‘Good Effort’: Trojan head coach sees bright spots in effort, despite season-opening loss to Wolfpack
Published 3:00 am Tuesday, September 8, 2015
Brandon Burks rushed for a team high 128 yards Saturday, but that wasn’t enough for Troy to overcome the North Carolina State offense as the Trojans fell 49-21 in Neal Brown’s first game as head coach.
Coming into the game the Trojans knew they had a tough hill to climb in having to prepare for Heisman candidate Jacoby Brissett. Although the Trojans didn’t play their best game, they weren’t surprised with what the Wolfpack brought to the field.
“They are what I thought they were going to be, a real good football team. Length, across the board,” Brown said. “If you look at them in pregame warm ups, that didn’t take you very long to figure it out. I thought they were very well coached. They will be a contender in the ACC for sure. I believe that.”
Heading into the season opener Troy knew that they would have to play a near perfect game on both sides of the ball. The offense led by sophomore quarterback Brandon Silvers moved the ball at times but had trouble converting on third down, forcing the defense to spend most of the day on the field.
“Third downs are inexcusable. We didn’t make enough plays on third down,” Brown said. “We have to continue drives. That’s one of the reasons our play number was so low. We didn’t do a good job of making plays on third downs. On a positive side, we had zero offensive penalties. That’s another one of our goals, to have few penalties.”
The low play rate for the Trojans led to the defense being on the field to often. The Trojans lost the time of possession battle to the Wolfpack 41 to 18 leading to an exhausted defense in the second half.
“I thought we gave a good effort. I thought we competed, competed hard. They had to play too many snaps,” Brown said. “That’s a combination of offensively not converting third downs and then us not stopping them, especially in the first half; they had three successful fourth down attempts.”
The key all week for the Trojan defense was to contain a quarterback who came on strong to end the season a year ago and to bottle up the run the game. The Trojans did not allow too many big plays but did have trouble stopping the run at times.
“We didn’t fit the run extremely well. We have to do a better job up front, fitting runs, but we gave up very few big plays,” Brown said. “I think if we continue to do that as the season progresses, we’re going to have, we will be pleased.
There were a few bright spots for the Trojans. Troy was able to hit on a couple big plays in key moments of the game something that they failed to do so often a season ago. After Jordan Chunn scored the Trojans first touchdown of the game from one yard out, The Trojans found themselves down by 21 late in the second quarter. Troy was able to trim that lead down to 14 when Silvers connected with Bryan Holmes on a 37-yard touchdown pass with one second remaining in the half.
With the Trojans down by 21 points for the second time of the night, Burks had a big play in the second half when he went around the right side and broke a 57-yard run to bring Troy back to within 14 points. It was a Burks’ longest run of his career and it put him over the century mark on the day.
“I think it was a big answer. (Holmes’ catch) They march down and score there, and for us to come back in two plays and go 75 yards was big,” Brown said.
“It was really kind of a weird game. We did score. They were quick, long plays so we weren’t out on the field long. We had big plays, which we need to have, but we have got to stay on the field. We left a bunch of yards out there just because we didn’t convert on third downs.”
Silvers finished the game 12-16 for 149 yards and one touchdown. Holmes led the Trojans in receiving with four catches for 84 yards and one touchdown.
The Trojans now turn their sights to this Saturday for their home opener against Charleston Southern. After losing to an FCS level school a year ago in Abilene Christian, the Trojans will not be taking the Buccaneers lightly.
“Obviously we are fired up about our home opener. Our guys, I think that’s one of the things we need to continue take a step forward in our program,” Brown said. “We need to defend our home turf and that will begin Saturday night. There are some areas we need to improve on, but we’re going to play the right way and we are going to compete and be exciting to watch.”
Kick off is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Veterans Memorial Stadium.