Troy’s defense starting to take shape

Published 3:00 am Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Troy Trojans defense that struggled in the first half of the season, albeit to power five conference teams, has slowly started to take shape.

The Trojans began the 2015 season with a trip to Atlantic Coast Conference territory when they made a stop in Raleigh to play North Carolina State, where they faced preseason Heisman Trophy candidate Jacoby Brissett. The Trojans scored 21 points but allowed 49 points defensively. Then, the Trojans gave up 28 points to Wisconsin and 45 to Mississippi State.

Their average going into last week’s game was 26.6 points per game. That number improved after their 52-7 win over New Mexico State.

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“I thought we did a nice job in the red zone, this is really the second week in a row, and on third down,” said Trojan head coach Neal Brown. “Coach (Vic) Koenning has done a nice job. We have one of the top third down defenses in the country, and right at the top of our league.”

It was the second time in an as many weeks that the Trojans held their opponents to under 20 points. The Trojans allowed 19 points in a losing effort to the Idaho Vandals the week prior.

Even though the offense stole the show on Saturday by putting up 45 of the 52 points, it was the defense that set up the offense. The Aggies converted on only four of 18 on third downs and the Trojans forced three turnovers, one of which was a fumble that was returned 33-yards for a touchdown by Rashad Dillard.

“I think this is a testament as to how far we’ve come,” Brown said. “We haven’t played as well, but we gave up seven points this week and only gave up 16 the week before. I think a lot of that shows how much improvement we’ve made.”

The touchdown for Dillard was his first one of his career, not just his college career but going back all the way to peewee football as well.

“Don’t drop the ball. Don’t drop the ball and don’t get caught. Don’t drop the ball, don’t get caught,” Dillard said. “That was on my mind the whole time. I would have heard it from so many people, including Coach Vic and Coach Brown and Coach (Ben) Hardmon. That was the whole thing in my mind: Don’t get caught and don’t drop the ball.”

This week the Trojans will have to put their improvement to the test when they travel to Boone, N.C., to take on the first place Appalachian State Mountaineers.

The Mountaineers come into the game averaging nearly 40 points per game on 482 yards per game.

Quarterback Taylor Lamb comes in completing 60 percent of his passes and has thrown for 17 touchdowns. Lamb can also beat you with his legs. Lamb has rushed for 255 yards rushing this year including a 103-yard performance against Louisiana Monroe.

“When you start talking about them it starts at the quarterback, Taylor Lamb,” Brown said. “He is a coach’s son, with two years starting. He makes a lot of good decisions, and doesn’t turn the ball over much. He is a threat to run.”

The Trojans will have to plan to stop the dual threat quarterback if they plan to be successful.

“It should be a challenge and it should be fun,” said Trojan linebacker William Lloyd. “I look forward to playing these guys and it should be a great week of practice. If we focus, play our part and keep to our keys we should dominate this game.”

The Trojans and Mountaineers will kick things off Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m.