Column: No need to panic following Troy’s opening day loss to Boise State

Published 11:26 am Friday, September 7, 2018

“I didn’t think it was going to be that bad,” some Troy fans muttered either to themselves or to friends after the Trojans dropped their season opener to Boise State Saturday night.

It wasn’t pretty. The Trojans fell to the No. 22 Broncos 56-20. The 36-point loss was Troy’s largest margin of defeat since head coach Neal Brown took over before the 2015 season.

Despite the struggles and the lopsided score, it’s not time to panic. As quarterback Aaron Rodgers famously told Green Bay Packers fans, “R-E-L-A-X.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Boise State rode into Troy as the face of the Group of Five conferences and is one of the winningest teams in the country over the last 10 to 15 years. People that cover the Broncos believe this year’s team might be the most talented group of players this team has ever had. That is saying something considering all the success the team had under previous head coach Chris Petersen.

The Trojans entered the season with loads of optimism on the defensive side of the ball. Despite returning just five starters, they had a lot of guys back that had meaningful playing time a year ago. 

The Trojans allowed 416 yards of total offense on Saturday, 305 of which were passing yards. The Trojans went up against four-year starting quarterback Brett Rypien, who was looking to make a statement after struggling against the Trojans a year ago.

Big plays hurt the Trojans on Saturday.  The secondary, led by Blace Brown and Marcus Jones, got torched. They allowed two touchdowns on plays of over 50 yards.

But again, let’s not get too worked up just yet. Brown is coming off a serious knee injury that he sustained in the regular season finale against Arkansas State, and after being limited throughout the entire offseason, he looked a little rusty. Jones had a wonderful freshman season, but it’s only natural to expect some regression, especially in the season opener against the best offense he has likely seen. The Trojans won’t see another offense like Boise State the rest of the way and I truly expect the defense to be the strength of this year’s team.

Now to the offense. Throughout much of the game it was a struggle for first-year starting quarterback Kaleb Barker.

The Trojans went up against one of the top defensive units in the country with 10 returning starters from last year’s team. The Trojans didn’t throw the ball down field very often, but when they did, Barker’s throws looked promising – including a 33-yard touchdown pass to Deondre Douglas in the fourth quarter. He had to perform with a running game that is lacking a true number one presence after Jordan Chunn and Josh Anderson departed. After being blitzed by a Bronco offense that scored 28 unanswered points in the first half, the Trojans offense picked it up in the second half which gave coach Brown a little optimism moving forward.

I believe if this game was played later in the season, Troy would have had a better chance to beat the Broncos. With new players in new roles on offense and the defense going up against a seasoned Broncos offense, opening the season with a win was a tough task.

The Trojans still have everything to play for this season. The Trojans are 9-5 coming off a loss under coach Brown and 5-0 in the past two seasons. It should jump up to 6-0 if the Trojans take care of business this weekend against Florida A&M.

The Trojans will then play Nebraska before officially starting conference play against Louisiana-Monroe in week 4.

The Trojans were picked as the third best team in the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Poll behind Arkansas State and Appalachian State. After week one, I don’t think that has changed.

The Trojans first and main goal is to play and host the inaugural Sun Belt Conference championship game. One out-of-conference loss has not changed those goals.

The Trojans will ride into their conference opener against Monroe with a 1-2 or 2-1 record. In either case, the game against the Warhawks will be the game that will really define the start to the Trojans’ season.

The Broncos entered the season ranked No. 22 in the country. By season’s end, it wouldn’t be a shock if they were in the top 15 and playing in another New Year’s Day bowl. Is Troy the best team in the Group of Five? Probably not. Are they the best in the Sun Belt Conference? The jury is still out.