Williams dive to paydirt keys Troy’s win

Published 9:26 pm Saturday, September 26, 2009

JONESBORO, Ark. – After spotting Arkansas State and early 10-0 lead, the Troy Trojans came storming back at ASU Stadium Saturday afternoon, only to have the host Red Wolves answer with a rally of their own. In the end, however, it was the Trojans who put the final points on the board, taking a 30-27 Sun Belt Conference win in a see-saw affair.

Despite Troy (2-2, 1-0 SBC) being flagged for 11 penalties in the game for 72 yards and giving away three costly turnovers which led the ASU points, the Trojans scored with 7:53 remaining then got a stop before running out the clock and earning a victory in the Sun Belt opener for both teams.

Senior receiver Cornelius Williams, who had one of the turnovers for the Trojans on a fumble, dove into the end zone with 7:53 left to play, giving the Trojans a lead for good. The touchdown dive came at the back end of an eight-yard pass from Levi Brown and capped a five play drive that came after an ASU turnover.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The RedWolves, who took three fumbles from Troy, were guilty of turning the ball over on a Troy punt when freshman Kanorris Davis stripped Taylor Clements and Bryant McKissic recovered at the ASU 25.

“We were able to overcome adversity,” Trojans coach Larry Blakeney said. “Every time we got in a hole, we got out. They came back too. That’s the sign of a good football team and program. I have a lot of respect for them. We are just very fortunate to get out of here with a win.”

The Trojans came into the game with a chip on their shoulder because, despite being the three-time Sun Belt champions, and being picked to win a fourth straight, Troy came into the game as an underdog.

“That kind of made us mad,” Trojans QB Levi Brown said. “I think Coach Blakeney said that’s the first time that had happened since 2006 with us being an underdog in a Sun Belt game. We used that motivation and we came out here with something to prove.”

ASU (1-2, 0-1 SBC) got off to a quick start, making the oddsmakers look prophetic, with a 65 yard kickoff return by Brandon Thompkins, setting up the Red Wolves at the Troy 35 to open the game. The Troy defense made a solid stand, holding ASU to a 27-yard field goal by Josh Arauco at the 11:56 mark of the opening quarter.

After the Trojans failed to produce points on their first drive, the Red Wolves struck quickly for the first touchdown of the day. Senior QB Corey Leonard hit tight end Trevor Gillott on a perfectly executed play-action pass play for a 50-yard gain to the Troy one. Senior Reggie Arnold crashed in for the touchdown with 7:12 left in the quarter, and the PAT gave ASU a 10-0 lead.

Troy got on the board with a 10-play drive that ended with a 44-yard field goal by Sam Glusman with 3:04 left in the first. The big play of the drive was a 29-yard pass from Brown to junior Jason Bruce.

Troy drew even on its next possession, which spanned the end of the first quarter and the opening seconds of the second. Freshman Shawn Southward was the star of the drive for the Trojans. He had three carries for 20 yards on the drive and his first career reception for 16. Brown hooked up with Gill from six yards out for the touchdown, and Glusman’s PAT knotted the score at 10 with 14:19 left in the half.

The Trojans took their first lead of the game late in the second quarter, using a 12-play drive to cover 47 yards. The drive was hampered by a series of penalties on the Troy offensive line, but Glusman put the Trojans up 13-10 with a 37-yard field goal.

After ASU turned the ball over on its next possession, the Trojans worked their two-minute offense to perfection, driving 67 yards in seven plays. Junior DuJuan Harris carried the ball the final nine yards for his third rushing TD of the year. Glusman’s PAT made it 20-10 with 45 seconds left in the half.

Gill was the key player in the drive for Troy with three receptions for 32 yards. He finished the game with a career-best 10 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.

Troy caught a break early in the third quarter when ASU’s Thompkins fumbled a punt and Troy long snapper Wes Henry recovered at the Red Wolves’ 23. The Trojans moved to the ASU four, and pushed their lead to 23-10 on a 21-yard Glusman field goal.

The Trojans continued to hurt their own cause with penalties as ASU drove 61 yards in 11 plays, with Arnold scoring on a dive from the one. The PAT cut Troy’s lead to 23-17 with 7:14 left in the third quarter.

ASU made the Trojans pay for another mistake mid-way through the third quarter to regain the lead. Southward coughed the ball up just inside ASU territory and the Red Wolves recovered. On the first play after the turnover, ASU hit the Trojans deep when Leonard connected with Thompkins for a 58-yard score. The PAT put ASU back on top 24-23 with 5:33 left in the quarter.

Following the ASU score, the Trojans drove right back down the field, but another penalty on the offensive line stalled the drive and then Glusman, who already had three field goals in the game, missed from 40-yards.

The Troy defense forced the Red Wolves off the field after the missed field goal, but turned the ball back over to ASU on the ensuing punt when the ball was accidentally kicked by Justin Bray, giving ASU the ball at the Troy nine.

The Trojans defense stiffened again, forcing the Wolves back five yards before Arauco connected on a 31 yard field goal with 12:17 left, giving ASU a 27-23 lead.

“They had momentum because of them forcing the turnovers and the penalties, but our backs were against the wall defensively and we still held them,” linebacker Bear Woods said.” I don’t think they really did anything good against us offensively other than trick plays on the series. One big play and then a penalty drive when we had like 50 yards in penalties.”

That set the stage for the late ASU turnover and Williams’ dive to glory.

Brown completed 33-of-46 passes on the day for 355 yards and two touchdowns. Gill led Troy with 10 catches for 85 yards.

The Trojan defense showed its backbone once more forcing the Red Wolves into a three-and-out, then the offense put away the game with a clock-milking drive that exhausted the remaining 5:52 off the game clock.

The drive included Dan Parker completing a key third down to Chip Reeves for 18 yards. The completion was just the second of Parker’s career and his first this season.

Zack Marcum recorded six receptions for 75 yards. Reeves and Jernigan added four catches each, respectively for 51 and 45 yards. Harris rushed for 48 yards to lead the way on the ground, while Southward added 38 yards.

The Trojans are in action on October 6 when they host Middle Tennessee at 7 pm in a nationally televised game.