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Trojans keep finding ways to win

Troy University's Jerrel Jernigan (3) returns a punt for a touchdown during an NCAA college football game in Troy, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Sometimes teams just find ways to win games.

That was the case Saturday night in Veterans Memorial Stadium and the Troy Trojans played host to the Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Trojans were able to overcome five turnovers and sloppy play on both sides of the ball, as they outlasted the Ragin’ Cajuns, 31-24. The win improved Troy to 4-2 overall, and kept the team perfect in Sun Belt play at 3-0.

Troy University's Tebiarus Gill (10) catches a pass over Louisiana Lafayette's Dwight "Bill" Bentley (5) during an NCAA college football game in Troy, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

“This was a weird game,” head coach Larry Blakeney said following the win. “We knew it would be tough. (ULL) puts fourth a great effort every year, I knew they would be prepared.

(Head coach Ricky Bustle) had his guys read to go right from the start, and we definitely helped them a lot with turnovers and penalties. We tried our best to not win, but somehow we won – and that’s a good sign.”

For the first time all season, the Trojans were held scoreless in the first quarter, as the ULL defense was able to disrupt the Trojans and Corey Robinson right out of the gate. The same could not be said for the Troy defense, however, as Cajun quarterback Chris Masson picked apart the Trojan secondary to the tune of 127 yards on 8-of-10 passes in the first quarter alone.

The lone touchdown in the quarter came on a Brad McGuire one-yard run. Troy would respond mere moments into the second quarter, as Shawn Southward would cap off a 69-yard scoring drive with six-yard run to the back of the end zone. ULL would again take the lead, thanks to another McGuire one-yard run, to make the score 14-7 midway through the second.

Troy Univeristy's Xavier Lamb (25) and Jonathan Massaquoi (94) bring down Louisiana Lafayette's Javone Lawson (82) during an NCAA college football game in Troy, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

A little less than five minutes later, Michael Taylor would sink a 26-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10, but the Trojans were not done scoring points just yet. After forcing a ULL punt, senior wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan got the fans on the their feet with a 75-yard punt return for a touchdown, giving his team a 17-14 lead in the process.

The score would remain the same until the fourth quarter, when things got interesting for both teams.

The Ragin’ Cajuns would strike first, with a Masson five-yard pass to Marlin Miller to regain the lead, at 21-17.

After ULL again had the ball deep in Trojan territory, the defense showed up, as Emmanuel Dudley forced a Masson fumble that was recovered by Bryan Willis and returned to midfield.

Troy University players celebrate with Jason Bruce (9) following Bruce's touchdown during an NCAA college football game in Troy, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Just 33 seconds later, the newest quarterback on the Trojan roster, Jonathan Chandler, found Jason Bruce on a Trojan trick play that was good for 34 yards, a touchdown and a 24-12 lead with a little over nine minutes left in the game.

Again, ULL would respond, this time, two minutes later with the game-tying field goal.

While Robinson may have struggled all throughout the game, the red-shirt freshman came through when it mattered the most.

With a little under five minutes in the game, Robinson found a wide-open Jernigan for a 12-yard touchdown pass that would put Troy up for good at 31-24. “I had terrible game (Saturday night),” Robinson said afterwards. “But I saw Jerrel and throw it to him and he got in the end zone. I couldn’t believe how wide open he was, but I was pretty happy when he (got in the end zone).”

Troy University's Shawn Southward (20) fights off Louisiana Lafayette's Lionel Stokes (24) to score a touchdown during an NCAA college football game in Troy, Ala., Saturday, Oct. 16, 2010. (Messenger Staff Photo/Thomas Graning)

Robinson finished with 271 yards and a touchdown, completing 25-of-35 passes, but also threw career-high three interceptions.

“I would like call them freshman mistakes, but I am not going to make excuses for myself,” he said.

“I got to do a better job of decision making and correct my mistakes. I stunk it up but thankfully, our defensive was able to make some plays and keep us in the game, and I think Jonathan’s pass really changed the whole game in our favor.”

As a whole, the Trojan offense only had 380 total yards of offense, 109 of which came on the ground.

“This was a win we had to fight for,” said Jernigan, who finished with six receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown. “It didn’t come easy for us, but we found a way to win.” Even though the Trojan defense allowed 24 points and 350 yards of offense, it was the turnovers that held the Ragin’ Cajuns back.

There weren’t a lot of adjustments going on during the first half,” sophomore defensive end Jonathan Massaquoi said. “As a defense, we knew what we had to do and we rallied around each other. “Offensively, (ULL) didn’t really do anything surprising, we just had a few mishaps early on in the game. “But to be at 3-0 right now is what we as a team expected,” he said. “It’s nothing new, these wins are supposed to happen. Now, the bull’s-eye on our chest is going to get bigger, and we have to be ready for it.”

That aforementioned bull’s-eye will indeed get bigger, as Troy has now won13-consecutive conference games, as it heads into its bye-week before taking on Louisiana-Monroe.

“I thought that if we could get through October with some wins and also get some guys healthy along the way, we would be a decent football team,” Blakeney said. “We got this far, but there is still a lot of football to be played.”