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Trojans fall to MTSU in Battle for the Palladium

The Troy Trojans fell to Middle Tennessee State 20-17 on Saturday in the Battle for the Palladium at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Saturday’s game was the second meeting of the season between the two schools. The Trojans defeated the Raiders earlier this season.

Troy (4-4) was without head coach Chip Lindsey after a positive COVID-19 test late in the week. Brian Blackmon served as the interim coach in his absence.

“I would like to thank Mr. Jones, our Athletic Director and coach Lindsey for entrusting our football team tonight, to get them ready to play tonight and to try to win this football game,” Blackmon said. “Obviously we didn’t do that. Very frustrated. Very emotional locker room right now. I thought we made too many mistakes. I think at halftime we had four penalties and a turnover and they had none in either category. I thought that was a major factor in the first half. Really proud of the effort our guys displayed, but obviously not happy with the outcome. Disappointed I wasn’t able to get it done for coach tonight.”

The Trojans were without a total of 10 players on Saturday due to injury, COVID 19 or coaches discretion including Kimani Vidal, Javon Solomon, and Austin Stidham. The Trojans were also without defensive line coach Davern Williams and coach John Carr.

With Lindsey’s absence, the play calling fell to coaches Cole Weeks and Ryan Pugh.

“Cole was the primary play caller, but the two of them worked in unison together,” Blackmon said. “Coach Weeks has been with coach Lindsey for a long time. Very familiar with his scheme and philosophy. There was a lot of communication going on between the two of them.”

After posting 212 in the opening half, the Trojans offense mustered 180 in the third and fourth quarter.

Gunnar Watson who missed the last two games due to injury, made his return on Saturday. Watson completed 25 of his 39 passes for 300 yards. He had one touchdown and two interceptions.

“He’s a tough kid,” Blackmon said. “I don’t know how many kids in college football are willing to come back as fast as he did. I don’t know how particularly well he played. He had the two turnovers, but until you watch film you have to be careful when judging turnovers because sometimes it’s a protection and sometimes it’s a route issue. I thought he played tough. I don’t think he’s 100 percent, but he is in a position where he wanted to fight for his team tonight.”

The Blue Raiders had a total of four possessions in the opening half and they scored points on their final three drives.

It was the Trojans, however, who scored the game’s first points. After Watson completed a pass of 40 yards and 25 yards to Khalil McClain and Jamontez Woods, Evan Legassey converted on a 33-yard field goal to give the Trojans an early 3-0 lead.

The Raiders scored the game’s next 14 points to take an 11-point lead. Following a Gunnar Watson interception, Chaton Mobley ran in from four-yards, giving the Raiders a 6-0 lead before the extra point. The Raiders jumped out to a 14-3 lead when Frank Peasant scored MTSU’s second rushing touchdown of the half from five-yards out.

Watson threw for 200 yards in the opening half. Trailing 14-3, Watson connected with Tez Johnson for a 58-yard catch and run. On the next play, B.J. Smith brought the Trojans to within four on a two-yard touchdown run.

The Trojans and Blue Raiders traded field goal attempts in the final minutes of the opening half. Crews Holt connected from 22-yards out to give the Blue Raiders a 17-10 lead. On the final play before halftime, Legassey missed is attempt from 53-yards out.

With 4:04 remaining in the third quarter, the Trojans ran the ball 14 times for 12 yards. During the Trojans third drive of the half, B.J. Smith had 57 rushig yards on six carries. The Trojans couldn’t take advantage. After taking a snap on the Blue Raider 21, Gunnar Watson threw his second interception of the game.

The game went into the fourth quarter with the Blue Raiders leading 17-10.

The Trojans had 67 yards in the third quarter, 58 of which came on their final drive.

Both teams were held scoreless until 2:27 remaining in the fourth quarter when Holt connected from 49 yards out to put the Blue Raiders up 20-10.

Khalil McClain brought the Trojans closer when he hauled in an eight-yard touchdown pass by Watson. After a successful extra point, the Trojans deficit was cut to three with 28 seconds remaining.

The Trojans lined up for an onside kick, but the ball bounced into the arms of a Raider, ending Troy’s chance of a comeback.

Smith led the Trojans with 62 yards on 10 carries to go along with his one touchdown. McClain ended his afternoon with six catches for 92 yards.

The Trojans will be back in action next Saturday when they travel to Boone, North Carolina to take on Appalachian State.