Improved Trojans rested and ready to face the Panthers

Troy is 4-1 under second-year head coach Neal Brown so far this season and already matched their win total from a season ago where they finished with 8 losses. This isn’t 2015 and the Trojans are sending a strong message this season that they intend to contend for the Sun Belt title.

In 2015, Troy was averaging about 28 points per game and allowing as many defensively. However, in their 8 losses they only averaged about 18 points with 315 yards per game. On the other side of the ball, they allowed an average of almost 36 points and allowing over 400 yards in each loss including the 31-21 loss to Georgia State. The Panthers lit the Trojans up in the Georgia Dome with 519 total yards of offense. The most yards that the Troy defense gave up in any of their losses last year.

Five games into the season and the Trojans have completely flipped the script. In 2016, Troy has proven to be a force to be reckoned with. Offensively they are averaging 45 points and 494 yards per game. Where they are vastly improved is on defense where they are only allowing an average less than 20 points per game and 367 yards.

Nearly continuing a theme of shocking the college football world started by Appalachian State and Georgia Southern, Troy nearly upset the playoff apple cart with a narrow 30-24 loss to the No. 2 team in the country, the Clemson Tigers. Brandon Silvers completed 24 passes for 233 yards on their visit to ACC country. 11 of those receptions were gifted to sophomore wide receiver Deondre Douglas for 93 yards. The Trojan defense held the Tigers to 3.8 yards per carry and had 5 tackles for a loss. On the last play of the game, with Clemson leading 30-17, Silvers drove the Trojans for 68 yards on 8 plays scoring on a 1-yard touchdown pass to Douglas. Nearly ruining the season and likely any playoff hopes for Clemson wasn’t enough for Coach Brown.

“Never okay to lose. That was my message to our football team, and I mean that. I mean that to our fan base,” Troy head coach Neal Brown said following the loss. “We played the No. 2 team in the country and gave them everything they wanted. We didn’t play our best in any phase, offensively, defensively or special teams. We did not play our best.”

Troy has already had some great success against Sun Belt opponents this season. They have averaged 43 points offensively and allowed less than 10 points so far this season versus New Mexico State and Idaho. That is an improvement of almost two touchdowns and allowing one less touchdown in contrast to 2015. The Trojans average point spread in conference play was seven points compared to to the 33.5 points so far this season. It should be noted that the vast majority of that drastic improvement is this season was due to an absolute 52-6 beat down over New Mexico State.

“I really feel like they are one of the best offensive team in the league if not the best,” Brown said regarding New Mexico State following the game. While his defense gave up nearly 500 yards to the Aggies they were opportunistic. “We did a lot of bending. What we say here is that ‘the program is the ball.’ I think tonight was a good indication of that, we took the ball away from them five times, we didn’t turn it over and that was the difference in the game.”

When the Trojans rode their horse to Atlanta a year ago it was the Panthers that dominated the battle with a 17 minute time of possession advantage. In the 38 minutes, the Panther offense was on the field, former quarterback Nick Arbuckle passed for 368 yards. Then junior tight end Keith Rucker was Arbuckle’s No. 1 target with 10 receptions for a total of 154 yards, followed by Robert Davis with 88 yards. The Panthers ground game did find some room to run for a total of 151 yards, led by Glenn Smith with 87 yards on 19 carries.

Coach Brown was less than thrilled with his team’s performance following the loss to the Panthers a season ago.

“Not real excited about what we put on the field today,” he said. The head Trojan felt that there was plenty of room but could never get their ground game going. “We just didn’t make plays offensively. I don’t know how many drops we had. We had several.”

Troy had one of the best turn around margins in the number of penalties committed until their trip to the Georgia Dome. The Trojans committed a total of 12 penalties for 117 yards. Something the head coach likely will not let his team soon forget when the Panthers come to visit this year.

“The worst taste [in my mouth] I’ve had after any game after any point this season.”

The Panthers came away with the third win of their four-game winning streak that eventually launched them into their first bowl game in program history. Georgia State dominated in every phase of the game including 75 more yards passing and 70 more yards on the ground last season.

Georgia State will be traveling to the southern portion of Alabama without star sophomore wide receiver Penny Hart. Hart suffered a broken foot in the loss to Appalachian State and is out for the season.

After a week off, the Trojans are rested and ready to host Georgia State at 3:30 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN3. Follow @GSUSignalSports for live updates.