Doege lifts Troy past Western Kentucky

Published 10:15 pm Saturday, October 1, 2022

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Backup quarterback Jarret Doege entered the game for the Troy Trojans (3-2) in the third quarter and helped guide the Trojans to a 34-27 win over his former teammates on the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (3-2) on the road Saturday night.

Doege started preseason fall camp at Western Kentucky before transferring to Troy in August. With the score tied 20-20 late in the third quarter, Gunnar Watson led Troy into Western Kentucky territory. Watson then took a hit on the sideline and seemed to hit his head on the turf causing him to leave the game. Doege came into the game and converted a fourth-and-long inside the WKU 15 going into the fourth quarter. Facing a third-and-long, Doege threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Dothan native Jabre Barber to put Troy ahead 27-20 with 14:54 left in the game. That drive was the first meaningful playing time that Doege had received at Troy since playing one snap against Ole Miss.

Dothan’s Jabre Barber caught the go-ahead TD against WKU. (Photo by Joe Imel/BG Daily News)

Western Kentucky drove deep into Troy territory on the ensuing possession but the Trojan defense stood tall and forced a turnover on downs. Doege then marched the Trojans on a 9-play scoring drive, capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tez Johnson to put Troy up 34-20 with 7:14 left in the game.

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The Troy defense seemed to have Western Kentucky stopped on a fourth-and-long deep in WKU territory but a deflected pass fell into the arms of a Hilltopper offensive lineman, who then raced 15 yards for a first down. On the next play, WKU quarterback Austin Reed heaved a 55-yard pass to Michael Mathison to get the ball inside Troy territory. On fourth-and-goal, Reed found receiver Daewood Davis for a 9-yard touchdown pass to cut Troy’s lead to 34-27 with 4:20 left.

After Troy was forced to punt with just under two minutes remaining, WKU took over at its own 11-yard line. Western Kentucky drove deep into Troy territory but Troy’s Richardon Jibunor dropped Reed for a sack, forcing a fumble in the process. Antonio Showers covered the fumble and sealed the 34-27 win for Troy.

“In the third quarter, it seemed like we had the guy go down and another guy goes down. And then another guy goes down,” Troy coach Jon Sumrall said. “But our guys kept responding. It’s next man up, and we kept competing, kept fighting. Our backs were against the wall. We could have done some things better. I could have coached some things better, and our players could have done some things better. But I’ll tell you what, I could not be prouder of the fight that we have on this football team.”

Troy finished the game with 415 yards of offense, while WKU earned 470 yards. The big difference, however, was in the running game. The Trojans, who have struggled running the ball for much of the season, churned out 135 yards rushing and the Hilltoppers managed just 64 yards on the ground.

Western Kentucky wasted no time jumping on the Trojans early, going up 7-0 in the first two minutes of the game. Western Kentucky quarterback Austin Reed sliced through the Troy defense with ease, marching the Hilltoppers on a 75-yard drive in just five plays. Reed found receiver Josh Simon for an 11-yard touchdown pass to put WKU up 7-0 early.

Troy’s RaeJae’ Johnson (0) makes a leaping grab against WKU. (Photo by Joe Imel/BG Daily News)

Troy responded right back, getting into scoring position, but bogged down in the WKU red-zone. Brooks Buce converted a 37-yard field goal and cut the lead to 7-3 with 8:04 left in the first quarter. After forcing a WKU punt, Troy marched right back down the field and DK Billingsley scored on a 21-yard run to put Troy ahead 10-3 with 55 seconds left in the opening period. Billingsley raced through a big hole in the WKU defense and then ran through Hilltopper tacklers at the 5-yard line to bull his way into the end-zone.

As the second quarter began, Troy’s Carlton Martial made a leaping interception near midfield and returned it into Western Kentucky territory. Penalties snuffed out that Troy drive and Watson was intercepted on a fourth down attempt. Both offenses stalled at this point until Western Kentucky got things rolling again late in the second quarter. Western Kentucky booted a 40-yard field goal with 2:57 left in the half to tie the score 10-10.

Reed threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Michael Mathison with 1:12 left in the first half to take a 17-10 lead for the Hilltoppers. Troy drove down the field and Watson found Deshon Steoudemire deep in WKU territory but some questionable clock management hampered the Troy offense. Buce drilled a 33-yard field goal as time expired to cut WKU’s lead to 17-13 at halftime.

The Trojans continued their momentum to open the third quarter as Gunnar Watson found Tez Johnson for a 30-yard pass to open the half. Johnson then took an end-around and heaved a 7-yard touchdown pass to Watson as the Trojans pulled off some trickery to take a 24-17 lead with 11:40 left in the third.

Some questionable officiating throughout the game frustrated the Trojans but none more so than when Troy punter Mike Rivers was hit around the knee on a punt, which was not flagged. Troy coach Jon Sumrall exploded on the officials and was hit with a personal foul that gave WKU the ball deep in Troy territory. The Trojan defense held strong, however, and back-to-back negative plays forced a WKU field goal. Javon Solomon dropped a Hilltopper runner for a 4-yard loss and then TJ Jackson sacked Reed. The Hilltopers tied the score with a 47-yard field goal with 3:27 left in the third quarter leading into the wild finish.

Troy rolled up over 400 yards of offense against WKU. (Photo by Joe Imel/BG Daily News)

Watson finished the game 15-of-28 passing for 202 yards and an interception before leaving with the injury. Doege finished 7-of-8 for 71 yards and two touchdowns. Tez Johnson was 1-of-1 for 7 yards and a score. Billingsley finished the game with 122 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. Deshon Stoudemire caught seven passes for 93 yards and Tez Johnson caught six passes for 105 yards and a touchdown.

“I knew I was ready. I knew my teammates had faith in me and the coaches had faith in me,” Doege said. “I had faith in myself. I put in the work. I pride myself on preparing to be the best player on the field. I just had a little feeling all week that this is going to be my time. I mean, you can’t write it any better. I just kept preparing and waiting for my opportunity and took advantage.”

Martial had another big night for the Trojans, recording 12 tackles, a tackle-for-loss and an interception. Jibunor had two tackles, 1.5 sacks and Craig Slocum Jr. earned eight tackles on the night.

Reed completed 39-of-56 passes for 406 yards and three touchdowns with an interception for WKU. Davis caught 12 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown. Mathison caught eight passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.

Troy didn’t come out of the win unscathed as a number of Trojans, in addition to Watson, went down with injury. Troy came into the game without starting tight end Duyenkrea Lewis, linebacker Jayden McDonald and defensive lineman Luis Medina. Linebacker KJ Robertson, cornerback Caleb Ransaw and defensive tackle Will Choloh all went down with injuries against WKU.

Troy is back at home next week against Southern Miss in return to Sun Belt play at 6 p.m.