Bowl Preview: Troy gets set to face Duke in Birmingham Bowl

Published 12:29 pm Thursday, December 21, 2023

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It’s already been an eventful month for the Troy Trojans and that continues this Saturday, Dec. 23, as they do battle with the Duke Blue Devils of the ACC in the Birmingham Bowl.

After winning a second consecutive Sun Belt Championship, the Trojans were selected to face Duke in the Birmingham Bowl, which makes Troy the first Sun Belt team ever to place a Power 5 opponent in a bowl game. Then, head coach Jon Sumrall departed to take the head coaching job at Tulane.

Earlier this week, former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Gerad Parker was introduced as Troy’s new head coach and the Trojans landed 15 signees in the early signing period of National Signing Day on Dec. 20.

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Interim head coach Greg Gasparato will lead Troy in the bowl game, however. There have been some other changes on the coaching staff, as well. After the departure of offensive line coach Joe Bernardi, tight ends coach Evan McKissack is coaching the offensive line heading into the bowl game. Longtime high school football coach Caleb Ross – who has served as an analyst at Troy the last two years – will coach tight ends for the bowl game.

Also, linebackers coach Tayler Polk has moved into the interim defensive coordinator role, while analyst David Mackie is coaching safeties.

Duke is also in a state of influx as running backs coach Trooper Taylor will serve as interim head coach following the departure of former head coach Mike Elko to Texas A&M. Taylor is no stranger to the State of Alabama, having coached at Auburn from 2009 until 2012.

Duke will also be potentially shorthanded heading into the game after a number of players entered the transfer portal. Running back Jordan Waters (871 yards, 11 TD), quarterback Riley Leonard (1,102 yards, 3 TD), linebacker Dorian Mausi (61 tackles, one interception), defensive end Aaneas Peebls (40 tackles, 4 sacks) and defensive end RJ Oben (five sacks) have all entered the portal.

Troy has also had some players enter the portal, including leading tackler Jayden McDonald, who will not play in the Birmingham Bowl.

Duke comes into the contest with the No. 93 overall offense in the country and the No. 45 overall defense in the nation. Meanwhile, Troy boasts the No. 15 defense and No. 33-ranked offense. Troy’s defense also ranks 14th in the country in rushing defense and 10th in scoring defense.

Troy running back Kimani Vidal is second in the country in rushing with 1,582 yards as he has shattered virtually every Troy rushing record this season. Additionally, defensive end Javon Solomon’s 16 sacks leads the entire country.

Troy and Duke have met just twice on the gridiron, in 2013 and 2014. The Blue Devils won both of those games, including the last one 34-17 in 2014. This will also be Troy’s first time playing in Birmingham’s new Protective Stadium.

Troy and Duke kickoff at 11 a.m. on Dec. 23 in a game that will air nationally on ABC.