Trojans aim to take down Blue Raiders

Published 9:16 pm Monday, October 4, 2010

There will be a lot on the line under the lights tonight in Murfreesboro, with the nation watching.

First place in the Sun Belt is up for grabs, as one team will enter in looking to continue its dominance in the league, while the other will be looking to take its turn on top.

The Troy Trojans will enter the latest chapter in the “Battle for the Palladium” rivalry with its conference foe Middle Tennessee State hoping to pick up where it left off the last time it was on the field, a mere 10 days ago, victorious thanks to a come from behind win over Arkansas State.

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The win was a much-needed one for the Trojans, who came into the game on a two-game losing streak.

The victory improved Troy to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in conference play, the same record that MTSU has coming into the game.

The last four times the two teams have faced off against one another, the Trojans have come out on top, in a streak that started in 2006 after the “Miracle in Murfreesboro” victory.

The team will now look to make it five-straight wins over the Blue Raiders in Johnny “Red” Floyd Stadium, where the Trojans are just 8-3 in the all-time series, in front of a national televisied audience on ESPN 2.

“They have a good program and are well coached and they are going to want to get us, I know, up there especially,” head coach Larry Blakeney said last week during the team’s press conference.

“We have had the best of it of late. I expect to get their best shot. I expect for their quarterback to be back. We’ll have to prepare for him and the other guys who have been doing well. They are coming off a win in the league and the winner of the game will certainly be favored to move on, but there is still a lot of football to be played in this conference.”

Fueling the fire for the Blue Raiders is the return of aforementioed starting quarterback Dwight Dasher.

Before being suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season by the NCAA for accepting a $1,500 loan, Dasher led MTSU to a 10-3 record in 2009, including a win in the New Orleans Bowl, setting a bowl rushing record for 201 rushing yards in a game.

Now, a hopefully rested Trojan defense will look to welcome Dasher back to the field – by shutting him down.

“In your mind you have to upgrade to the fact that he is going to run it about half the time they run the ball, if not more,” Blakeney said about Dasher.

“They have running backs, and they are going to hand it off on the zone and some other plays, but there will be quarterback predetermined runs that you see every week in just about every conference. We will have to prepare well for the draw, the power and the trap where he has the ball in his hands. Sometimes they will just line him up and run it right or left. He is also not bad throwing the ball. We had a good game against him last year, but he is a viable guy who makes a difference.”

So far this season, the Trojan defense has given up 25 or more points each time it has taken the field, a feat last season’s team did eight times in 12 games.

In those four games, the defense has allowed an average of 467 yards but coming off a win and close to two weeks off from game action, and getting most of the players back to or around full strength, Troy defenders believe the ship my be righted heading into the big game.

“Our defense executed and had fun,” defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi said about the Arkansas State game.

“We went back to basics, even though we were in a different scheme. Our coaches had faith in us and we had faith in the scheme the coaches designed. The whole thing was about executing your assignments and not getting off focus or nervous if things go against you. We trusted in each other as players and the chemistry on this team grew. It really gets me going when another player on this team makes a big play. It only takes one match to start a forest fire, and whether it comes from me or someone else, that is a great feeling.”

On the opposite side of the ball, the Trojans will be striving to continue the success it has had at scoring points.

Troy has scored over 30 points each game this season.

A big reason for that has come thanks to senior wide receiver, Jerrel Jernigan, who leads the team with 831 total all-purpose yards.

Of those yards, 384 have come through the air, along with two touchdowns.

Now, the Trojan will be facing the Blue Raiders for the final time.

“It is a big rivalry game,” He said. “I have not lost to Middle Tennessee since I have been here and I don’t want that to start (Tuesday night).

“They get Dasher back and he is a great player because he can throw the ball and run it. The defense will have to be ready for that, but I think they will be up for the challenge.

“It is Middle Tennessee, and you can’t say more than that. It is always a big game and whoever wins will be in the drivers’ seat in the conference. It will be on national TV, the crowd will be hyped up and both teams will be hyped up,” Jernigan added.