READY TO PLAY: Trojans attempt to kick off holiday season with a character-building win against Georgia State

Published 3:00 am Friday, November 27, 2015

The Troy Trojans will face the Georgia State Panthers in the Georgia Dome today at 1 p.m.

The Troy Trojans will face the Georgia State Panthers in the Georgia Dome today at 1 p.m.

The Trojans, coming off a lopsided 45-10 loss at the hands of Georgia Southern, hit their bye week to prepare for a tough matchup with the ever-improving Panthers, but more importantly the Trojans took the time to rest and heal.

“The bye week was good for us, and it was productive,” said Trojans head coach Neal Brown. “We got couple of things accomplished. We got a little banged up. We’re not an overly deep football team and coming out of that (Georgia) Southern loss we were beat up, so we rested.”

The Trojans entered the game with Georgia Southern having won two out of three. After taking one on the chin at the hands of the Eagles, the Trojans practiced just twice during the bye week but took the time to study up and prepare for their next task.

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That next task will be a tough one. The Panthers come into the game against the Trojans having won two games in a row and is a program that is on the rise.

“Georgia State is playing the best football they’ve played all year,” Brown said. “Over the last five weeks, they’ve put on a run of playing really good football, the best in the history of their program really. They’ve had three wins and two really close losses.”

After struggling a week ago against a triple-option attack in Georgia Southern, the Trojans will have to adjust to a team that loves to throw the football. So far this season the Panthers have averaged nearly 250 yards of passing, and all of that starts with quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who leads the league in passing efficiency.

“It starts with them on offense,” Brown said. “Nick Arbuckle, their quarterback, has the highest passing efficiency, throwing for the most yards of anybody in our league. Offensively, they’re playing as well or better than anybody in our league. They’re the best passing team in our conference.”

Wide outs Penny Hart and Robert Davis lead the Panthers offensive attack for the Panthers, and the Troy defenders will have to change gears in preparation after defending the triple-option attack in their last game.

“Every week is a challenge,” said Trojan cornerback LaMarcus Farmer. “I feel it’s more of an opportunity for us to be able to make plays in the secondary. I love being able to go against a team that’s more pass-heavy. That gives me more of an opportunity to make plays and the rest of us to come out and do something good.”

The secondary will not be alone on defense Friday afternoon; the front seven of the Trojans will be looked at to provide pressure on Arbuckle.

“Rashad Dillard and Tyler Roberts – those guys have got to have big games for us,” Brown said. “Sam Lebbie needs to be a factor. Our corners are going to be challenged like they haven’t been so far. They’ve got to step up, and we’ve got to mix up coverages. We’ve got to play some man (coverage), which we haven’t done a whole lot this year and then play our base zone, too.”

Troy’s offense made major strides heading into their matchup with the Eagles two weeks ago. After struggling and not get anything going, the Trojans will have to contend with a defense that has played really well. In the last two games, the Panthers have let up just 14 points per game.

“I think that’s a big reason why they’ve been playing better here of late,” Brown said. “The last three weeks, if you look at their stats they’ve been impressive. They’ve created a lot of turnovers; they’re flying around creating a lot of negative plays. They’re blitzing a little bit more than they did earlier in the season, and they’re having success with that.”

The Trojans hope to pick up a program-building win this afternoon when they kick things off with Georgia State inside the Georgia Dome at 1 p.m. The game can be seen on ESPN3.