Early success: Troy looks to build on strong start against Vandals
Published 3:00 am Friday, September 30, 2016
The Troy Trojans head into Saturday’s contest with a 3-1 record, the best start to a season in the program’s FBS history.
After picking up a win in their first conference game a week ago over New Mexico State the Trojans fly cross-country for the first time this season to face the Idaho Vandals.
“This is our first flight trip that we have this year,” said Troy head coach Neal Brown. “It is a long trip out West. So there is a lot that goes into that. We have a lot of respect for Paul Petrino and his staff. They came in here and beat us on Homecoming last year. Most of that football team is back. Petrino is one of the best offensive minds in the country.”
Also for the first time this season, the Trojans will take their game indoors.
“Our preparation is basically the same,” Brown said. “We’re going out a day early, leaving Thursday after practice.”
Last season Idaho (2-2) came into Troy and knocked off the Trojans on homecoming. This season Brown believes both teams have improved.
“We never led in the game,” Brown said. “They handled us from the get-go. We had opportunities to win the game. I thought they played better than us and deserved to win. I thought they came in here and soundly beat us. You get what you earn and they came in and outplayed us in all three phases.
“We are a much better team than we were a year ago, and I think they are a much better team than they were a year ago.
The Vandals offense is averaging just 18 points per game, but they are coming off a 33-point performance against UNLV.
Idaho is led by junior quarterback Matt Linehann. The junior has completed 52 percent of his passes and has thrown two touchdowns and one interception.
“Matt Linehan can make all of the throws. He really hurt us last year with his feet. He can make plays when the pocket breaks down. The running back (Aaron) Duckworth is a physical runner. They have two tight ends that they use in the passing game a lot. That will be an element that we haven’t faced this year. They are really big up front,” he said.
Last week the Trojans defense struggled. Even though the defense allowed only six points, they also allowed over 530 yards of offense.
“I just think we didn’t play very well,” Brown said. “I didn’t think our focus was very good, and we made some mental mistakes. We were out of position based on alignment. That is just not playing fundamental football. I’m fired up that we made five interceptions, and that we held them to six points.”
The Trojans offense put up 492 yards last week and comes into the game averaging 473 yards and 42 points per game. Idaho has allowed 40.5 points per game.
“Defensively, they are a pain to prepare for because they mix up their fronts and their coverages so much,” Brown said. “They have huge bodies up front. They have the conference defensive player of the week this week in Kaden Elliss. They got after us defensively last year.”
Last week a dozen Trojans receivers caught passes, a trend coaches hope to see continue. “They prepared better during the week and they caught the ball when it was thrown to them,” Brown said. “Our route running still has to get better, though. I played wideout and I coached them for several years, I am going to knit-pick at that position.”
And the record start to the season simply pushes the coaches and team to continue improving.
“We coached them harder last week than we have all year. We have to continue to do that. We will stay with the same process that we have all year,” Brown said.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Kibbie Dome in Moscow, Idaho.