Troy, South Alabama to begin conference play

Published 3:30 am Friday, October 2, 2015

The Troy Trojans kick of their Sun Belt Conference schedule this Saturday when in-state rival South Alabama comes to Veterans Memorial Stadium for “The Battle of the Belt.”

It’s the fourth all-time meeting between the two schools, with Troy holding a 2-1 advantage.

Like Troy, South Alabama (2-2) enters Saturday’s contest having already faced tough competition in Gardner Webb, San Diego State, Nebraska and North Carolina State.

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Since joining the Division 1A South Alabama has scheduled some staunch competition.

“I have a lot of respect for the program that Coach Jones has built down there,” said Troy head coach Neal Brown said. “Probably the biggest change for me since coming back to Troy from my previous stint is South Alabama having a program and winning, going to a bowl game last year and obviously dealing with them on the recruiting front as well.”

South Alabama comes into the game averaging 22.2-points per game just south of Troy’s 22.7. They are led under center by senior quarterback Cody Clements who transferred from the University of Alabama-Birmingham.

The Jaguar offense averages 245 yards passing per game this year and 245 yards per game with the run.

“Offensively, they have a lot of playmakers,” Brown said. “I think at wide out they are really talented. The quarterback that transferred from UAB has made some plays. He is a running threat and a passing threat. Running back Xavier Johnson has had a couple big games, and then at wide out they have depth, probably as deep as anyone in our conference.”

Troy is coming off a bye week that followed a 28-3 loss to the Wisconsin Badgers.

In Wisconsin, the Trojans gave up big plays and failed to take advantage of Badger mistakes.

“I thought that we were really competitive in that Wisconsin game,” Brown said. “We had some opportunities to really be in the game in the fourth quarter and we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities so we went back and corrected those mistakes and just focused on some things that I know are our weaknesses.”

The off week gave the Trojans the ability to not only work on their game but to get healthy.

Bryan Holmes has been banged up since week one at North Carolina State and has seen limited action. Holmes is listed as a starter on this week’s depth chart and should be good to go.

Other than Jordan Chunn, who was injured in the win against Charleston Southern, Troy should be healthy and ready to go against the Jaguars.

“(Tyler) Lassiter will be back and be in the rotation for sure,” Brown said. “Jed (Solomon) and Taylor (Polk) have both been reinstated, but have to claim their jobs, but they are both reinstated to practice. I think we will be full steam, with the exception of Jordan Chunn everyone else should be able to play. That was really our focus during the bye week, getting healthy.”

In the first three games, the Trojans have played teams that were heavy on the run, for the first time on Saturday the Trojans will go up against a team that has the weapons to hurt them at wide receiver as well.

“I think this is the best wide receiver corps we’ve played so far this year,” Brown said. “I don’t mean that to undermine anyone that we’ve played, but they have depth, length and they have really good speed and they have big plays against really good secondaries. If you look against NC State, they had three explosive pass plays. Against Nebraska they threw the ball for nearly 300 yards in that game.

Troy and South Alabama will kick off the Sun Belt Conference schedule Saturday at 6 p.m.