Troy vs. USA game set for ESPN3
Troy heads to Mobile, Ala., and the brand-new Hancock Whitney Stadium looking to make history in the soon to be 9-year-old “Battle for the Belt” series between the Trojans and their in-state rival South Alabama. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
Troy (4-5, 2-3 Sun Belt) heads south with back-to-back victories over South Alabama (4-6, 3-4) in tow. No team has won three straight games in the series and last year the Trojans became the first home team to win the game since The Belt was introduced in 2015; the Trojans have won three of the five games with The Belt on the line.
“We have three games left,” head coach Chip Lindsey said. “Like I told our team, we still have a fourth of our season left to play here in December. This is an opportunity for us to take another step forward. How we finish these last three games will determine if we get to go to a bowl game and will build momentum for next season. We have a lot of guys coming back, and we have a pretty young football team. There is a lot of opportunity for us to grow these last three games and it starts with the Battle for the Belt.”
The Trojans are looking to regain their early-season swagger when they won four of their first six games of the season and scored 31-plus points in five of those games. Troy has dropped its last three games and three of its five losses on the season have come by a combined 12 points.
“It has been tough and even the best teams in the country would tell you that,” Lindsey said.
“We tried to set the tone early because we knew this was going to be a season like no other. We knew we were going to have to handle the ups and downs of the season. That is great to say, but when you are in the middle of it, it is tough for these guys. I am really proud of how they have handled the adversity throughout the year. We haven’t played as well here lately, and we need to get better no matter who is on the field. No one is going to feel sorry for us, so we have to go to work.”
The Trojans have plenty to build on for the last three games starting with the pass blocking of the offensive line, led by junior left tackle Austin Stidham. Troy leads the country with a 92.7 pass blocking efficiency rating by Pro Football Focus, while Stidham ranks second among all offensive tackles with a 98.4 efficiency mark.
Behind them, sophomore quarterback Gunnar Watson will make his third start after returning from an upper-body injury that cost him 11 quarters of action. Kaylon Geiger continues to be one of the nation’s top receiving threats as he enters the game with eight career 100-yard receiving games and is third among active players with 5.95 receptions per game in his career.
Defensively, Troy has players at all three levels performing among the nation’s elite. Along the line, Will Choloh is the highest-rated pass rusher among interior defensive linemen in the country per PFF, while linebackers Carlton Martial, KJ Robertson and Jayden McDonald all have premier numbers.
Robertson leads all linebackers in the country with just two missed tackles, McDonald is the fourth-highest rated pass rushing linebacker in the country and Martial is averaging 10.8 tackles per game over his last five contests; his 11.0 tackles per game in November were the 11th most in the country (min. three games).
Know Your Foe
Saturday’s contest is the final one of the season for the Jaguars who are coming off a 38-31 victory at Arkansas State to snap a four-game losing streak. South Alabama has locked up the No. 2 spot in the Sun Belt West Division no matter the outcome Saturday. The Jaguars are led offensively by a strong passing attack spearheaded by quarterback Desmond Trotter (11 TDs, 3 INT) and receivers Jalen Tolbert (99.3 YPG, 9 TD) and Kawaan Baker (65.9 YPG, 8 TD). Defensively, South Alabama has the Sun Belt’s top two tacklers in Riley Cole & Nick Mobley.
• Troy ranks second nationally since the start of the 2016 season averaging 1.90 turnovers forced per game.
• Troy is 1-8 on coin tosses this season … Troy has received the opening kickoff in 16-of-21 games under Chip Lindsey and has scored on 10 of those possessions.
• Troy has scored on its final possession of the first half in 8-of-9 games; this includes two defensive scores against Georgia State.
• Carlton Martial is the nation’s active leader with 8.48 tackles per game in his career.
• Jack Martin leads the country with a 45.8 net punting average this season (min. 20 punt attempts).