FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd-Peebles Stadium (33,471) — Mobile, Alabama.
Television: ESPNU. Home Record: Troy 1-3, USA 1-2. Away Record: Troy 0-3, USA
3-0. Neutral Record: Troy 0-0, USA 0-0. Conference Record: Troy 1-2, USA 3-1.
Series Record: South Alabama leads, 2-1.
GAME NOTES: Coming off their first home win of the season, the South Alabama
Jaguars will try to add to their total when they host the Troy Trojans in a
Sun Belt Conference matchup at Ladd-Peebles Stadium on Friday night.
It seems that Larry Blakeney’s retirement announcement only gave the Trojans
enough juice for one win. The Trojans earned their first and only victory of
the season against New Mexico State on Oct. 11, just days after their long-
time head coach revealed his plans to retire following the season. Last
weekend did not go nearly as well, with the Trojans taking a 53-14 pounding
from FBS newcomer Appalachian State. They are now just 1-6 overall, including
a 1-2 mark in league play.
South Alabama pulled out a 30-27 victory over Georgia State last weekend,
earning its third straight win, but first in three tries at Ladd-Peebles
Stadium. Despite the struggles at home, the Jaguars are right in the thick of
the Sun Belt title chase, sporting a 3-1 record in conference play, as well as
a 4-2 overall mark.
This is not exactly a time-honored conference rivalry, with just three all-
time meetings between the two programs. The Jags claimed victory in the first
two matchups, but Troy won last year’s on a last-second touchdown pass from
Corey Robinson to Eric Thomas.
In their win over New Mexico State, the Jaguars piled up a season-high 571
yards of total offense. They came crashing back down to Earth against
Appalachian State, finishing with only 308 yards. On the season, they are
averaging only 361.8 yards and 19.6 points per game, ranking better than only
ULM in the conference in each category.
Brandon Silvers played one of his worst games of the season against the
Mountaineers, finishing with an efficiency rating below 100 for the first time
on the campaign. He completed 20-of-30 pass attempts, but was intercepted
twice, while tallying a season-low 156 yards. In all, he has thrown for 1,146
yards, while completing 68.7 percent of his passes. However, he has only five
touchdown passes, compared to three interceptions. Protection has also been an
issue, with Troy’s offensive line allowing 17 sacks.
The ground game has been rather hit-or-miss, with Brandon Burks the club’s
leading rusher. Burks tallied 42 yards and a score against Appalachian State,
but he had 176 yards on 10 carries against New Mexico State. He has 332 yards
and two scores on 54 attempts this season. Jordan Chunn had a negative rushing
total against the Mountaineers, but he is still tied with Silvers for the team
lead in rushing scores (four).
Chandler Worthy continues to be an intriguing offensive weapon for Blakeney’s
crew, both for his ability to make plays in the passing game as well as on
special teams. Worthy leads the Trojans in receptions (27), receiving yards
(320) and touchdown receptions (three). On top of that, he has amassed a
league-leading 541 kickoff return yards, with returns for touchdowns in each
of the last two games.
Obviously, the struggles of the offense are not the only thing holding Troy
back. The Trojans have also had plenty of trouble on defense, allowing 40.7
points and 469.3 yards per game. They rank eighth and ninth in the Sun Belt in
those categories, respectively.
In its recent win over Georgia State, South Alabama was just a tick above its
normal offensive pace. The Jaguars tallied 447 yards of total offense and 30,
upping their season averages to 407.7 yards and 23.8 points per game, ranking
just ahead of Troy in each category among Sun Belt squads.
Brandon Bridge leads the team from under center. His ability to make plays
through the air and on the ground is invaluable. Bridge has only completed
51.4 percent of his pass attempts for 1,174 yards, but he has twice as many
touchdown passes (eight) as interceptions (four). He has also picked up 294
yards and three scores on the ground. Bridge was outstanding against Georgia
State, finishing with 137 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries to go with two
Jay Jones is USA’s leading rusher, with 393 yards and three touchdowns on 83
carries, while Kendall Houston (209 yards) and Xavier Johnson (188 yards) have
slotted in at times as well. The trio combined for 184 yards against the
Panthers, with each managing at least 55 yards.
Shavarez Smith is easily the most productive receiver on the roster, as he has
snared 24 passes for 331 yards and five touchdowns. Jereme Jones (14 recs.,
155 yards) is second on the team in both catches and receiving yards.
South Alabama’s less-than-potent offense has been complemented by a strong
effort on defense. The Jaguars rank third in the Sun Belt in both total
defense (379.2 ypg) and scoring defense (22.3 ppg). Theo Rich (6.0 sacks),
Terrell Brigham (47 tackles, seven pass breakups) and Montell Garner (two
INTs) are the real playmakers on the unit.
Right now South Alabama is the hotter team, with a winning streak and a bit
more pressure to maintain its spot among the league’s elite. The Jaguars
should be able to continue to rebuild their home record, after all, their two
losses at Ladd-Peebles came against conference-leading Georgia Southern and
No. 1 Mississippi State. Troy has not exactly run in the same circles as those
two programs this season.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Alabama 33, Troy 20