Troy tops South Alabama in the Battle for the Belt

Published 11:13 pm Thursday, November 2, 2023

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For the sixth year in a row, “The Belt” will remain in Troy as the Trojans (7-2, 4-1) knocked off the South Alabama Jaguars by a score of 28-10 in front of a national television audience on Thursday.

The final score was lopsided but things didn’t start off so hot for the Trojans as South Alabama got on the scoreboard first after forcing a Troy fumble. South Alabama, who was playing without starting quarterback Carter Bradley, struck first on a 6-yard touchdown run from LeDamian Webb with 10:13 left in the opening period.

Troy finally got on the scoreboard with 11:30 left in the second quarter when Gunnar Watson heaved a 47-yard touchdown pass to Chris Lewis to tie things up.

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Late in the half, Troy marched on a 12-play, 96-yard drive that Watson capped off with a 26-yard scoring pass to Lewis as a defensive back hung all over the receiver. Troy took its first lead of the game 14-7 with just 19 seconds left in the half.

Neither team managed to get on the scoreboard in the third quarter but South Alabama drove deep into Troy territory as the fourth quarter began. The Trojan defense, however, stood strong and South Alabama had to settle for a 29-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10 with 11:47 remaining in the game.

Troy responded a 16-play drive that ate up more than eight minutes of game time. Kimani Vidal capped off the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on fourth-and-goal to extend Troy’s lead to 21-10 with 3:12 left.

On South Alabama’s next drive, senior Reddy Steward intercepted a Jaguar pass and just a few plays later Watson heaved this third touchdown pass to Lewis to give Troy an insurmountable 28-10 lead with 1:48 left.

The Troy offense churned out 400 yards, while the Trojans held the Jags to 252 total yards. The Troy defense also held South Alabama to 0-for-10 on third downs, the first time the Trojans have allowed zero third down conversions since 2017.

Vidal rushed for 125 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries as he became Troy’s all-time leading rushing leader in school history, surpassing Troy Athletics Hall of Famer DeWhitt Betterson on the all-time list. Betterson – whose son plays at Troy – was on hand for the rivalry – presented Vidal with the game ball after the game.

Watson completed 19-of-27 passes for 271 yards and three touchdowns, while Lewis hauled in four catches for 120 yards and three touchdowns. Deshon Stoudemire also caught six passes for 81 yards.

Irshaad Davis led the Troy defense with 11 tackles and one tackle-for-loss, while Jordan Stringer earned 10 tackles and one tackle-for-loss. Steward also earned his his fourth interception of the season.

The Trojans have now won six straight games and have taken firm control of the Sun Belt West. Troy hits the road again next week and travels to Louisiana-Monroe for another Sun Belt clash on Nov. 11.