Trojans make strides

Published 3:00 am Friday, December 11, 2015

The Troy Trojans wrapped up Neal Brown’s first season as head coach with an impressive 41-17 win over the Louisiana-Lafayette Last Saturday afternoon.

“I was excited and pleased that we could finish the year on a high note,” Brown said. “I was really proud how our guys competed in their last football game. That was a big win. It had been a long time since Troy had beaten Lafayette.”

The Trojans finished with a 4-8 overall record, better than last season’s 3-9. Although the difference was subtle in the final standings, Brown saw marketable improvement as the season progressed.

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“Visually, you can see the improvements that we have made all year,” Brown said. “We were one of the most improved defenses in the country. Offensively we averaged a touchdown more than last year. We knew we were a much improved football team, but for us to get a win to get our record was better than a year ago, I think it was important.”

Defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, who returned to Troy in 2015, helped the defense become one the more improved cores in the country. For his and the defense’s efforts Koenning was named a finalist for the Broyles Award given to the top assistant coach in the country.

The Trojan defense let up nearly a 100 points less in 2015 than they did in 2014 and also made marketable improvements on third down.

“We had good leadership,” Brown said. “The credit needs to go to Vic (Koenning) and the defensive staff. They did a really nice job. You have to give some credit to the seniors and the leadership that we had on that side of the ball as well. The improvements we made were big.”

The defense kept the Trojans in games this season, as the Trojans were a -4 in point differential.

“These numbers are huge improvements,” Brown said. “When I got here I talked about playing championship level defense and we have to (do that). We are not at that level yet, but we made drastic improvements.”

On offense, the Trojans went as far as sophomore quarterback Brandon Silvers took them. The sophomore had an up and down season that included injuries. After getting hurt in a loss to Mississippi State, Silvers missed the following game against Idaho before retuning the next weekend to complete 23 passes for 288 yards and five touchdowns in a blowout win against New Mexico State.

That game was the beginning of a three-game streak that saw the Trojans go 2-1 while averaging 48 points.

“In the last six games when he was healthy, I thought you saw a very improved player,” Brown said. “If you take out the first half of the Georgia Southern game, where he didn’t play very well other than that I thought he played good football. Outside of the Arbuckle kid at Georgia State, I thought he played as good of football at the quarterback position as anyone in our league over the last six games.”

One of the highlights on the offensive side of the ball was senior running back Brandon Burks. After Jordan Chunn sustained a collarbone injury, Burks took over as the primary back and finished with 1,005 yards on the season, making him just the seventh player in school history to surpass the 1,000 yard mark.

“He did a good job all season for us,” Brown said. “Quite frankly we didn’t block very clean. Sometimes we struggled up front or just played teams that were better than us. He was able to stay healthy which was crucial, this was the first time in his career he had been able to stay healthy. That was very rewarding.”

The Trojans were successful on individual basis as well in 2015, The Trojans finished with 11 players being awarded with All-Conference honors. Senior defensive end Tyler Roberts who finished first team all defense and Teddy Ruben who was named second team at wide receiver, all purpose and return specialist.

“You always want to see the guys who are excelling to get recognition,” Brown said. “I really felt like… Tyler Roberts was the best defensive player in the conference. I was disappointed Teddy got second team.”