Trojans look to extend road winning streak to eight games

Published 11:57 pm Friday, October 12, 2018

The Trojans travel to Virginia for their final non-conference game of the season against Liberty.

The Trojans (5-1) have won four straight games since their season opening loss to Boise State. They look it to make it six in a row against the 2-3 Flames.

“Excited about getting on the road this week to Lynchburg,” said head coach Neal Brown. “I’ve never been there and heard really good things about their crowd support, especially their students. First year fully in the FBS after a very successful run the FCS led by Turner Gill who is one of the most respected men in college football.”

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The Trojans arrive in Lynchburg trying to extend their winning streak on the road to eight games. A streak that began against Georgia State last season.

“We don’t make a big deal out of it, really,” Brown said. “I think that a lot of it is we believe in the routine we have about going on the road. I think our guys prepare well on the road. I think they buy into the us vs. them mentality that you have to have on the road.”

The Trojans will have to contend with a spirited crowd led by a student section right behind the Trojan bench.

“I know it’s a loud environment and the students are right there behind your bench,” Brown said. “We go and try to prepare our players for what they’re going to see.”

The Trojans will start quarterback Sawyer Smith for the first time this season after former starter Kaleb Barker was lost for the season when he tore his ACL last week against Georgia State.

“Just like we say all the time we have to be a ‘next man up’ program and Sawyer Smith will get the start on Saturday and we are going to have Gunnar Watson available for the game and he will play.”

The two quarterbacks will have to contend with a Flame defense that allowed 49 points in a loss against New Mexico State last week.

“Defensively, an improving unit,” Brown said. “They have played against some very good offenses early in the season. They have a veteran group if you go and look at their depth chart, a lot of guys have played in 20-plus games and they have won a lot which makes them dangerous.”

The Trojans running attack has been a unit of strength the last couple of weeks. They have set new program records in yards per carry and they will be going up against a Flame defensive front that has had their fair share of troubles stopping the run.

They’ve been susceptible to the run,” said offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Matt Moore. “Take Army out they’re still giving up over 200 yards rushing per game. I talk to my guys all the time about, ‘Just be consistent.’ It doesn’t take any great superhuman effort to be a great O-lineman, you just do the little things right and do it every time.”

Offensively, the flames are averaging 33 points per game and have scored over 50 points twice. They are averaging 140 yards on the ground and 340 through the air.

“Offensively they are very explosive,” Brown said. “I think it starts with their quarterback (Stephen) Calvert and they have a receiver in Antonio Gandy-Golden and another one in (DJ) Stubbs, they have a really deep receiving core. They are going to challenge us defensively especially in the secondary.”

Kickoff between the Flames and Trojans in set for 1:00 p.m.