Sumpter, Rookard shine for Troy

Published 7:28 pm Monday, September 17, 2018

Special teams is usually third on the depth chart of importance for football coaches behind offense and defense, but the Troy Trojans special team unit proved it could pave the way to a win Saturday.

The Trojans defeated the Cornhuskers 24-19 on Saturday and special teams made a difference.

“I thought special teams was the difference in the game,” Brown said. “In a game where both defenses played really well, I didn’t think either offense played particularly well at all, some of that may have been a product of good defense, but I thought special teams really provided the edge in the game for us.”

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Punter Tyler Sumpter was named the Sun Belt Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after he averaged 53.8 yards – one yard shy of the Troy single-game punting record. His longest punt came on his first when he boomed a 79-yard long punt that rolled through the endzone.

“I was pretty excited. That’s the longest punt I’ve ever had – here, high school or anywhere,” Sumpter said. “Especially to open up the game, I really felt like it gave our team momentum. The opening drive kind of stalled out and stuff, so I thought not only to flip the field, but you could see the guys on the sidelines were all like really excited and getting hyped up and stuff.”

The Trojans opening drive stalled on their own 21-yard line and Sumpter’s punt flipped the field by giving the Cornhusker possession on the 25. The Trojans defense held and the Trojans offense got the ball back to eventually score three points on a Sumpter field goal.

“Anytime you score first in college football, you look at the percentages in the first three weeks, you have a higher percentage to win the game,” Brown said. “I don’t know what he ate, but he played well.”

Early in the second quarter with the Trojans still holding a 3-0 lead, punt returner Cedarius Rookard returned a punt 58 yards for a touchdown to put the Trojans up 10-0.

“The punt team has been working their butts off,” Rookard said. “They blocked all of their guys and everything. It was just up to me. I know Dunlap made a key block, Frye made a key block when I cut back.”

Rookard later fumbled a punt that led to three Nebraska points. The importance of special teams isn’t lost on the Troy players – it is expressed by Brown on a daily basis.

Coach Brown harps on ‘the ball is our program – special teams, offense, defense – its scoring every time you get the opportunity to have the ball,” Rookard said. “The ball is our program.”