Coming into Troy’s matchup with Central Michigan, a lot was talked about both team’s offenses and quarterbacks.
And while both shined during the cold January night in Mobile, in the end it came down to the kickers.
And unfortunately for the Trojans, it was a Deja Vu all over again.
A little over a year after losing to Southern Mississippi in the New Orleans Bowl in overtime, Troy suffered the same fate Wednesday night in Mobile, dropping a heart breaker to Central Michigan, 44-41 in double overtime.
“Like a lot of you, I don’t like losing” head coach Larry Blakeney said after the game. “But I hate it more for the kids. I am an old guy, and I know how to deal with it but it is still something that hurts every time it happens.”
The loss drops the Trojans’ overall record to 9-4.
“We got a great bunch of seniors this season, and its going to be tough to replace those cats. I want them to be an eternal part of Troy football,” Blakeney said.
The Trojans got things started during the team’s second possession of the game, after a missed field goal by Michael Taylor ended its first drive.
Thanks to a 48-yard reception from quarterback Levi Brown to wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan, Troy found itself in the Chippewa territory and unlike the first possession, made sure to capitalize on the field position.
Just four plays later, Brown found running back DuJuan Harris for an 11-yard touchdown pass, giving the Trojans the early lead.
CMU would answer back however on its next couple of drives.
Led by senior quarterback Dan LeFevour, the Chippewas were able to get points on the board, however not the kind they may have wanted.
The Trojan defense would bend, but not break, as it held CMU to three field goals in the first half.
A 22-yard Taylor field goal late in the second quarter would extended Troy’s lead to 10-9 as the two teams went into the half.
The Trojans would get back work quickly in the third quarter, thanks to Bryant McKissic’s first career interception.
That turnover would set up a 41-yard drive that would end with running back Shawn Southward finding the end zone and increasing the Trojan lead to eight at 17-9.
Things would get interesting from there.
After kicking its fourth field goal of the night, CMU finally found the end zone after a fumble by junior Jerrel Jernigan.
The Chippewas’ wide receiver Antonio Brown got into the end zone one a seven-yard rush.
The nine play, 79-yard drive would give CMU the lead, 19-17, for the first time in the night, however it would not last long.
The Trojans would answer with a lengthy drive of their own, led by Brown and Harris.
Brown would have two big completions of 29 yards and 13 yards to keep Troy’s drive alive and Harris would cap it off with a with a six-yard run to the back of the end zone to help Troy regain the lead, 24-19.
After forcing CMU’s first punt of the night following the touchdown drive, the Trojans again found the end zone thanks to Harris and took a 31-19 lead.
Despite the double-digit lead, the Chippewas would not lay down.
Around 14 seconds later CMU’s Brown would return the kickoff 95 yards to the house, cutting the Trojan lead to just five at 31-26.
With just over four minutes remaining the game, LeFevour and the Chippewas needed to score a touchdown if it wanted a chance at its second bowl game win ñ and that was exactly what it did.
The senior Chippewa quarterback completed eight of his 11 passes during the 11 play, 85-yard drive before finding Bryan Anderson for a seven-yard touchdown to give CMU its second lead of the game, 34-31, with a little over one minute left in the game.
As it had done all game long, the Trojans found a way to answer back, thanks to Brown who led a six-play, 34-yard drive that resulted in Taylor kicking the game tying field goal with 46 seconds left in the game.
As the final buzzer sounded, both the teams were tied and headed into the overtime.
In the overtime, fans got the same kind of play from both the teams as each offense took little time in scoring.
CMU led things off, and after three plays, LeFevour found the end zone on a 13-yard run to give the Chippewas the lead.
But Brown would answer back.
On a second and five, Brown found Jason Bruce for an 18-yard reception that would set up a Southward game tying touchdown at 41-41
And on to the second overtime the two teams would go.
After being unable to find the end zone or the first down marker, Troy sent out Taylor for a chance to gain a three-point lead however, the kick would be blocked giving CMU a chance to steal the game , and that was a chance that would not let slip away.
Just three plays after the block, the Trojans were unable to retaliate as Aguila’s final kick of the night soared through the uprights, securing the Chippewa victory.
“I don’t know where the penetration came from,” Taylor said about his blocked field goal in the second overtime. “It felt good off my foot. It was a dreadful feeling to have my kick blocked. I have that feeling that I let my teammates down.”
In the losing effort, Brown finished his career as a Trojan, throwing for 386 yards and a touchdown, completing 31 of his 56 passes.
“I had one thing on my mind and that was winning the game, and we didn’t get it done,” Brown said. “I am so proud of this team, we accomplished a lot but a loss at the end of the season like this still stings.”
His counterpart, LeFevour, who won the GMAC Bowl MVP, nearly had identical statistics to Brown, passing for 395 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 33 of 55 passes.
“I never looked at is as a matchup between me and Dan [LeFevour] and to be honest, it got kind of irritating to keep hearing about it,” Brown said. “This was a matchup between two good football teams and that’s what I came down to in the end.”
Both offenses combined produced 1,076 total yards and 85 points, 66 of which was scored in the second half and overtimes.
“They had at least one big play every drive it seemed,” senior linebacker Bear Woods said.
Woods admitted this was not how we had foreseen his last game as a Trojan ending.
“We had goals at the beginning of the season just like every team,” Woods said. “And we wanted this win bad. Right now, we are all hurting but when we look back at everything this team accomplished this season, we all have a lot to be proud of.”
Click here for photos from the game.