The Troy Trojans locked up their first ever outright Sun Belt Conference championship Saturday night at Movie Gallery Veterans Stadium with a 35-9 victory over the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“The biggest thing is we are outright champions and that is something that has been part of our base goal all along,” Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said. “We talk to them about conference play and having a plan, protecting your homeland, going on the road and winning and before it’s all said and done you will have to overcome a loss and that is what you call that tonight, overcoming a loss. We lost one by one on the road against Monroe.”
With the win, the Trojans (8-4, 6-1 Sun Belt) head to the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl to face the Golden Eagles of the University of Southern Mississippi (6-6, 4-4 Conference USA). Kickoff is set for Dec. 21 at 7:15 p.m. from the Louisiana Superdome.
Junior linebacker Boris Lee was excited about what his team had just accomplished.
“It is an incredible feeling,” Lee said. “Outright, no one can question or say that we didn’t win it all. No one can say this team was tied, we got this by ourselves and there is no question about it. We are alone and No. 1 right now.”
Lee knew the squad had doubters before the season, but he was not worried coming into the season.
“We knew people thought we weren’t going to be loaded this year because we weren’t even picked to win the Sun Belt,” he said. “I think we all worked together and we had a great group of seniors who kept us all together through the year and as the year went along we got better and better.”
The Trojans dominated Ark State all night Saturday, compiling 337 yards and holding the Red Wolves to just seven offensive points.
“In that LSU game we gave up 30 points in that fourth quarter and defensively we have been able to come out and give up a total of five points on first string defense (in the past two games),” Lee said. “It feels incredible and I can’t explain it. And the offense has done a wonderful job of putting points on the board.”
DuJuan Harris became only the sixth Trojan running back in school history to cross the 1,000-yard mark for a season in the game. He finished with a team-high 72 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Harris knows he would be nowhere without the guys in front of him.
“Without the o-line I couldn’t do it,” Harris said. “To me it is a gift to them and mainly to the senior offensive linemen.”
Levi Brown had another good night through the air, going 15-of-23 for 181 with three touchdowns. Jerrell Jernigan had three receptions for 69 yards to lead all receivers.
Troy got the scoring started with 2:03 left in the first quarter, as Levi Brown hit Cornelius Williams for a 19-yard touchdown.
The Trojans tacked on two more scores in the second quarter. Brown connected with Xavier Moreland from six yards out with 8:28 to go in the first half for a 14-0 lead after a true PAT from Sam Glusman.
DuJuan Harris punched it in from six yards out and Glusman nailed his third PAT of the evening for a 21-0 Troy lead with 1:00 remaining on the clock.
Levi Brown was sacked in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter. Brown connected with Austin Silvoy for a 24-yard touchdown strike in the fourth quarter with 8:50 remaining.
Leonard was picked off with 7:38 remaining by Terence Moore. The interception led to a 12-yard touchdown run from Harris. Glusman booted the PAT through for a 35-2 Troy lead.
Travis Hewitt, replacing Leonard, rushed up the middle for the Red Wolves only touchdown of the game and Josh Arauco booted the PAT through for a 35-9 score.
Tickets for the New Orleans Bowl can be purchased from the Troy University ticket offices. The office will be open today from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. or normal business hours beginning next week.
Ticket information can be found at troytrojans.com.
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