(PHOTO/ Chris Wallace)
Troy players face off at the scrimmage line during practice ahead of next Wednesday night’s game against South Alabama, airing on ESPN2 at 7 p.m.
With both Troy and South Alabama coming off tough losses, next Wednesday night’s Battle for the Belt is a crucial matchup for both teams.
The Trojans returned home after a devastating 42-10 loss against Missouri last Saturday. As a result of the game, quarterback Kaleb Barker’s ability to play is questionable due to an injury sustained during the game.
On the other hand, South Alabama enters The Vet after a double-overtime loss to conference foe Georgia Southern.
Not only does the Battle for the Belt symbolize rivalry and bragging rights, but a victory for either team could also be the turning point they need in conference play.
With Barker’s participation being questionable, Troy’s defense will have to have a strong outing in order to balance the Trojans’ potential scoring struggles.
Troy has already given up over half of the points they did last season. Five games into the season, the Trojans have allowed 160 points. Through 13 games last season, Troy gave up 286 points in total.
As Troy’s rivalry game quickly approaches, Barker’s questionability pushes the defense to have to have its best game of the season, especially with one of South Alabama’s greatest assets being a running back.
Last season, Tra Minter led the Jaguars in rushing with 801 yards on 183 carries while running back 29 kickoffs for 710 yards and returning six punts for another 91 yards.
Minter was also voted a member of the All-Sun Belt Second Team both as a return specialist and all-purpose back.
In his Tuesday press conference, Head Coach Chip Lindsey acknowledged Minter as a player that the Trojans would have to look out for.
“Tra Minter is a really good player and one of the better players in our league,” Lindsey said. “He can run the ball and catch the ball, too.
“He does some returning for them, as well, and is powerful with the ball in his hands. From the outside looking in, I’d say he’s the heartbeat of their team because he does so much. He’s around seventh in the country in all-purpose yards, so we’ll have to find a way to slow him down and know where he is.”
With Troy’s secondary still struggling and Gunnar Watson potentially making his first start as quarterback, the defensive front will have to be able to stop explosive runs in order to balance the damage.
The Battle for the Belt is set to kickoff at 7 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The game will also be aired on ESPN2.