MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) - Troy's offense rolled up an opponent-record 495 total yards while defensively Kanorris Davis paced a unit that surrendered just 51 second-half yards, leading the Trojans to a 31-10 Sun Belt Conference football victory over the University of South Alabama Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
Davis shared game-high honors with 11 stops and Brynden Trawick added nine, an interception and a pass broken up as Troy (3-2, 2-1 Sun Belt) spoiled the Jaguars' league debut. After allowing 201 yards in the opening 30 minutes, the Trojans gave up only two first downs after the intermission to preserve a two-touchdown advantage.
USA — which fell to 1-4 overall while making its SBC debut — was led defensively by Jake Johnson, who posted his third straight double-digit tackle total after making 11 stops; that including 1½ behind the line of scrimmage.
"Their defense made adjustments in the second half, and really shut us down," stated USA head coach Joey Jones. "I thought we moved the ball pretty good in the first half, but we didn't in the second half and that was due to them making adjustments and playing well."
Shawn Southward — the league's leading rusher entering play — gained a game-high high 86 yards on 17 carries, but it was Justin Albert, Corey Robinson and D.J. Taylor who ran for scores. Deon Anthony supplied 37 yards on seven attempts, Taylor ran for 35 yards, and both Albert and Chandler Worthy gained 30 yards as the Trojans totaled 214 yards on the ground.
Robinson threw for 223 yards, going 15-of-24 passing, and Anthony was 3-of-3 passing for 58 more and a score, supplying the Troy offense with 281 yards through the air. Worthy led all Trojan receivers with five catches — he finished with 48 yards and a touchdown — while Eric Thomas and Chip Reeves grabbed three receptions each for 78 and 67 yards, respectively.
"Offensively, they're real explosive. They can move the ball at the drop of a hat," Jones said. "I thought we played pretty good defensively at times, but they are very good offensively."
"We made the same basic game-plan calls in the second half that we made in the first. We probably ran them a little bit better," explained Troy head coach Larry Blakeney. "After you play a team for a half, you sort of scout them as you go as coach (Pat) Dye used to say; you get better playing the things that they are doing. I think that was part of it. I thought we had a good plan against (South Alabama). They did some things a little different in some of the things they had done, but nothing majorly different. We sort of got in tune with them in the second half and played pretty hard and played better. Made some tackles and got a couple of tackles for loss, interceptions and turnovers."
While the Jags recorded the first takeaway of the contest when B.J. Scott intercepted Robinson on the Trojans' first offensive play of the game, Troy was able to score first after taking advantage of Camren Hudson's fumble recovery at the USA-29 on a punt return. Worthy carried for 24 yards on the next snap, but the Jaguars forced the Trojans to settle for a 21-yard Wil Scott field goal with 10 minutes remaining after Will Thompson recorded a tackle to limit Southward to a one-yard gain on second down then forced an incompletion on the next play.
The lead grew to 10-0 with just over eight minutes to go in the opening quarter after a four-play, 57-yard drive highlighted by Thomas' 38-yard catch that put the ball on the USA one-yard line; Albert ran it it one play later. The Trojans had an opportunity to add to their advantage later in the quarter when Hudson forced a fumble that was recovered by Dimitri Miles at the USA-30, but — following a penalty — Darrius Morrow stripped Southward after a 31-yard gain that Terrell Brigham recovered at the five-yard line.
The Jaguars turned around and — led by C.J. Bennett for the first time on the day — marched 94 yards in 12 plays and five minutes and 14 seconds. On third-and-nine from the USA-7, Bennett escaped pressure from Tony Davis and gained 10 yards to move the chains. T.J Glover got another first down with a nine-yard rush and Demetre Baker added another after a carry for 10-yard carry, which set up Bennett's career-long 50-yard run. Two players later, Trey Fetner rushed for a three-yard touchdown to make it a 10-7 score 46 seconds before the end of the opening period.
It was the first snap of the redshirt freshman's career.
Troy responded with a 70-yard scoring drive of its own, going ahead 17-7 less than four minutes into the second quarter on a seven-yard scoring pass from Anthony to Worthy, extending the advantage to 17 points with just over two minutes left in the half after a four-play, 80-yard march capped by Robinson's two-yard touchdown run. A 39-yard pass from Robinson to Reeves after a USA personal foul call set up the score.
USA did score before the break, though. Brannon Bryan blocked Michel Chapuseaux' 41-yard field-goal attempt, but Baker recovered
on the Troy-31; after a delay-of-game penalty, Chapuseaux connected on a 53-yard kick as time expired. It was the first field-goal of 50-plus yards in school history.
In the first half, the two teams combined for 452 yards of total offense, but also 18 penalties and six turnovers. But Troy would collect 244 yards after the break while keeping the Jaguars off the scoreboard.
"Troy played a great game. They were probably a little better than us, and we made a few mistakes; you're not going to play it close when you do that," Jones explained. "We had some first-half chances and I really thought after halftime that if we came out and scored it would be a different ballgame, but we didn't do that. We're a young program; we're trying to get this thing going and sometimes this is part of it. We kind of know where we are now. Troy is a dominant team in the league — they've been there, done that."
After a scoreless third quarter, Taylor's one-yard touchdown run with just over eight minutes remaining in the contest closed out the scoring.
Bennett finished as the Jags' leading rusher after carrying seven times for 79 yards, one shy of matching his career high, but was 2-of-10 for 22 yards passing. Baker recorded 62 yards on 16 rushes and Glover carried 10 times for a career-best 46 yards as USA picked up a season-high 193 yards on the ground.
Corey Besteda caught three passes for 30 yards and Jeremé Jones added two receptions for 30 more, but the Jaguars completed eight passes for 59 yards on the day.
USA — which had five takeaways in its first four outings of 2012 — forced five turnovers in the contest. In addition to Scott's interception and Brigham's fumble recovery, Gabe Loper and Charles Watson picked off Trojan passes and Enrique Williams recovered a fumble too.
Williams and Alex Page were credited with seven stop eachs, with Page recording the unit's lone sack, while Loper, Scott and Watson made six tackles apiece. Loper also blocked a third-quarter field-goal attempt.
While the Trojans committed 10 penalties for 86 yards, USA set school game records after being flagged on 15 occasions for 142 yards. Troy controlled the ball for nearly 33 minutes, and was 7-of-12 on third-down conversions while limiting the Jaguars to 3-of-14 on third downs.
"It's our first Sun Belt Conference game, and I have to keep things in perspective as do our kids," observed Jones. "We're all competitors and want to win. For us to play and beat a team like Troy in our first conference game would be a miracle. But as a coach, I look at it and think there were things we could have done to have been in the ballgame.
"We're going to get there — we're not quite there yet — but we're going to get there. We're just going through a growing time right now."
After an off week, the Jags will play their first Sun Belt Conference road game on Saturday, Oct. 13 when they visit Arkansas State for a game that will kick off at 6 p.m.
For more information about South Alabama athletics, check back with www.usajaguars.com . Season tickets for all Jaguar athletic events can be purchased by calling (251) 461-1USA (1872).
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