Trojans make history with bowl win

Published 10:56 am Monday, December 24, 2018

The Troy Trojans finished off their best three-year stretch in program history on Saturday night when they defeated the Buffalo Bulls 42-32 in the Dollar General Bowl.

The win for the Trojans gives them their third bowl win in as many seasons and gives them double-digit wins for the third consecutive season. They have wrapped up 31 victories over the last three seasons.

The 31 wins is the most over a three-year span and they accomplished the double-digit wins in three straight seasons for the first time in program history.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

“This was a great game for us,” said head coach Neal Brown. “This season for me has been all about perseverance and overcoming adversity. We had plenty adversary in this game. We had opportunities to really put this game away and we didn’t do it. Our guys kept fighting and fighting.”

The Trojans battled the injury bug over the last month of the regular season. After nearly a month off, the Trojans returned to the field largely healthy. Receivers Damion Willis and Deondre Douglas, who were severely limited down the stretch, were healthy on Saturday night and they looked it.

Willis in his final collegiate start, hauled in 13 catches for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while Douglas caught four passes for 35 yards.

The Trojans finished with 433 yards. In their previous two games, the Trojans managed to score 22 points and averaged 221 yards.

“With the exception of really Caleb (Barker) we had everybody play in this game,” Brown said. “Offensively we were totally different because we felt like we had a lot of tools. I think it kind of gives you a glimpse of what maybe we could have been at the end of the season.”

Quarterback Sawyer Smith was a main beneficiary of a healthy offense on Saturday night. The redshirt sophomore completed 31 of his 44 passes for 320 yards and had four touchdowns, tying a career high. Following the game, Smith was named the game’s most valuable player.

“All of our wide receivers are fun to throw to, but it was good to have all the guys healthy again,” Smith said. “I think every single wide receiver we had on the field made a great play.”

Brown announced in the postgame press conference that even Smith has been battling an injury over the last few weeks, an injury that was still affecting the quarterback on Saturday.

“He played his best game. It wasn’t even close,” Brown said. “I can’t say enough about him. I love him and I think he is a great story. He got beat up throughout the year. He played tonight with a broken rib. That’s pretty tough if you ask me.”

Smith, who has shown he is capable of throwing the deep ball all season long, connected on two passes that went for sixty yards and 45 yards, both for touchdowns.

“Probably since I have been playing quarterback since my sophomore year of high school, throwing deep balls is my favorite thing to do and I feel most comfortable with it,” Smith said. “Having Tray (Eafford), Deondre, Sydney and all those fast guys, Damion, it makes it easier for me to throw the deep ball.”

Cedarius Rookard took home the Defensive MVP Award on Saturday after he finished with a game-high eight tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception.

“I knew once the quarterback started scrambling, I knew he was going to try and find a receiver down field,” Rookard said about his interception. “The receiver that he threw it to, I was underneath, Marcus Jones was behind me and Blace (Brown) was behind the receiver. So, he was triple covered.”

Mobile native Carlton Martial made his second return of the season to Ladd Peebles Stadium for the game. The freshman All-American finished with six tackles, two forced fumbles and fumble recovery.

“He’s a game changer,” Rookard said. “The plays that he made, it just put the offensive team in a better position for them to score.”

The Dollar General Bowl was not only an opportunity for the Trojans to get to 10 wins once again, but the for the seniors to go out on top once more, just as the senior class has done in each of the last two seasons.

“We basically left a legacy with the 10 wins tonight,” Rookard said. “I feel pretty good about it.”

In the postgame press conference Brown mentioned the Trojans treated the game like it was the beginning of the 2019 season. Despite losing key seniors, Brown is excited for the future of Troy football starting next season.

“We are going to miss this group,” Brown said. “We have some holes to fill especially at receiver and in the secondary. We have a chance to put another run together. I don’t want to look forward (too much), but I’m excited. I feel like we had a great signing class on Wednesday and we have a lot of positive momentum rolling. Tonight is more about the seniors and them playing their last game and I’m proud of them.”