Troy football faces colossal test on the road

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

A David-and-Goliath battle is set to take place on Saturday in the depths of Death Valley as the Troy football team travels to take on Clemson.

The Tigers (1-0, 0-0 ACC) are coming off a tight win in week one in which they fended off a late Auburn comeback to win 19-13.

Troy (1-0, 0-0 Sun Belt) comes in after an explosive opening game that saw the Trojan offense put up 706 total yards en route to a 57-17 victory over the Austin Peay Governors. With its performance, Troy sits at fourth in the nation in total yards and 10th in total points scored.

Troy will need every bit of that offensive firepower in order to hang with the No. 2-ranked team in the country. Quarterback Brandon Silvers will have to focus on his “game manager” label and execute the quick-hitting passes and screens to keep the Clemson pressure at bay.

The Tigers’ defense is anchored by an elite front seven that features linebacker Kendall Joseph and defensive lineman Christian Wilkins. Joseph and Wilkins combined for 5.5 tackles for loss and two sacks on Saturday.

Clemson’s front seven brought down the ball carrier in the backfield 14 times throughout the game, resulting in a total loss of 44 yards for Auburn. Also, Clemson held the run-heavy Auburn offense to just 87 rushing yards with 2.1 yards per carry.

If Troy wants any chance at success, the offense will have to throw the ball early in the game and eventually take shots downfield. Silvers was highly efficient against the Governors in doing just that, completing 74 percent of his passes.

He must find a way to carry that success into this contest to give Troy a fighting chance.

The Troy defense will be tasked with slowing down one of the most balanced and prolific offenses in the country.

The players to watch on the Clemson offense are running back Wayne Gallman and wide receiver Mike Williams. These two made up 73 percent of Clemson’s total offense against Auburn.

While quarterback Deshaun Watson is the Heisman front-runner and star of the team, the key to slowing him down is to shut down his supporting cast. This will force Watson to make a play on his own, something he struggled to do against Auburn, amassing just 30 yards on 11 carries.

Troy’s run defense, led by defensive end Junior Gnonkonde, played lights-out against Austin Peay and will be Troy’s greatest weapon to have a chance to hold Gallman under 100 yards. As for Williams, it will be a tall order for the Trojan defense to control him.

“When you go play at Clemson and play some of these type of games, the biggest difference that you cannot replicate is the speed,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said at the team’s weekly press conference. “Defensively, the ball gets on you so fast, and we’ve got to be able to weather the storm early in the contest as we adjust to the speed of the game.”

That speed will be the key factor in whether Troy can hold its own against the Tigers.

Kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. CDT, with ESPN3 and ACC Network providing coverage of the game.

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