Column: 2017 excitement only the beginning for Troy football program

Published 3:00 am Thursday, December 21, 2017

With Christmas just days away, the excitement from Saturday’s win for the Trojans in the New Orleans Bowl will eventually die down. But Troy fans will still reflect back on what was a fun and successful 2017 season.

Troy fans witnessed a stretch of mediocre football from 2011 until 2015 that saw the Trojans go a combined 25-39.

After Troy’s first 10-win season in their Division-I history last season, expectations for 2017 were high.

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And why wouldn’t they be? The Trojans returned all but 10 catches off last year’s offense and their defense, minus a few linebackers, was mostly back in 2017.

During fall camp, I believed a realistic prediction heading into the season would be either a 10-2 or 9-3 finish. I predicted the Trojans would lose to LSU, Boise State and possibly Arkansas State to close out the year.

After a lackluster performance in week one’s loss to the Broncos, it looked like Troy was destined to live up to that prediction. Four weeks later, after rattling off three straight wins, the Trojans rode into Baton Rouge to take on nationally-ranked LSU. Troy fans packed the end zone in Tiger Stadium for, if nothing else, the opportunity to watch Troy take on an SEC opponent. They got more than that when their Trojans knocked off the No. 22 Tigers 24-21.

After what seemed like endless national media attention that had Neal Brown on ESPN’s Sportscenter and the Paul Finebaum Show, the Trojans hosted South Alabama in the annual Battle for the Belt. In the 11 days between Troy’s win against LSU and their matchup with South Alabama, Brown harped on the importance of remaining humble and staying focused on their upcoming game. The Trojans responded with arguably their worst performance of the year in a 19-8 loss to the Jaguars.

With the Trojans record at 4-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play, Brown preached again, this time on being 1-0 each week. From that point on, the Trojans finished the next six weeks 1-0 and claimed a share of their first Sun Belt title since 2010 with a win over Arkansas State.

The win vaulted the Trojans to a berth in the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The excitement carried over into the Crescent City when the Trojans knocked off North Texas 50-30, giving them their 21st win in the last two years.

With the offseason now underway, the excitement is still in the air with the inception of an early National Signing Day. With key members leaving, including quarterback Brandon Silvers, running backs Jordan Chunn and Josh Anderson, Wednesday’s signing class could go a long way in determining how much of this season’s success can carry over into 2018.

With 21 wins in the last two years, the excitement should once again be near an all-time high next season. Despite the ever-growing rumors of Neal Brown going elsewhere, it looks like Brown will coach his fourth season at Troy next year. More success for the Trojans will inevitably spark more rumors; but for now, Trojan fans need to continue to enjoy the ride. With new pieces joining the fold and a new-look stadium, the 2018 season should be another fun ride for the Trojan faithful.