Troy moves into first all by themselves with win over Louisiana-Lafayette

Published 7:24 pm Saturday, November 3, 2018

Damion Willis and B.J. Smith helped lead Troy to a 26-16 win over Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday afternoon.

The win for the Trojans improves their overall record to 6-2 and 5-0 in conference play. Paired with a Georgia Southern loss, the Trojans now sit alone on top of the Sun Belt Eastern division. The Trojans have won 11 straight Sun Belt Conference games.

“A program win,” said head coach Neal Brown. “I feel very similar to how I felt about the bowl game. We have a lot of people that are out that didn’t play. For our team to step up and play like they did today was really impressive. We had a great week of preparation. Our best of week of practice.”

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Damion Willis finished the game with 213 yards, the most receiving yards by a Sun Belt Conference player this season.

“I think he has been the best player on the field two games in a row,” Brown said. “What he did against South and what he did today, what makes me really pleased with that is he has been the best practice player this entire 2018 season.”

Smith rushed for over 100 yards for the fifth consecutive game, breaking the school record. He finished with 105 yards and one touchdown.

“This is one was the hardest one,” Brown said. “He is beat up. He barely practiced this week.”

Troy kicker Tyler Sumpter made three field goals for the Trojans in the first half. His first came from 29-yards out to give the Trojans a 3-0 lead early.

“Getting off to a quick start was huge,” Brown said. “We somehow overcame a snap that went about 30 yards behind our heads and still got three points out of the drive. We continued to roll.”

Willis hauled two catches for over 40 yards in Troy’s win over South Alabama last Tuesday, in the first half on Saturday he did it two more times. With the game tied at 3, Willis hauled in a Sawyer Smith pass and took it 75 yards for a touchdown to bring the score 10-3.

Willis finished the first half with six catches for 184 yards.

The Troy defense forced a fumble, which was picked up by Trevon Sanders. B.J. Smith took advantage of the opportunity and scored from 12 yards out to put the Trojans up 17-3.

Sumpter nailed two field goals to finish the half from 42 and 20 yards out to send the game into halftime with the Trojans leading 23-3.

The three first half points for the Cajuns fell 25.5 points shy of their first half average in their last four games.

“I thought defensively, I was really proud of how we performed,” Brown said. “I thought schematically we did a really good job. That is the best offense in our league statistically coming in.”

The Ragin’ Cajuns took the opening drive of the second half 55 yards on eight plays and got to within 13 points of Troy when Trey Ragas ran his way in from three yards out.

On Troy’s next drive, Sumpter tied a school record when he made his fourth field goal of the game from 49 yards out to push Troy’s lead to 16. It pushed Sumpter’s streak of made field goals to eight in a row.

The Cajuns inched closer late in the third quarter. The Trojan defense looked to have stopped the Cajuns in the redzone but an offside call, gave the Cajuns new life at the five. One play later, Ragas scored his second touchdown of the game. The Cajuns failed on the two-point conversion attempt to keep Troy’s lead at 10.

Smith finished the game completing 18 of his 22 passes for 317 yards.

The Trojans will take on Georgia Southern next Saturday with first place in the eastern division on the line.

“Coach Brown told us, we 100 percent control own destiny,” Smith said. “There is nothing you can ask for more going into the last three games of the year. You have to be in control of what you are doing. As long we play Troy football and play like we have the last two weeks and not make any mistakes, we will be good.”