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Trojans shut down in second half, fall to UL-Lafayette in Blakeney’s last game

Troy Head Coach Larry Blakeney signals from the sidelines as the Trojans hosted the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette during their last regular season game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy Saturday. (Troy Messenger/Joey Meredith)

Troy Head Coach Larry Blakeney signals from the sidelines as the Trojans hosted the Ragin Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette during their last regular season game at Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy Saturday. (Troy Messenger/Joey Meredith)

There could have been any number of reasons Saturday for Troy to go into their season finale against UL-Lafayette already defeated.

Maybe it was the 3-8 record, assuring the Trojans would not be bowling this season.

Maybe it was the emotional week of goodbyes capped off with a sendoff video to Larry Blakeney just before kickoff that made everyone in the stadium forget there was even a game to be played.

Maybe it was just that the Trojans were outmatched by their Cajun counterparts.

And for the first half of football Saturday morning in Blakeney’s final game leading the Trojans, it was perfectly clear that none of that meant anything to Troy.

These players would do everything to get their coach one last win.

But just one half was not enough to stop a surging second half ULL rushing attack, as the Trojans fell 42-23 Saturday in The House that Larry Built.

“I certainly have had a lot of thoughts rushing through my head and I’m trying to resist most of them and coach a game,” Blakeney said after the game. “We had guys that played hard and anytime you face a good football team like UL-Lafayette, you have to play near perfect to win and we certainly were not perfect.”

Quarterback Brandon Silvers did his part in the first half of the game. In the absence of an effective running game, he completed his first 10 pass attempts and 23-of-25 in the first half for 230 yards and three touchdowns.

“In the first half, we really could have scored every drive,” quarterback Brandon Silvers said. “We should have scored every drive and put up 35, 37 points in the first half.”

It was actually the Trojan defense that got on the scoreboard first after a bad ULL snap lead to a safety for the Trojans (3-9) in the first quarter.

And after a seemingly uneventful first stanza, both teams traded scores in a second quarter that saw an offensive explosion from each side.

The Trojans, who were unable to gain any traction in the running game, scored on three Silvers touchdown passes in the second quarter — a 28-yard strike to Bryan Holmes, a 17-yard pass to Teddy Reuben and a 5-yard pass to B.J. Chitty to end the quarter.

But the highly touted ULL rushing attack was not without its successes, either.

The Cajuns (8-4) attacked what was a porous Trojan rush defense in the first half, highlighted by a 75-yard touchdown run by Cajun running back Elijah McGuire late in the second to give ULL a brief lead.

The last five minutes of the first half were especially lucrative, as each team scored two touchdowns before going into halftime with the Trojans on top 23-21.

But the UL-Lafayette offense, which actually proved to be the Cajuns’ best defense in the second half, dominated the time of possession after the break, possessing the ball for 22 minutes and allowing the Trojans’ offense just four drives in the third and fourth quarters combined.

And with little time to create rhythm in the second half, the Trojans sputtered, going scoreless.

“We just came out a little flat in the second half and we didn’t stick to the things that were working for us in the first, so we kind of strayed away from that a little bit,” wide receiver Chandler Worthy said. “That is mostly it. We came out flat.”

Silvers, who racked up 230 yards through the air in the first half, threw for just 42 yards in the second half, finishing 29-of-34 for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

Conversely, the ULL offense picked up right where they left off in the first and second quarters.

The Cajuns were responsible for all three touchdowns in the second half, with each scoring drive clocking in at five minutes or more. Their shortest was an 11-play, 65-yard drive, one that took over six minutes off the clock.

The Cajuns ran for 176 yards and three touchdowns in the second half, en route to 344 yards and six touchdowns on the day. The six rushing touchdowns were the most allowed by the Troy defense all year.

McGuire finished the game with 169 yards rushing on 14 attempts and two touchdowns.

Even in the loss, Silvers, just a redshirt freshman, made history Saturday, breaking the NCAA FBS record for completion percentage by a freshman with a 70.5 mark this year.

“It’s very humbling,” Silvers said. “I have to thank the coaching staff, wide receivers and offensive line, most definitely.”

For a team so determined to get Blakeney a win in the last game of his career, Saturday marks a stinging end to a whirlwind season for the Trojans.

“We all wanted to end on a good note for coach Blakeney and ourselves, to kind of lighten this season for us,” Worthy said. “Because it has been a long season. It (the final game) was a big thing. We just couldn’t come away with it today.”

But for Blakeney, one loss is nowhere near enough to erase 178 other memorable wins and a future that is very bright.

“I have been very blessed by the Troy people: Troy, Alabama, Troy University and the region,” Blakeney said.” “I am very happy about all of those events and all of those things that have taken place. I’m looking forward to the future. I ain’t dead yet.”