Trojans look to fix defensive woes against Georgia State

Published 8:08 pm Wednesday, October 9, 2013

By Danielle Percival

The offense’s game-winning drive may have been the highlight of the South Alabama game but it was the defense that shoved them into the spotlight.

Eric Thomas was the hero on Saturday, snagging a 20-yard touchdown reception with seven seconds left on the clock to give Troy a 34-33 victory over South Alabama.

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After leading by as many as 17 points, the Trojan defense surrendered four second-half touchdowns, including the Jaguars go-ahead score.

The touchdown that gave the Jaguars their only lead of the game was scored with less than a minute to go on a play that safety Jeremy Spikner almost took the other way.

“I knew they were favoring him [Jones] this play, so I played a little off, inside technique. As he went for the corner route, I undercut it,” Spikner said. “When I turned around and looked for the ball I tipped it but I really couldn’t see it or grasp it. Then all I knew was it deflected off me and I heard USA screaming so I knew it was something bad.”

Despite missing the interception, defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt approached Spikner following the game with some encouraging words.

“I told him I’d rather have nobody else at the time and place than him when he had the ball and dropped it and they made a big play,” Bolt said.

That one play seems to tell the story of the Trojan defense this season, a season of the ball bouncing the other way.

The Trojan defense has forced nine fumbles through the first half of the season but has only been able to recover one.

“That’s how we’ve been feeling all year though because there are a lot of turnovers we could have that, unfortunately, bounce to the other team or they came up with it at the end in the pile,” Spikner said. “Just bad bounces for us.”

The defense forced two fumbles against South Alabama, but both fell back into the hands of Jaguars.

“We do fumble drills every day,” linebacker Mark Wilson said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘Man we cannot get a break on these fumbles,’ but we’ve just got to keep at it. That’s all we really can do.”

“We knock the ball off of them, it ricochets up field and one of their guys is just standing there waiting on it,” head coach Larry Blakeney said. “Football’s a weird game.”

It’s not just fumbles that have been causing the Trojans problems. One of the most glaring concerns this season has been missed tackles.

“We’ve got to be the worst tackling secondary in America, and we’ve got to be the worst playing the ball in America,” Blakeney said. “We certainly didn’t demonstrate too much expertise in the area today.”

Though the players know they have work to do in those areas, they attribute some of that statement to the emotions immediately following the game.

“I don’t really think he means it,” Spikner said. “I just think he meant we need to improve, because we did have some key missed tackles in this game that could’ve stopped some big plays.”

“Anytime there’s a deep ball, everybody knows it. Anytime you’re in space and a defensive back misses a tackle, everybody knows it,” Bolt said. “They don’t notice the ones in the box with the linebackers or the defensive linemen.”

Despite the fact that the defense has given up more points than the offense has scored this season, the team is still at .500 and alive in the conference hunt, but a win on Saturday helps the cause.

“Number one it puts you 4-3. It puts you 2-1 in the league and one win closer to six,” Blakeney said.