South Alabama nearly came up with the most significant win in program history last week, falling short 31-24 at Tennessee. As the Jaguars move back into Sun Belt play, they face another tough test this week on the road against the Troy Trojans, a matchup that could really fall either way at this point in the season.
Two things to note about South Alabama’s last game: 1) Tennessee was leading 31-7 in the third quarter, so it appeared to ease up on the throttle. 2) It’s Tennessee, which doesn’t strike fear in any opponent’s eyes these days. Still, the Jaguars fought back to within one touchdown at Neyland Stadium. There’s something to be said for that performance, regardless of where the Volunteers’ program stands today.
South Alabama won one Sun Belt game and finished 2-11 last season. At 2-2 with a conference win over Western Kentucky, it has already matched those numbers in 2013. Part of the Jaguars success stems from senior quarterback Ross Metheny. He has five rushing touchdowns through four games, the most ever in a season for a Jaguars quarterback.
While South Alabama’s rushing attack has been the bread and butter of the program, don’t sleep on the passing game. The Jaguars outgained the Volunteers in yards through the air and posted 51 pass attempts, the first time in program history to exceed the half-century mark.
The offense is clearly progressing. But the biggest concern for this weekend lies with the other side of the ball. They’ll have their hands full.
Troy leads the Sun Belt in total offense (468.0) and passing yards (320.8) per game. Senior quarterback Corey Robinson continues his torrid pace, completing 73.8 percent of his passes after five games. He’s a star on his campus. Look at the record books and you won’t be able to escape his name. Robinson’s 10 passing touchdowns and 1,329 yards in 2013 put him well ahead of the conference’s other quarterbacks.
Senior wideout Eric Thomas is the favorite target for Robinson. Thomas is sitting on 26 receptions, 351 yards and seven touchdowns, tied for third most in the nation. Eighteen different players have recorded a reception. The Trojans have also completed five passes of 50 yards or longer, ranking second in the NCAA. It’s an all-out attack every week.
Robinson isn’t a one-man show under center, though. Deon Anthony, another senior passer, averages close to 50 yards on the ground per game. He provides a dual-threat option when he steps in, so opposing defenses don’t have it easy planning for two different attacks.
While the offense shows few flaws, Troy’s defense ranks No. 102 in points allowed per game (35). But somehow, when it’s crunch time, this unit thrives. The Trojans have given up just 20 points in the fourth quarter. They’ve also recorded 10 sacks over the first five games. Troy finished with 13 sacks total in all of 2012.
A few notes to keep an eye on:
- Troy is ninth in the nation with seven forced fumbles. Terris Lewis and Jadarius Garner each have a pair. Troy is 4-20 since 2000 when failing to force a turnover. There’s one key to victory for head coach Larry Blakeney.
- Speaking of Blakeney, he’s 34-7 all-time against in-state opponents and 96-18-1 at home. He’s probably looking forward to being back in Troy after three straight road games.
- Jaguars senior linebacker Enrique Williams had eight stops against the Volunteers. He is consistently one of the team’s leading tacklers week-to-week. Their defense needs him to step up again.