Troy battles MTSU for Palladium in 2011 home debut

Published 12:26 am Saturday, September 24, 2011

Despite a disappointing start to their season, the Trojans are primed and ready to turn their season around when they host conference rival Middle Tennessee on Saturday. Both teams enter the game 0-2 and will be looking to this high intensity match-up for redemption.

The Trojans are ready to be back home, after being on the road the past two games, where they have had the majority of their success.

“I am pumped about being at home any time,” said head coach Larry Blakeney. “We are 89-12-1 here. The bad thing about all of that is that we play two-thirds of our games on the road, or have. Playing at home in front of these home fans is always great. Not having to travel is good because we have a good home routine which has been good for us. These guys have played well in a lot of venues, but especially here at Veterans Stadium.”

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The Trojans have only lost two home games in the past five years, with the last loss being to FIU last season 35-52. Not only do the Trojans rarely lose at home but they also rarely lose many consecutive. The last time the Trojans started out 0-2 was in 2009 and was quickly followed by 27-14 home victory over in-state rival UAB.

Despite the losses, the Trojans have still gained a lot of motivation from the past two games to take into the match-up against Middle Tennessee.

“These first two games, with Clemson beating Auburn, should give our kids some confidence because we played two pretty good teams,” said Blakeney. “That doesn’t make anything automatic. You can’t take anything for granted just because we played close against Clemson and Arkansas on the road. These guys in the Sun Belt get to coach and play just like everyone else, and we have some mighty good coaches in this league and Rick Stockstill is one of them.”

The Trojans have done well against Middle Tennessee in the past as they have won the past five straight in the battle for the Palladium. However, the overall meeting record will mean nothing to the Trojans this week.

Troy will also have individual performers that have had success already this season who are ready for more.

Defensive back LaDarrius Maddan was named as co-Defensive Player of the Week after his performance at Arkansas which included an interception for a touchdown.

“[The interception] felt real good,” said Madden. “The last time I got my hands on the ball was last year at FAU and I got caught by the tight end. They gave me a lot of grief about it the whole season. I said to myself that would not happen the next time I got my hands on the ball. Once I got a few key blocks, I was able to see the pylon and it was my goal to get there. John Robles and Jonathan Massaquoi were leading me out front and gave a great effort to make sure we got there. I just tried to follow the blocks to make a play for my team.”

Another weapon the Trojans will turn to is wide receiver Stanley Arukwe. Arukwe started as a defensive back in high school then went on scholarship to run track at Troy, now he’s looking to make a name on the field. He is already on his way after already recording 90 yards after only five receptions in his first two games and is ready to show his fans what he can do.

“I am really excited,” Arukwe said. “My track coach (Jill Lancaster) will get a chance to see me play. She really doesn’t watch much football except for the home games. She is really happy about what I am doing. It is exciting because it is a rivalry game. We have a rivalry in track with Middle Tennessee which carries over from the football rivalry.”

Arukwe has also won the respect of his team including the attention of his quarterback Corey Robinson.

“He was our leading receiver on Saturday against an SEC defense,” said Robinson. “He was using that track speed to run by guys and we are so glad to have him. He works hard every day to get better, catching tennis balls after practice. He wants to get better and that is something everyone loves about him. I was very surprised at Clemson when he caught that ball over the middle and then got popped pretty good. I think that surprised everyone. We all had confidence in him before that, but when we saw that we all thought that he is going to be pretty good.”

The Trojan players are also excited to kick off their first game on the newly christened Larry Blakeney field and will be ready to start a new exciting era for their current coach.

Troy kicks off against Middle Tennessee on Saturday at 3:30 pm. The game will be televised on CSS/CST as the Sun Belt game of the week and can be seen on ESPN3.