One of the great things that separate college football from the professional ranks are the trophy games. One of those games were contested on Tuesday night when the Troy Trojans defeated the South Alabama Jaguars 38-17 to win “The Battle for the Belt.” This is the fourth consecutive season that the away team has come away victorious in the series. The victory also gave Troy a 4-3 series lead. The Trojans were led by an explosive offensive performance in the first half, and a stifling defensive showing in the second half.
Troy Trojans Win “The Battle for the Belt”
Sawyer Smith with a Hot First Half
One of the oldest football clichés is that the biggest improvement is shown between the first and second game. Well, Sawyer Smith showed great improvement in his second start of the 2018 season. In the previous game on the road versus Liberty, Sawyer Smith went a modest 13 for 25 with 135 yards and one touchdown. Sawyer Smith also added in an interception in the 16-22 defeat to Liberty. On Tuesday night Smith went 9 for 16 with 158 yards. He threw all three touchdowns in the first half to help the Trojans go up 31-17 going into halftime. Sawyer Smith also added a rushing touchdown late in the fourth quarter that put the game away with 4:39 left in the game.
The first touchdown of the game was set up with 45 yard pass to Damion Willis to get Troy to the South Alabama 6, and the very next play Sawyer Smith hit Deondre Douglas for the score. With less than a minute left in the first quarter Willis would bring in his first of two touchdowns when he caught a 44 yard touchdown pass from Sawyer Smith. The final Trojan score in the first half occurred when Smith hit Willis on the three yard play to put Troy up 31-10 with 7:08 remaining.
Big Play Running Game
The Troy passing game was not the only part of the offense making noise in Mobile. The Trojan rushing attack totaled 252 yards and had two runs of 50 or more yards. B.J. Smith would rush for 100 yards for the fourth consecutive game with a 170 yard performance with one touchdown. The one touchdown happened with 14:53 left in the second quarter when B.J. Smith ran for 36 yards. This however, was not the biggest run of the night for B.J. Smith. Three plays before, B.J. Smith broke free for a 56 yard run to put the Trojans in business in South Alabama territory.
The running backs were not the only contributors to the rushing attack though. Wide receiver Deondre Douglas added in a 61 yard run on a reverse play to get Troy inside the South Alabama 10. This set up one of the Damian Willis touchdowns to put Troy up 31-10.
Troy Defense Making Plays
While the Trojans did give up 385 total yards and 275 through the air, the defense did force three South Alabama turnovers. All three were interceptions of South Alabama quarterback Evan Orth. Orth threw one at the end of the first half. This is when it looked like the Jaguars had an opportunity to score after a Troy turnover. The final one came 5:30 left in the game. South Alabama was at the Troy 14, and looking to make the game a one score game. Orth’s pass was intercepted by Terence Dunlap, and looked to be a pick six that was brought back due to a holding penalty on the return. This set up the one rushing touchdown by Sawyer Smith.
What’s Next for the Trojans?
The Troy Trojans will next host Louisiana, and look to increase their Sun Belt East lead.