Troy football prepares for tough road test

Scott Watkins

Staff Writer

The Troy football team will travel to Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for the second of a two-game road stretch and to take on Southern Mississippi on Saturday.

The Golden Eagles (2-0, 0-0 Conference USA) are coming off a strong start that includes a 44-35 season opening win at Kentucky, its first win against an SEC team since 2000.

The Trojans (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt) are coming off a tough 30-24 road loss at the hands of the No. 5 Clemson Tigers, despite being 35-point underdogs.

The Golden Eagles feature a top-ten ranked offense that can move the football through the air or on the ground in a balanced style of play. Running backs Ito Smith and George Payne lead the offense, combining for 517 rushing yards through two games.

Quarterback Nick Mullens is as accurate as they come, completing 70 percent of his passes heading into Saturday’s game. Mullens will meet his match against a Troy secondary that picked off Clemson’s Deshaun Watson twice and held the Heisman candidate to a 35-total quarterback rating, a career low.

The Trojan defense also did a stellar job containing running back Wayne Gallman, holding the star to only 34 rushing yards. The Golden Eagle offense against the Trojan defense promises to be one of the more intriguing matchups of September.

“Their quarterback Nick Mullens has been a really accurate passer and does a good job managing that team,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said on Monday. “Ito Smith played really well last year and followed that up and had a big game against Kentucky. Receiver Isaiah Jones has made some big plays so we have to do a good job of limiting those big plays.”

Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers had an up-and-down day against Clemson, completing just 57 percent of his passes and tossing two interceptions. He found a rhythm in the fourth quarter, however, as he led two late scoring drives in the comeback effort.

Silvers is not alone though, as he will be helped by a trio of running backs led by do-it-all back Jordan Chunn. Along with Chunn, Josh Anderson has proven to be a reliable bruiser between the tackles, while Jabir Frye is a big play waiting to happen, averaging over nine yards per carry.

Southern Mississippi plays an aggressive defense that has only allowed four third-down conversions. This may spell trouble for a Troy offense that has only converted on 35 percent of its third down attempts.

Troy must gain positive yards on first down against an active defensive line to prevent long third down situations. Led by senior Dylan Bradley, six different Golden Eagle linemen have registered a tackle for loss.

The X-factor in this contest will be how disciplined Troy can play. The Trojans have racked up 25 penalties in the first two games, the second worst in the country.

Negative yards by penalty can be prevented and must be limited if the Trojans are going to win at Southern Mississippi.

Kickoff for Saturday’s game is scheduled for 6 p.m., with BeIN Sports USA providing television coverage.

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