Mixed results for Smith in first career start

Published 9:13 am Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Troy quarterback Sawyer Smith made his first start of his career on Saturday in a 22-16 loss against the Liberty Flames.

Smith finished the game with13 completions on 25 attempts for 135 yards with one touchdown and one interception.

“I thought from a managing the game standpoint, I thought he did fine,” said head coach Neal Brown. “He’s has to be better throwing the football. He was a lot better in practice, he’s been better at throwing the football than what he was in every game in his entire career. He did a great job of getting ball out on the perimeter in some of the run-pass combinations we have, and we just blocked them terrible.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The Troy offense had only four completions go for 10 or more yards on Saturday. Two of them came on back-to-back plays in the first quarter, including a 23-yard touchdown pass to Deondre Douglas.

“They were only getting one to two yards on the receiver screen when they should have been four to six-yard plays, so I don’t think (Smith) got much help in that regard. I think he lost faith and quit throwing (those plays) and everything kept getting suppressed in the run game, so we were not able to hit those explosive plays. When you look at bad offensive performances, I think that the quarterback always gets too much blame.”

One of Smith’s strengths is being able to throw the deep ball on occasion; however, on Saturday, a mix of poor blocking and receivers not getting open limited Sawyer and the play calling.

“I think that’s one of his strengths throwing the football. I think what happened the other day is we had – other than Damion and Deondre on the touchdown drive – we just didn’t have a whole lot of guys making plays or taking little passes and breaking them long,” Brown said. “So I think he started to press a little bit, and as he pressed I think he got real cautious and he missed some of those deep balls that he usually hits. The thing about a deep ball is you just want to give your guy an opportunity to make a play.”

Pressure also could have played a factor in Smith’s ability to get the ball down the field. Smith was sacked a total of four times and was under pressure throughout the game.

“We had a couple guys that were open across the middle that we missed,” Brown said. “Some of that’s a protection issue, too, because he had some people in his face. So it’s easy to see, ‘OK, that wasn’t a very good throw.’ But when you go back and watch the all-22 video and you see, ‘Oh, yeah, well, there’s a guy running up the middle free and in his face,’ there’s a reason why that ball missed high, because he couldn’t finish.”

Brown kept with the same two-quarterback system he has had all season. Freshman Gunnar Watson came in the game during the second quarter and finished with three completions in four attempts for 25 yards.

Saturday’s performance was a learning experience for both of the quarterbacks as well as the offense.

“Last week was a learning experience,” Brown said. “I’m not sure that we served Sawyer or Gunnar as well as we should have. You have to look in the mirror and that is something that myself and the offensive staff will do.”