Trojans open conference play against Red Wolves

Published 8:07 pm Friday, September 27, 2019

The Troy Trojans return home to begin Sun Belt Conference play this evening when they take on the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

The Trojans (2-1) and Red Wolves have each won six Sun Belt Conference championships since Troy joined the league in 2004. Despite their history, Troy and the Red Wolves will play each other for just the second time in the last five years on Saturday evening.

“When you look at this weekend against Arkansas State, it’s a huge game because it’s our first conference game,” said Troy head coach Chip Lindsey. “This is a team that is very well-coached, and they do a great job in all three phases of the game.”

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The last time the two teams met was 2017, when the Trojans pulled out a dramatic win over to claim a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship.

In all, the Trojans and Red Wolves have played 16 times with Arkansas State winning 10 of them.

This year’s Red Wolves come into the game sporting a 2-2 record after they knocked off Southern Illinois last week 41-28.

“I know our guys are very excited,” Lindsey said. “We started preparing on Sunday. We’re looking forward to it. It’s a big challenge, but it’s one that we’re really excited about.”

The Trojans defense that struggled against Southern Miss two weeks ago bounced back last Saturday when they held the Zips to 242 combined yards. This week’s test ramps up again against a Red Wolves offense led by quarterback Logan Bonner. Bonner and the Red Wolves are averaging 400 yards per game and 28 points.

Last week, Bonner threw for 320 yards and had four touchdowns.

“They have a lot of different weapons,” Lindsey said. “Their quarterback is very impressive. I know he was the backup there previously, and now it’s his team. I like the way he manages the offense and gets the ball to their playmakers.”

His weapons will be receivers Omar Bayless and Jonathan Adams.

After his record-breaking performance against Southern Miss two weeks ago, quarterback Kaleb Barker backed it up with three touchdowns and 214 yards.

“He’s done a really nice job considering how much we’ve passed the ball,” Lindsey said. “I think the great thing about Kaleb is that when we watch film, he’s very hard on himself. He’ll be the first to admit when he didn’t make the right decision, which is good. We need to continue to give him different looks and reps. Hopefully the more comfortable he gets, the better he’ll play.”

Despite winning by 13 points, the Red Wolves surrendered 526 yards against the Salukis.

“They’re very sound and will play very hard,” Lindsey said. “Their front is very big and athletic. It’s a very impressive group up front led by Forrest Merrill their defensive tackle, who is big and powerful and very hard to block.”

The Trojans have won their last three conference openers. They hope to make it number four on Saturday and get off to a good start in conference play.

“It’s definitely something we talk about,” Lindsey said. “At the same time, we don’t approach Saturday any different than any other game. We’re going to prepare each week the same and give our team the best chance to win each week. It’d be nice for us to get off to a good start in conference play, and certainly that’s our goal. There are still plenty of games ahead, but we want to get off to a good start.”