Troy hangs on for homecoming win over Texas State

Published 7:37 pm Saturday, October 15, 2022

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The Troy Trojans (5-2, 3-1) managed to survive an upset scare from the Texas State Bobcats (3-4, 1-2) on Homecoming on Saturday, picking up a 17-14 Sun Belt Conference win.

The Trojans struggled on both sides of the ball at different times but still found a way to get a win. Troy coach Jon Sumrall emphasized that the Sun Belt is a tough conference and any win is a good win.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Sumrall said. “We’re at a place playing Sun Belt games, when you look across this league right now, where we can beat anybody we play and we can lose to anybody we play. That bunch we just played today is a very improved football team over the last several years.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Sumrall is most proud of the way his team never gives up and continues to fight regardless of the adversities they face in a game.

“Lonnie Cochran, our team chaplain, shared with our guys that some people in life run, some people hide and – I reiterated this to the team this morning and in the locker room – Troy Trojans don’t run or hide, we fight,” Sumrall said. “I think we have a team of fighters that show up every day to compete.

“I think we laid it all on the line and came out on the right side of it. We’re finding ways to finish what we start. Winning close games is hard and winning college football games is hard. I won’t apologize to anyone for winning by three points or being 5-2.”

Both teams struggled to find any rhythm early with Troy throwing an interception and Texas State suffering a turnover on downs in the first two drives. There were also four three-and-outs in the first quarter between the two sides and the game went into the second quarter in a scoreless tie.

The Trojans finally broke the tie when Gunnar Watson – in his return to the field after suffering an injury against Western Kentucky – threw a 74-yard touchdown pass to Tez Johnson with 13:56 left in the first half to put Troy ahead 7-0. The score was the longest play for the Trojans since 2018.

Troy kicker Brooks Buce booted a 24-yard field goal with 2:48 left in the half to extend the lead to 10-0, but the Bobcats answered and capped off a 9-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run from Lincoln Pare to cut the lead to 10-7 at halftime.

Texas State came out swinging in the second half as Pare took a short pass and broke a pair of would-be tackles as he tight roped the sidelines and rumbled 64 yards for a touchdown on a play that Sumrall was still fuming about at the end of the game.

“That one in the second half I’m still (ticked off) about to be honest with you,” a fired up Sumrall said. “That was bad football, I mean that was ugly. I’m glad we won the game but that was sickening.

“We didn’t cover the back and missed two tackles on the sideline and I felt like we loafed. Don’t get me started on that, I was not happy with the way that play went.”

Will Choloh (5) and Carlton Martial (2) combine for a tackle. (Photo by Henry Otto/Creative Media Images)

While Sumrall emphasized how upset he was on the play, he still applauded the way his defense played overall.

“That was a trash job of coaching by me and the defensive coaches, because that should not have happened that way,” he said of the long touchdown. “Our defense played really good in a lot of areas, though. Giving up only 293 yards and 14 points will win you most games, but I’m just not happy with the sloppy way we played on a couple of snaps. They may not have scored (at all) if we played a little better on those plays.”

As the Troy offense sputtered for much of the third quarter – with back-to-back three-and-outs – Watson also took a number of big hits. One of them forced him out of the game again and Jarret Doege entered.

On Doege’s first full drive in the game he marched the Trojans down the field on a 9-play scoring drive and capped it off with a back shoulder fade to RaJae’ Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown with 11:45 left in the game.

“Coming out of a timeout, we called the play and we had a ‘man beater’ in the play,” Doege recalled. “So, me and RaJae’ looked at each other and (thought) if we get man (coverage), it’s over. They showed us man (coverage) and we both knew exactly where the ball was going.”

Johnson said that both Watson and Doege have certain looks they give to their receivers when they see man-to-man coverage.

“Gunnar and Jarret both give me a weird look when they see man (coverage),” Johnson said. “They know I can beat (man coverage) and that’s really how it is with all the receivers. I saw him give me that look and I thought, ‘Oh yeah, it’s a touchdown.’”

Sumrall stuck with Doege after that drive, though Watson was cleared to return.

“When we inserted Jarret I just felt like let’s let him finish a drive or two,” Sumrall said. “I brought Gunnar over and said, ‘We’re going to let Jarret take a drive,’ and he was great with it.

“After that drive we scored, Gunnar was fully available and Gunnar even came to me and said, ‘Coach, roll with the hot hand here.’ So, we let Jarret finish the game.”

Troy was able to keep Texas State out of the end-zone for the remainder of the game and the Troy offense churned out four first downs in the final 5:28 of game time to bleed off the clock and secure the win. Doege praised Watson for his unselfishness after the game.

Gunnar Watson (18) started against Texas State but left due to an injury in the second half. (Photo by Henry Otto/Creative Media Images)

“I’ve really never had a quarterback like him in the room and I’ve never really been in a situation like this either,” Doege said. “It just says a lot about the guy when Coach Sumrall says that Gunnar was the one that said he thought we should go with the hot hand.

“He came up to me and said, ‘You’re hot right now, dude. If they ask me, I’m going to tell them it’s you right now.’ That’s an unselfish thing to do and I’ve never really seen that before being around the game. I have a really good friendship with Gunnar, I hang out with him pretty much every day and I go to his house all the time. His family is great and he’s just a great dude.”

Sumrall said that he was impressed with the way both of his quarterbacks have handled the situation.

“I love both of those guys because they both want to be starting quarterbacks and both would love to be the starting quarterback,” Sumrall said. “(Jarret) hasn’t once acted like ‘Y’all owe me anything, I deserve something different.’

“He just comes in and works and when his number gets called you play good, good things happen. I feel really at peace with having both Gunnar and Jarret available to play high-level football. I can’t reiterate enough the way those guys handle things, they handle things like pros. There is zero, I mean zero, issues in that quarterback room.”

Watson finished the game 12-of-22 passing for 240 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Doege completed 4-of-6 passes for 59 yards and a touchdown. DK Billingsley rushed for 70 yards on 16 carries and Kimani Vidal rushed for 54 yards on 11 carries.

Tez Johnson caught four passes for 94 yards and a touchdown, while Devonte Ross caught four passes for a career-high 91 yards. RaJae’ Johnson also caught three passes for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Coming into the game, Troy had a number of players out or banged up and that only got worse as Tez Johnson went down with an injury in the second half. Sumrall said he didn’t believe it to be a serious injury, however.

“Tez, I think, is fine,” he said. “They will check him out right after this but we didn’t put him back in out of precaution. I intend to fully get the full answer on if he was available or not, though. It looked like maybe a shoulder or elbow (injury). He dealt with a similar injury (in fall camp), so it’s not something he hasn’t dealt with before.”

Carlton Martial led the Troy defense with 11 tackles on the night and, in the process, moved into fifth place all-time in the NCAA in total tackles, also earning his 500th career tackle. Craig Slocum Jr. also tallied eight tackles and Shakel Brown had five tackles and a tackle-for-loss. TJ Jackson recorded three tackles, one pass breakup and a tackle-for-loss, marking his fourth straight game with at least one tackle-for-loss.

Troy will have a short week of preparation next week as the Trojans gear up for the “Battle for the Belt” on Thursday night against rival South Alabama on the road in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU.