Tough second half drops Trojans

Published 7:19 pm Saturday, September 3, 2011

Troy couldn’t hold onto a halftime lead as they fell to Clemson 43-19.

By Matt Mays, Troy University

CLEMSON, S.C. – Troy’s season opener at Clemson was a tale of two halves as Troy held a 16-13 halftime lead but fell to the Tigers 43-19 at Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

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“I saw some things that make me think that we are going to have a good football team,” head coach Larry Blakeney said. “I am not saying we could have or should have beaten these guys, but there were some things that we could have done better than would have given us a chance to be in the game at the end.”

After surrendering a quick touchdown strike, Troy played well in first half as they took a 16-13 lead into the locker room while holding Clemson to 121 total offensive yards and just 65 passing yards. Troy converted 4-of-9 third conversions in the first half compared to Clemson’s 0-for-8 effort.

However, Clemson’s 121 total offensive yards were quickly matched in the second half as they went on to out-gain Troy, 347-228 in the final two periods. The final offensive yardage count finished 468-423 in Clemson’s favor. Clemson also bolstered their third down conversion percentage by going 5-for-7 in the second half.

“The game went sort of like I expected it to go early,” Blakeney said. “They were fast, like I thought, and were able to make some plays early. We were able to get in sync and make some plays as well.”

“They were testing a new offense for the first time in live action, but they have a lot of talent and a lot of speed,” Blakeney said. “We can’t do anything about them. We have to do for us and that means we have to practice to get better, we have to get well and we have to get to where we don’t give up big plays like we did.”

“When you play a big team like this, you can’t play one half,” said safety Bryden Trawick. “You have to be able to put four quarters together and I think that if we do that we are going to be alright.”

Corey Robinson was 24-of-42 passing on the day for 258 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His top target was Justin Albert who caught a team-high six passes for 45 yards. Eric Thomas led the Trojans with 63 yards receiving.

Troy rushed for 165 yards on the day with D.J. Taylor leading the way with 63 yards gained on just five carries. Shawn Southward carried the ball 13 times to pace Troy.

Trawick led the Trojans with 11 total tackles on the day while John Robles recorded a team-high 2.5 tackles for a loss to go along with a forced fumble and a QB hurry. Troy sacked Tajh Boyd three times on the day.

The Tigers got their home crowd into the game early, scoring a touchdown with just 26 seconds coming off the clock. After returning the opening kickoff 26 yards, a 26-yard rush set up a 33-yard touchdown pass from Boyd to Sammy Watkins to give Clemson the early lead.

Two Troy turnovers in the first quarter would turn into field goals for Clemson. The first 46-yard try from Chandler Catanzaro came after Albert muffed a punt with 11:16 to go in the first and the second 46-yard try came after a Southward fumble with 2:24 to go in the opening frame.

“We were really shooting ourselves in the foot out there all day offensively,” Robinson said. “The defense played a great game. I think we are going to be a very good football team, we just have to clear some things up.”

Sandwiched between the two field goals was a steady scoring drive by the Trojans in which Troy had four successful third-down conversions. The longest conversion came on a third-and-nine at the Clemson 13-yard line when Thomas caught a Robinson pass that brought Troy to the one-yard line. That gain set up a Southward touchdown run. Micahel Taylor’s extra point attempt would be no good.

After giving up 13 points in the first quarter, the Trojans’ defense settled down in the second as Clemson gained just two first downs and went 0-for-4 on third down.

The Troy offense took advantage of the scoreless second frame by the Tigers as they posted 10 points, the first three coming on a 21-yard Taylor field goal that was set up by Barry Valcin’s 50-yard interception return.

After Clemson’s fourth scoreless drive of the second quarter, the Trojans took over at their own 39-yard-line and wasted no time marching to the end zone. Troy used five plays and 2:27 to take the lead as Robinson hit Thomas for a 16-yard touchdown strike. Taylor’s successful extra point gave the Trojans their 16-13 halftime lead.

The Tigers however retook the lead on their second drive of the second half and never looked back. The Trojans’ defense lost tight end Dwayne Allen on the sideline and Tajh Boyd found him for a 54-yard touchdown. The long play came on third down, giving the Tigers their first third-down conversion in 10 attempts. Catanzaro’s extra point gave Clemson a 20-16 lead.

Clemson would drive 80 yards for the second consecutive possession, capping off another touchdown drive with a seven-yard pass to Jaron Brown. Catanzaro missed the PAT leaving the score at 26-16.

Troy would cap off the third quarter on a positive note as D.J. Taylor scampered for 56-yards on the final play of the frame.

Nine plays into the fourth quarter, the Trojans would turn the long run into three points as Taylor knocked a 20-yard field goal through, getting Troy within seven at 26-19.

Mike Bellamy broke to the outside on a 75-yard rush for a score to give Clemson a two score lead at 33-19.

Another big play seem destine to put the game away as a 54-yard completion to Martavis Bryant set up Clemson at the four-yard line. However the Trojan defense stopped four straight plays including two rushes from the one to hold the deficit to 14 points.

The Tigers would tack on a 45-yard field goal and a seven-play 42-yard touchdown drive for the final score of 43-19.

“I am excited about this bunch,” Blakeney said. “We came up and showed that we can play this game, but we did not play as well as I’d like to.”