Game week is here for Troy State-Nebraska

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 28, 2001

Sports Editor

It’s Troy State head coach Larry Blakeney’s eleventh season at the helm of the Trojans’ football team, but from the start of Monday’s press conference to kickoff the 2001 season, it was evident that this was the former Auburn assistant’s biggest.

Television cameras were lined up in front of Blakeney as he addressed those in attendance, mainly members of the press, both print and broadcast.

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But it wasn’t just the south Alabama regulars who had questions for Blakeney, offensive coordinator John Shannon and defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt. For the first time ever, Blakeney fielded questions from media covering the opponent, in this case the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who were listening in live via teleconference.

Big time had come to Troy.

"Coach, what do you get out of playing a team like Nebraska besides dollars?" Asked a reporter from the Daily Nebraskan.

"Did you revamp your offense specifically because of the coming move to Division 1-A?" Inquired another.

Prior to the Cornhuskers game against TCU, hardly anyone rooting for Big Red gave a second thought to Troy State and Troy, Ala.

But since that game concluded with a 21-7 Nebraska win on Saturday, all eyes are zeroed in on the next offering on the plate, namely the Trojans.

"We’re not sitting here saying we have any absolute knowledge of what the future holds, certainly no one does," said Blakeney. "But we do know that the team we’re playing this week is probably the best college football program, to our knowledge, in the history of the game. And that’s a big statement. But I think you can make that statement about Nebraska."

Blakeney made references to the ‘Huskers nationally televised opener against TCU.

"What happened in the TV game that we all saw was a team that was highly motivated in TCU and who really gave Nebraska some problems," he said. "But there is no question that Nebraska is big, strong, fast… on both sides of the ball. Good punter, good kicking game. Everything you would expect them to be, they are."

The Horned Frogs’ defense, which ranked No. 1 in the nation last year, held Nebraska to just 151 yards on the ground, well below last season’s average of 349.3 yards per game.

And that’s just in the rushing category alone.

For the 2000 season TSU averaged 19 yards below that number in total offense.

Nebraska, meanwhile, led the Big 12 with 459.9 yards per contest, the length of four and a half football fields.

Blakeney joked that he wished the game on Saturday had been a ‘Husker blowout.

"From our standpoint, I was hoping they’d have a blowout win, where they’d be looking forward to Notre Dame," he said. Nebraska and the Fighting Irish meet next Saturday on Sept. 8. "Now, they’re probably working on their offense a little bit and being a little more focused on what their football team is going to be like this week."

And while the Cornhuskers’ offensive output on Saturday may have been mild compared to last season, Nebraska’s defense held TCU and quarterback Casey Printer to just 186 total yards. 67 of those came on a touchdown play when Printer was able to scramble and find tight end Matt Schobel behind the defense.

Despite the score, Shannon wasn’t too impressed by TCU’s efforts on offense.

But he admits that Nebraska’s defense had a lot to say about that.

"They (Nebraska) gave up just one third down conversion all day long to TCU," said Shannon, hired during the offseason to replace Don Jacobs. "Nebraska is a tremendous defensive team. They played about 12 different, defensive linemen and seven defensive backs. When we have just eight total offensive lineman and they’re going three-deep on their defensive front, that makes a whole lot of difference. We’re just going to have to have people step-up and make plays."