SOMETHING TO PROVE: Trojans seek historic third-straight 10-win season

Published 11:11 pm Friday, December 21, 2018

For the third consecutive season, the Troy Trojans will end their season in a bowl game.

The Trojans head to Mobile’s Ladd Peebles Stadium to take on the Buffalo Bulls in the 2018 Dollar General Bowl.

It will be the first time in program history that the Trojans will play in three-straight bowl games. They will attempt to accomplish another first on Saturday – a win for the Trojans will give them their third-straight 10-win season.

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“It’s an opportunity for this team to get to 10 wins,” said head coach Neal Brown. “There have only been a few teams in school history that have gotten to that number. For us to do that for the third year in a row is an opportunity for it to be special.”

To do that, the Trojans will have to knock off a Bulls team that has already reached the 10-win plateau. The Bulls finished the season with a 10-3 record and came just shy of winning the Mid-American Conference Championship. The Bulls fell to Northern Illinois 30-29.

“They’re probably the best team we have played in a bowl game,” Brown said. “They have already achieved what we are trying to get to. They were one point shy of being the MAC champion.”

The Trojans ended the regular season with a loss to Appalachian State. In the last two games of the regular season, the Trojans managed to put up 22 points. Coach Brown and the Trojans look to get back on track against the Bulls.

“I don’t like how we finished the regular season,” Brown said. “I don’t think we played our best in the last two games. In particular, we didn’t play very well against App. State. It’s unfinished business for us. It’s an opportunity for us to get to 10 wins, so there is a lot to play for. We are not going to stay status quo, because the last two games haven’t been good enough.”

The Troy offense should get a shot in the arm on Saturday. After having nearly a month off, it appears that the Trojans will ride into Mobile’s Ladd Peebles Stadium healthy. Receivers Damion Willis will return after missing the season finale against Appalachian State.  Deondre Douglas was limited against Appalachian State. Both receivers have combined to haul in 87 catches for 1,212 yards and 15 touchdowns.

The Bulls offense comes into the game averaging 417 yards per game. They are led by quarterback Tyree Jackson. The six-foot seven-inch gunslinger will be the biggest quarterback the Trojans have faced in some time. Jackson had completed 55 percent of his passing this season and has 27 passing touchdowns.

“Offensively, they are probably the top unit we have seen this season,” Brown said. “Their quarterback, Jackson, is the offensive player the year. He’s an athletic guy, but he is a passer. He has a strong arm, he breaks tackles, he is difficult to get down. He makes explosive pass plays when he is on the move.”

The Bulls defense has allowed 394 yards per game this season and are 32nd in the nation in total defense. Khalil Hodge leads the Bulls’ defense with 139 tackles on the season. Hodge also has 2.5 sacks. The Bulls defense is 19th best in the country in pass defense and 36th in sacks.

The game will kick off at 6 p.m. from Ladd Peebles Stadium. The game can be seen on ESPN.

“It’s a huge challenge for us,” Brown said. “I always think with bowl games it’s about who’s motivated and most excited. I promise our guys are going to be excited. I think the keys for this, we have to continue playing at a high level defensively. Special teams are going to be a huge factor in the game. Offensively, we have to recreate ourselves.”