Troy hangs on to beat Louisiana in regular season home finale

Published 6:06 pm Saturday, November 18, 2023

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It didn’t come easy but the Troy Trojans (9-2, 6-1) picked up their eighth straight win on Saturday 31-24 over the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (5-6, 2-5) on Senior Day at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

With the score tied 24-24 with 7:19 left in the game, Troy marched on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that ate up nearly four minutes of game time. The key plays on the drive came when Louisiana was flagged for pass interference on third-and-long, and when Dothan native Jabre Barber took a reverse and threw a 20-yard pass to a leaping Devonte Ross. Just two plays later, Gunnar Watson found Barber on a bootleg for an 8-yard touchdown pass to give the Trojans the 31-24 lead with 3:46 left.

On Louisiana’s ensuing possession, the Cajuns faced third-and-long and heaved a deep pass but Troy senior Reddy Steward knocked it away. The Cajuns still had three timeouts and needed to get a stop on the ensuing Troy drive but the Trojans bled the clock and secured the 31-24 win.

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Things started rocky for Troy, trailing 7-0 going into the second quarter. The only score in the opening period came on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Louisiana’s Chandler Fields to Robert Williams with 2:41 left in the first.

Troy finally got on the scoreboard with a 44-yard field goal from Troy native Scott Taylor Renfroe as the second quarter began. That was Renfroe’s career long field goal. Louisiana added a 35-yard field goal with 6:56 left in the first half to extend the lead to 10-7.

Troy tied the score 10-10 on a 13-yard touchdown run from Kimina Vidal with 5:39 left in the half. The Trojans capped off the half with a nine-play drive that Watson finished off with a 1-yard touchdown pass to Clayton Ollendieck with just 21 seconds left. Troy took its 17-10 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Louisiana tied the score 17-17 with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Fields to N. Johnson. Troy retook the lead on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Watson to Chris Lewis with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter. Louisiana answered right back with a 4-yard touchdown pass that once again tied the score 24-24 leading to the finish.

Along with honoring the seniors on Troy’s team, the school also honored legendary former head coach Larry Blakeney. Blakeney was honored with a special jersey commemorating his 178 career wins during halftime.

Troy finished the game with 367 total yards, while Louisiana managed 348 yards. Watson completed 17-of-31 passes for 199 yards and three touchdowns, while Vidal rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries. It was his sixth 100-yard rushing game of the season, tying a Troy single-season record. Vidal now has 1,280 yards on the season, just 57 yards shy of tying the season record.

Barber had a big night, catching four passes for 74 yards and a touchdown along with throwing one pass for 20 yards. Devonte Ross caught four passes for 47 yards and Deshon Stoudemire caught three passes for 45 yards. Lewis also grabbed three catches for 37 yards and a touchdown.

The defense had another big night from both Richard Jibunor and Javon Solomon. Jibunor finished the game with seven tackles, three tackles-for-loss and a sack, while Solomon earned six tackles, three tackles-for-loss and three sacks. It was the second consecutive games with three or more sacks for Solomon. Dell Pettus also had six tackles and Irshaad Davis earned an interception.

Troy will wrap up the regular season next Saturday at Southern Miss. The Sun Belt East Championship will be decided next week along with who will host the Sun Belt Championship.