Injuries pile up for Trojans

Published 3:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2014

By Sean Holohan

It’s been a tough three weeks for Troy University football.

The Trojans are coming off of a stretch of three games in 13 days — two of which involved travel to South Alabama and to Georgia Southern — they’ve been outscored 122-37 since beating New Mexico State three weeks ago and injuries are becoming an issue as Troy lost linebacker Mark Wilson for the rest of the season Thursday.

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If the Troy could find any comfort at Monday’s weekly press conference — one that saw several players unable to attend because they needed to catch up with missed school work from that grueling 13-day stretch — it’s that they’re at home for two of their last three games of the season. And the Trojans get to play on a Saturday again this week against Georgia State.

“I probably said enough about the road and the period of 13 days and three games, missed class and all that stuff, but that’s part of it,” head coach Larry Blakeney said Monday. “Being back home is always a lot easier. You get to go to your own movie, your hotel you stay in more, and no long bus trips. You do a lot of long bus trips in this league. I’m happy to be back here for two out of the last three.”

Wilson wasn’t the only Trojan who was lost to injury on Thursday. Defensive end Tyler Roberts was also ruled out before kickoff and quarterback Brandon Silvers was pulled from the game at halftime with a lingering back injury.

One of the few positives from Thursday’s loss was the performance of those young players who stepped up into starting roles because of injuries.

The Trojans saw strong performances from backup linebacker Sam Lebbie, who stepped in for Wilson, and Brandon Timmons, who started in place of Roberts.

“All I can say is I’m blessed. It’s been a long, hard road. Finally, my hard work paid off. That’s all I can say. I’m blessed,” Timmons said of getting the start.

Troy defensive coordinator Wayne Bolt said Monday he was impressed with the performance of his backups and expects to see the same through the final stretch of the season.

Lebbie caught Bolt’s eye especially.

“I don’t put much into recruiting services, but I knew he was good player,” Bolt said. When he got here, you could see the flashes of a big body that could run pretty good. That would be a good linebacker. He will be an excellent linebacker.“

Silvers, who was replaced at halftime by junior backup Dontreal Pruitt, is still slotted to start Saturday against Georgia State. And although Pruitt was able to give the offense a spark in the second half against Georgia Southern, offensive coordinator Kenny Eddenfield believes Silvers still gives the Trojans the best chance to win.

“We might give Dallas (Tidwell) a chance if we’re not getting anything going, but I think right now our best chance of winning, and I think all of the coaches agree, is for Brandon if he is well enough to be able to play,” Eddenfield said.

Troy will now turn its attention to Saturday’s matchup with Georgia State.

The Panthers are 1-7 overall this season, identical to Troy.

The Trojans, who have been burned the past three weeks by the running game, will meet a Georgia State team who prefers to air the ball out. The Panthers rank 29th in the nation, averaging 287 pass yards a game.

Bolt believes the strength of the Troy defense is in the secondary. And if Georgia State decides to throw, the Trojans will be equipped to defend.

“We’ve gotten better,” Bolt said. “We’ve got a big test this week. Georgia State is going to come in and throw it around. Hopefully we can get off on the right track.”

Troy wide receiver John Johnson said opponents are bound to look past the Trojans with just a 1-7 record. And that is just fine by them.

“We don’t worry about it, but when everybody sees our record, they’ll probably (say) ‘Look at their record. They can’t be any good.’  We’re going to come out and show records don’t mean anything. Records don’t show the heart, the hustle and effort we put in every day. We’ll come out and play hard this week.”