TSU validates move to Division 1-A

Published 12:00 am Sunday, October 14, 2001

Sports Editor

STARKVILLE, Miss., – Mississippi State has hit plenty of low points this season.

On Saturday in Starkville, Troy State made them feel a bit lower.

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The Trojans beat the Bulldogs, a perennial power in the Southeastern Conference, 21-9 and erased any doubts that they belonged in Division 1-A, college football’s highest level of competition.

With the loss, Mississippi State falls to 1-4, while the Trojans improve to 2-3 heading into next week’s game against Cal-State Northridge.

"This is something we’ve known all along. We have the potential to play at the 1-A level," said TSU Chancellor Jack Hawkins. "This is probably the biggest game that we’ve played and won. But I believe the effort we had against Miami and Nebraska, was pretty much proof that, given enough time we can build the program we want to build."

The Trojans had dropped three games to No. 4 Nebraska, No. 2 Miami and Middle-Tennessee, prior to Saturday’s victory.

For TSU head coach Larry Blakeney, the win on Saturday, only served to validate the Trojans’ move up.

For him, it was also the biggest of his career.

"I’ve had some good ones," he said. "When I was over at Auburn with Coach (Pat) Dye we had some good ones. But, personally, for me as head coach, yeah this is my biggest."

TSU Athletic Director Johnny Williams, who pioneered the move to Division 1-A some ten years ago, said the win was his "biggest" as well.

"I’ve been involved with football for a long time and I’m just as shocked as everybody," said Williams. "This has been a long time coming. I’ve coached in a national championship game, but personally, this is the biggest thing I’ve ever been involved with. There were just a few hardcore people who believed we had the players to do this. Most people thought we were fools."

Defensive lineman Davern Williams and his Troy teammates believed it all along.

"We were tired of people saying that we played a good game for a couple of quarters (against Nebraska and Miami), only to lose," said Williams. "Today we played four quarters and won, so what are they going to say now?"

The win over State came during heavy rain showers throughout the afternoon in Starkville. The game was delayed for one hour and 15 minutes in the second quarter due to a tornado warning.

Also, the scoreboard clock quit functioning in the third quarter of play and time had to be kept on the field.

"With all the weird things that happened today, we were still able to find a way to win," said Williams. "This day belonged to Troy State.