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Historic loss drops Troy out of first, USC up next

It has been a long time since the Troy Trojans have had to look up at another team in the Sun Belt standings, but that is the position it finds itself in after a devastating homecoming loss.

In a game where everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong for the Trojans, Florida International was there to take advantage and in the process, took first place in the conference, thanks to a 52-35 stunning victory.

The loss snapped a 13-year homecoming-winning streak for Troy, as the last team to win was Northwestern State in 1997.

This was also the first home loss the Trojans have had to deal with since the 2007 season, when Florida Atlantic did the deed, snapping a 13-game home winning streak.

To make matters worse, the Golden Panthers had never defeated the Trojans until Saturday’s game.

On Monday, the team began to do its best to put the past behind them.

“Not much to cover,” head coach Larry Blakeney said at Monday’s press conference.

“We played one of the worst defense performances we ever had (at Troy). We gave up too many big plays. And offensively, we shot ourselves in the foot enough times to put ourselves in a hole early.

“We got…certainly a lot of problems,” the coach added. “There is a lot of work to do.”

Of the 52 points allowed, the 31 points scored in the second quarter were the most allowed by a Larry Blakeney coached team in a quarter, and 52 points allowed was the most given up by a Troy team playing at home since 1961 when Howard College, now Samford, beat Troy 80-0.

The FIU total was also the most the team has scored all season long.

Coming into the game, the Golden Panthers had been outscored by its opponents 192-219, and 54-64 in the second quarter.

The 448 rushing yards for FIU tied the all-time Troy record for most allowed, and it was a school record for the Golden Panthers.

It was also the first time in the program’s history where three running backs, Darriet Perry, T.Y. Hilton and Darian Mallary, rushed for over 100 yards and the first time since 2004 the team went over the 300-yard marker on the ground.

With the win, FIU improved to 4-1 in the conference, which is good enough for first place, as Troy falls to 4-2.

But with three more conference games lined up for FIU, with two against Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee, there is still a chance the Trojans could find their way back atop the standings, with a little bit of help.

“But with all of that said, we still got a chance,” the coach explained.

“FIU is playing as the odds on favorite now and they still have a good bulk of their conference schedule to play.

“I have had my eye on FIU for a while now,” Blakeney said.

“They have had good coaches and good players for a while now.

“They didn’t do anything we weren’t expecting though. But between their runs and our missed tackles and missed gaps they were able to take advantage of it. It’s pretty deep in the year to be teaching how to tackle. We do go through fundamentals at practice once a week. This is a situation where you lose sleep, you question yourself and you players and coaches. Only thing we can do now is focus on getting better.”

The lack of sleep may be a continuing trend for the Trojans this week, as the team now begins to prepare for its next opponent – No. 17 South Carolina in Columbia, SC.

“Columbia is really an exciting place to play,” Blakeney said.

“And we are going to find a good football team there.

“I don’t think we could be catching them at a better time, but they are catching us at a good time to,” the coach added with a laugh.

The Gamecocks are coming off a 36-14 victory over Florida that secured the Eastern Division in the SEC.

USC is 7-3 on the season, but lead the series against Troy 2-0, with the last meeting, a 45-20 win, coming back in 2005.

The Gamecocks maybe overlooking the Trojans however, as their following game is against bitter rival, Clemson, followed by a date with Auburn in the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship.

“I could sure see how they would be distracted,” Blakeney said. “And I hope they are.

“But I hope that we are ready for this game. We got to find a way to rebuild our confidence level.”