Troy to host Louisiana on Larry Blakeney Day

Published 11:54 am Thursday, November 16, 2023

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In the regular season home finale, the Troy Trojans (8-2, 5-1) will host the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (5-5, 2-4) in a Sun Belt Conference showdown on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Along with being the final regular season home contest, it will also be Senior Day for the Trojans and Larry Blakeney Day as Troy honors Hall of Fame Head Coach Larry Blakeney.

Nov. 18 will be Larry Blakeney Day at Troy.

“The thing I love most about Coach Blakeney is what you hear his former players say about him,” Troy Coach Jon Sumrall said. “If someone ever mentions that I care about my players like Coach Blakeney cared about his players I would feel like I have reached the pinnacle of what I can do. To see the looks on his players’ faces – and hear them talk about how much he loved and cared about them – is the ultimate compliment as a coach. I’m just overcome with joy that we can honor Coach Blakeney this Saturday. I have so much respect for him and humbled to serve in a role he was able to serve in.”

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All fans in attendance will also receive a commemorative Larry Blakeney poster.

The Trojans come into Saturday’s game off a 45-14 win over ULM last week, Troy’s seventh straight victory. Troy also clinched the Sun Belt West in the win, guaranteeing a return to the Sun Belt Championship. Louisiana, meanwhile, lost 34-31 to Southern Miss in overtime.

“We had to come from behind down big to get the win there last year,” Sumrall remembered about last season’s game. “They’re extremely impressive personnel wise, especially on the offensive and defensive lines. There, they look like one of the best teams in the league.

“We have a lot of work to do to get prepared against a quality opponent that has been to six straight bowl games. They have a winning tradition there and have been winning for awhile.”

Louisiana comes into the contest ranked fifth in scoring offense, eighth in total offense, second in rushing offense and 10th in passing offense. Defensively, the Cajuns are ninth in scoring, seventh in total defense, ninth in rush defense and sixth in pass defense. Louisiana is ranked fourth in the conference in sacks.

The Trojans are ranked eighth in scoring offense but sixth in total offense, ninth in rushing offense and third in passing offense. The Trojan defense is tops in scoring and total defense, while also being ranked second in both pass defense and run defense. Troy is also third in the conference in sacks.

Troy’s defense has had a ferocious pass rush this season, led by junior Javon Solomon and senior Richard Jibunor. The pair won the Reese’s Senior Bowl Co-Defensive Player of the Week honor last week, while Solomon earned Sun Belt Defensive Player of the year. Solomon tied the school record for sacks in a game with four against ULM, while Jubinor also had 3.5 sacks.

Last season, the Trojan coaching staff decided to get Solomon and Jibunor – who were both playing the bandit position – on the field more at the same time, and this season Solomon has moved permanently to defensive end.

“Both guys are really talented. Last year, when we got here they were both playing bandit, which is our boundary outside linebacker,” Sumrall recalled. “They were both playing there and Javon was coming off a bit of an injury, so he didn’t go through spring or summer fully. Then, six or seven games (into 2022) we started putting them on the field together on third down.

“We got to the offseason and I felt like I was an idiot when one of those guys would be standing on the sideline next to me instead of in the game. Javon was very selfless and changed positions and moved to field (defensive end). Now, teams have to decide who do you want to chip or nudge or slide protection on. You have to make that decision and they compliment each other really well.”

Troy comes into the game trailing the all-time series between the two schools 10-13, including last year’s 23-17 come-from-behind win. Prior to that, Louisiana won the previous two matchups.

Troy and Louisiana will play at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday in a game that will air nationally on the NFL Network.