The Belt Stays HOME – The Tropolitan

by Taylor Fraze

The Troy football team traveled to Mobile, Alabama last Thursday for the annual Battle of the Belt rivalry game. The Trojans haven’t lost to the Jaguars in four straight seasons and this game was no different. Troy would leave Mobile with a 10-6 victory and their fifth straight win.

Troy’s defense was in lockdown form as Carlton Martial and O’Shai Fletcher combined for eight tackles to lead the defense. Reddy Steward also shined for the Trojans’ defense with six total tackles and an interception.

Troy’s offense went through their run game as DK Billingsley rushed for 86 yards and Troy’s only touchdown. Both Trojan quarterbacks saw action as Jarret Doege was instructed to start. Doege completed 10 of 15 passes for 84 yards and an interception. The most important player of the Troy team was punter Mike Rivers. Rivers punted six times for 257 yards with a 42.8 yard average. Rivers’ punts pinned South back in their own territory, helping Troy’s defensive effort. Another Trojan special teamer, kicker Brooks Buce, made a long 51-yard field goal during the game. The South Alabama offense was able to gain yards but was unable to get into the end zone. South Alabama quarterback Carter Bradley completed 29 of 40 passes for 215 yards and an interception. South Alabama’s defensive effort was led by Trey Kiser, who finished the game with nine total tackles.

The long-awaited Battle for the Belt rivalry kicked off in front of a sold-out crowd at Hancock-Whitney Stadium. South Alabama got the ball to start the game, but didn’t do much with it. Troy’s defense rose to the task and forced a fourth down early after two drives and a Jaguars pass. South Alabama then converted a fourth down with La’Damian Webb’s 15-yard rush to gain momentum for the drive. A holding call sent the Jaguars the wrong way, stopping their first drive and forcing a punt. Troy didn’t handle the ball much on their first at-bat either, going three-and-out. However, on the punt, South Alabama ran into Trojan punter Mike Rivers to give Troy another chance on offense, but Troy punted three plays later. The first quarter was very defensive and very little offensive production. Both teams had the ball twice, but Troy dominated possession. At the end of the first quarter, the Trojans drove the ball all the way to the South Alabama 5-yard line before the end of the quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Troy running back Billingsley hauled in a 5-yard touchdown run to put the Trojans up 7-0. That would be the only touchdown of the entire game by either side. South Alabama’s response unit was riddled with penalties that killed any momentum the Jaguars had built up. A deep ball to Brandon Crum would have put South Alabama at the Troy 4-yard line, but a holding call called back the play. On the very next play, South Alabama quarterback Bradley attacked Troy with a secondary pass attempt that was picked off by Reddy Steward at the Troy 34-yard line. Troy’s offense failed to capitalize on the turnover and punted from the South 40-yard line. The defenses continued to play aggressively and did not allow the attacks to find breathing space. Late in the half, South Alabama kicker Diego Guajardo connected on a 41-yard field goal to make the halftime score 7–3.

Troy started the third quarter with the ball and continued its offensive struggles. The Trojans punted after a three-and-out on their first drive of the game. South also didn’t do much with the ball and punted after a three and out on the first drive. Troy found life on the offensive side of the ball in its second drive with connections on slant routes from Doege to RaJae Johnson. Johnson had two catches on the drive, one for 14 yards and one for 18 yards. Troy looked to score its second touchdown of the game, but an ineligible field man penalty halted the Trojans’ momentum. South Alabama stopped Troy and forced a 37-yard field goal attempt by Buce. Buce missed the gate to left to keep the score 7-3. Later in the third quarter, after constant offensive struggles, head coach Jon Sumrall brought in Gunnar Watson at quarterback to revitalize the offense. Watson finished the third quarter with two straight passes for two yards.

The Jaguars got the ball on a Trojan punt early in the fourth quarter and turned their drive into points. Bradley connected with Devin Voisin on a couple of deep throws to put the ball on the Trojan 17-yard line. South Alabama looked to take the lead, but Troy’s defense held steady, forcing a 32-yard field goal by Guajardo to tie the score at 7-6. Troy answered South Alabama’s scoring drive with two deep passes to Tez Johnson for 36 yards and 14 yards. It looked like Troy would score another touchdown after two seamless passes from Watson to Johnson. South Alabama’s defense was strong, sacking Trojan quarterbacks twice in a row. Troy kicker Buce lined up for a 51-yard field goal to make the score 10-6. That was Buce’s longest career field goal. South Alabama received the ball after a Troy field goal, but were forced to punt after a Troy defensive stand. The Trojans’ offense ran within Billingsley’s stride. Facing a third-and-1, Troy looked to end the game, but South Alabama stopped the Billingsley run. South Alabama got the ball back with 12 seconds left, on the second play of the drive, Flecther forced a fumble on a huge hit on South Alabama receiver Devin Voison to end the game.

Troy improves to 6-2 on the year and 4-1 in conference play. With the win, the Trojans are now in first place in the Sun Belt West division, which will continue next week. South Alabama drops to 5-2 and 2-1 in the conference. Troy will visit Louisiana to continue its season on November 5th. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m

Photo by Brayden Varnado

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