Trojans travel to Akron to take on the Zips

Published 8:12 pm Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Troy Trojans hit the road for the first time this week to take on the Akron Zips on Saturday afternoon.

The Trojans (1-1) look to bounce back after a shootout loss to Southern Mississippi last Saturday evening at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

It will mark the second time in last three seasons that the two teams will meet. The Trojans won a thriller, 22-17 at Veterans Memorial Stadium in 2017.

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“This week we have Akron on the road, which is a big challenge for us because It’s the first road game for us,” Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said. “It’s a long trip and there’s a lot to handle with that.”

The Zips entered the season with a new head coach. Tom Arth took over for former coach Terry Bowden. Arth is still searching for his first win as head coach. The Zips find themselves 0-3 after falling to Illinois, UAB and Central Michigan.

“Akron is a team with a new head coach, new excitement and new energy,” Lindsey said. “Tom Arth is their head coach now, and I’ve been very impressed looking back at what he’s done both at John Carroll and Chattanooga.”

Saturday’s game will be Troy’s first game without senior standout running back B.J. Smith, who was lost for the season after sustaining a knee injury last week.

Along with DK Billingsley, who will fill in at running back, the Trojan offense will lean on quarterback Kaleb Barker, who broke the single-game passing record last week when he threw for 504 yards and four touchdowns.

“We’re very confident in Kaleb, and we always have been,” Lindsey said. “He’s shown great poise and a great understanding of our offense. Hopefully, he’ll continue to improve and get better. That’s what we are hoping for each week, and I think he’s done that.”

The Trojans had four players break the 100-yard mark last week for the first time in school history. Although the potential was there, Lindsey has been pleasantly surprised with the production of his new-look receivers.

“We just want to get our playmakers the ball,” Lindsey said. “Obviously those receivers really stepped up. Out of the four, Khalil was the new guy that stepped out. Reggie didn’t have the 100-yard game, which if you had to say four, he would have been one of them. I think it shows that we have quality depth at that position.

The Zips offense has averaged 15 points per game this season. They are led by three-year starting quarterback Kato Nelson. Nelson has completed 55 percent of his passes and thrown five touchdowns compared to two interceptions.

“He was a member of the MAC (divisional) championship team as a freshman and I’m very impressed with him,” Lindsey said. “I think that staff is doing a great job with him and of making the offense for him.”

The Trojan defense surrendered 626 yards, including 514 yards through the air. Akron is averaging 256 yards per game through the air this season.

“Two wideouts were impressive on films,” Lindsey said. “Dustin Burkhart is a guy we need to watch and know where he is in addition to Andre Williams. Those are two guys who make plays for them and two guys that we’re going to have to have a good plan for.”

Kickoff between the Trojans and Zips is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPN+.

“(Akron is) very capable of playing really well and have played three good teams,” Lindsey said. “The record will not deceive us. We know it’s a good football team on the road and we’re going to have to be ready or we’re going to be disappointed.”