Trojans aim to become bowl eligible
It’s been 42 days since the Trojans’ last win at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
During that stretch, Troy has gone 1-3 in its last four games and been outscored, 167-114 and fell from first place in the Sun Belt for the first time in years.
With two games remaining in the season, Troy is hoping to put the past is far behind them as it looks to right the sinking ship and salvage its season.
No better way to do so then to play host to Western Kentucky – or so it may appear.
While the Hilltoppers come into Troy with a 2-9 overall record, and are facing another season at the bottom of the conference, the team was able to break a two-year winless streak against Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Trojans are hoping the Hilltoppers’ winning ways are over with however.
“I think that (Western Kentucky head coach) Willie Taggart is doing the things that he sees that his personnel that was dealt him in his first yearwill let him do to be successful,” Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said.
“They are playing hard. They have some talent on offense. They play hard defensively and on special teams. They aren’t going to give us anything. They are not going to come in here and just lie down and say ‘these old Trojans have been doing this for a while and we think we’ll just lay down and let them go to a bowl.’ The game will be won on the field in a 60-minute span of time by the best team. Hopefully, we will prepare well enough this week to be able to do that.”
With a win, the Trojans would get its sixth win of the season, and become bowl eligible for the fifth-straight year.
Even with Troy’s struggles on both sides of the ball recently, that should change today – if the statistics hold true.
Western Kentucky comes into the game allowing 370 total yards per contest, 64th in the nation, and is only averaging 323 total yards on offense, which is 96th in the nation.
In the all-time series between the two teams, Troy leads 7-0-1, with the Trojans holding a 3-0 mark when playing in Troy.
The aforementioned tied took place in 1976, in the first ever meeting.
Last season, the Trojans ran to a 20-point victory thanks to then freshman Shawn Southward, who tied a school record for four rushing touchdowns in a game, with three of the scores taking place in the second half.
For many of the Trojans, this will be the last time they get to play in front of the home crowd, as Troy will pay its last requests on Senior Day.
“This will be the last time for these seniors, I think 22 of them, will play a home game,” Blakeney said.
“We will try to honor them the best we can on Saturday. I am hoping that the rank-and-file leadership and players on our football team will prepare well. I really and truly think that if we want to win either of these last two games we will have to really play well because either of these teams can beat us or anyone else in our conference. The handwriting is pretty much on the wall with regard to how this conference has been this year.”
One particular Trojan will be especially honored for his accomplishments while wearing cardinal and white.
Over the past four years, wide receiver Jerrel Jernigan has wowed both Troy’s fans and the opposition.
Coming into the game, the senior has 242 receptions for 2,953 yards and 17 touchdowns and he will look to add to those stats one more time in front of Trojan Nation.
“It is going to be hard,” he said. “I promised Coach Blakeney that I would not get emotional. It will be my last game playing at Troy Stadium and I have had a good four years playing here. I appreciate all of the fans and all of the coaching staff who have helped to put me in the position I am in now.”
But even with the emotion today’s game might bring, there is one thing Jernigan is concerned with – getting Troy into a bowl game.
“My mindset is that we have to go out and win both of these games to put the icing on the cake so that they will have to take us in a bowl game. If we can win both of these games to get to seven wins then the bowl will take care of itself and we won’t have to worry about that this year.”