Trojans win season finale

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 2, 2001

Sports Editor

Troy State placekicker Drew Boetler never figured on having to play the hero.

And coming into Saturday’s regular season finale against North Texas, the redshirt freshmen certainly didn’t have the credentials needed for the job.

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After all, he’d made just three field goal attempts in seven tries all year long.

However, it was Boetler head coach Larry Blakeney turned to with 27.5 seconds left in Saturday’s game. Down 16-15 and facing a fourth and goal at the Eagles’ five yard line, Boetler lined up to kick a 22-yard game winner. As he approached the ball, Boetler’s plant foot slipped and he hit the ground, but was still able to sneak a peek between linemen Branden Hall’s legs.

"I saw it get in the corner and I was ecstatic," Boetler said. "Then I felt a lot of people on top of me. I was happy. I couldn’t stop smiling."

The kick, a wobbly linedrive, just cleared the inside of the right goal post and narrowly missed the crossbar. The Trojans went up 18-16 and secured a 7-4 record with the win over North Texas.

"To his (Boetler’s) credit, he went out there, took a deep breath and he got it over the bar," said Blakeney. "Fortunately, that’s all it takes. I’m proud for him. He had a rough afternoon going early, but he came back."

Boetler had missed a 23 yard attempt on the Trojans’ first possession of the game and also an extra point on Troy State’s first score – a one-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Brock Nutter that cut the North Texas lead to 14-6 before halftime.

Despite the mishap on his final kick, Boetler said he was confident the field goal was good.

His teammates weren’t so sure.

"We were all right there together," said TSU linebacker Jimmy McClain. "And when I saw him kick it, I was like ‘no.’ I thought he’d missed it. It just barely went over. I mean in the preseason, we talked about this. We said ‘we’re going to be in a big game and it’s going to come down to a field goal and what are we going to do?’ And then it happens. But Drew came through for us and he was under a lot of pressure. He came through for us when we needed him to."

"I was over there at the end just praying," said tailback Demontray Carter, who rushed for 149 yards in the game.

It was seniors, like McClain and Carter, that Boetler said he wanted to make the kick for.

"I came out there and I told myself that I needed to make this," said Boetler. "I needed to make this for the seniors. I had a bad performance in the first half and I needed to make this one to make up for that."

The Trojans were up 15-14 thanks to Boetler’s 23 yard field goal with 12:13 left in the fourth.

Backed up inside their own five, following a Derrick Ansley interception, running back DeWhitt Betterson was stripped of the ball. Receiver Heyward Skipper kicked the ball out of the endzone to keep the North Texas defense from falling on it for a sure touchdown.

But the resulting safety gave the Eagles a 16-14 lead with only 4:02 remaining.

Plus the visitors got the ball on free kick from the 20.

"We knew we had to go out and stop them," said McClain. "We had to force them to a three and out. But on the first play they threw the ball…we knew they had messed up then, because we had two timeouts left."

The Trojans also benefited from a shanked 14-yard punt by Jason Ball on fourth down.

Starting at the UNT 36-yard line, Carter gained 22 yards on two straight carries and one play later Nutter hit Jason Samples for a 12 yard gain to the North Texas four.

The Eagles’ defense held the Trojans to no gain and Boetler walked out to try the game winner.

"We had no idea it would turn out the way it did in the fourth quarter," said Blakeney. "I think the number of points on the scoreboard was between the same number of inches that the kick cleared the goalpost."

In the first half, North Texas had Troy State’s defense confused, using two touchdown passes by Scott Hall to George Marshall to take a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.

"They are a running football team," said defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt. "They came into this game as basically a screen-draw type of passing team. Their quarterback hadn’t threw the ball downfield that much. We had to adjust to that at halftime."

TSU got a 41 yard kickoff return from Jason Samples after Hall’s last touchdown pass. A 13 yard pass to Chris Day and a personal foul on North Texas moved the ball to the 12-yard line. Nutter scored a few plays later.

Skipper returned a North Texas punt to Eagles’ 39-yard line in the third quarter. Carter took the ball on a trap play off left tackle and then cut upfield for a 34-yard touchdown run with 7:21 left. The two-point conversion was no good.