense, Idaho runs a balanced attack behind quarterback Matt Linehan. Linehan is currently fifth in the conference in passing yards per game and has the third-best touchdown-to-interception ratio in the Sun Belt.
“The quarterback is tremendous,” Brown said at Monday’s press conference. “He’s an NFL player.
“I think he’s getting better. He’s throwing the ball so much better under pressure.”
Running backs Aaron Duckworth and Isaiah Saunders carry the load on the ground for the Vandals. Duckworth leads the Sun Belt in rushing yards with 739, while Saunders has added 379 yards.
Idaho has struggled to put together long drives this season, and it stems from converting just 33.6 percent of its third down attempts.
Troy’s third down defense has been inconsistent, allowing just 12 conversions over a three-game stretch before giving up 10 against Georgia Southern.
Troy hasn’t had tremendous success on regular season weekday games in the past two years, losing the last two and failing to cover the spread in all three games since last season. Regardless, Brown is optimistic.
“It is a late kick, but I expect us to have a great atmosphere,” Brown said. “We fully expect to play one of our better games of the year.”
Troy will kick off on Thursday night at 8:15 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The game will be nationally televised on ESPNU.