Troy football not short on thrills

Published 1:57 pm Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Oct. 13, 2001 was a wet, gray, miserable day in Starkville, Miss. The clanging of cowbells had faded inside the Mississippi State football stadium, where more than 20,000 Bulldogs fans had weathered hours of rain and a tornado warning that briefly stopped play.

The stadium was nearly silent as the last seconds of the fourth quarter ticked away — except for a few hundred Trojan fans tucked into a corner who were screaming their lungs out because Troy State University was seconds away from its first major Division 1-A win in the team’s inaugural 1-A season.

It was a bad day to be a Bulldog fan, but a great one for the Trojans. I still blame that wet day in Starkville for the butterflies I get in my stomach when Troy faces a tough, marquee opponent. No matter how out gunned they may seem, the Trojans have proven that anything can happen.

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As the last seconds ticked off the clock, I stood against the fence around Mississippi State’s field with hundreds of fans pressing in behind me, all of us contemplating how to get over the large, prickly holly bushes and make a rush for the field.

A friend of mine, a fellow of rather substantial girth, was planning to take one for the team and fling himself onto the bushes so we could clamber over his back onto the field.

Our excitement was reaching the point of ridiculousness, needless to say, but who could blame us? We’d been standing in a rainstorm for hours watching the supposedly underdog Trojans dominate Mississippi State, winning 21-9. On the Bulldogs homecoming nonetheless.

When the clock hit zero the question of how to get onto the field became moot — dozens of police officers lined up in front of us, daring anyone to make a move.

It was probably for the best. Running onto your opponent’s field to tear their goal posts down is probably not the classiest thing to do. Besides, in the years since Troy fans have had ample opportunity to hone their goal post toppling skills as Troy scored big wins over Marshall, Missouri and Oklahoma State.

Wins like those are what make the Troy Trojans one of the most exciting teams to watch in all of college football. You simply never know when the scrappy Trojans are going to take down another Goliath.

This Saturday, the Trojans will face Ohio State. Will they win? I’m the news editor, not the sports editor, so I’ll leave the prognosticating to those better qualified. But I know they could win, and that is exactly what makes Troy football so thrilling.

Whether the Trojans win or lose, just getting the chance to play against nationally ranked opponents like Ohio State raises the profile of the university, and by extension the entire community. How many more people across the U.S. have heard about Troy, Ala. just because of Troy University football?

Troy University is growing, and the national recognition the football program brings is a big part of that growth. As the university grows, the economic impact it has on this county only increases.

So when Troy steps out on the field in Columbus to face the Buckeyes, be proud. It means the national spotlight is on Troy, Ala., if only for a moment, and we all benefit from that in some way.

Who knows, the Trojans just might pull off another miracle. If they do, would it be ridiculous to tear down the goal posts at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium for an away game?

Matt Clower is news editor of The Messenger. He can be reached at 670-6323 or