Don't Look A Gift Horse In The Mouth

Sept. 16, 2006

By Eric Mirlis
Senior Editor,


Eric Mirlis is Senior Editor for and covers various collegiate sports.
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ATLANTA - Last week, Troy traveled to Tallahassee and scared the bejeezus out of Florida State. They were at it again Saturday while visiting another ACC team, this time Georgia Tech.


Don't let the final score fool you. When the third quarter came to a close, this was a tie ballgame. But two weeks of facing far-superior opposition finally caught up with the Trojans, enabling the Yellow Jackets to pull away in the final fifteen minutes for a 35-20 victory.


Teams from the Sun Belt Conference aren't supposed to be inhospitable guests. So far this season, the rest of the conference has followed that rule, going 2-10 in non-conference games against Division I-A opponents entering the day. They are ranked last in the Dell Power Grid for that reason. Look at some of the scores so far in those games: Texas A&M 51, Louisiana-Lafayette 7. Kansas State 45, Florida Atlantic 0. Oklahoma State 35, Arkansas State 7. Texas 56, North Texas 7. The only two wins came against low-end teams SMU and Army.


But it looks like no one told Troy about this.


To be honest, it was tough to understand how the Trojans were hanging around. Georgia Tech was connecting on big plays. Reggie Ball was running the ball as effectively as another quarterback that plays in Atlanta - some guy named Michael Vick - setting a new career-high with 130 rushing yards on the day. Offensively, Troy looked out of sorts and confused. Maybe that was because they called all their plays from the sidelines into a no-huddle offense. Maybe that was because they often call a confusing-looking inside handoff play. I'm guessing the confusion I experienced watching them on offense, though, is exactly what they were trying to accomplish, only with Georgia Tech as the intended victim. It certainly seemed to work for a while.


At the same time, for every positive moment the Yellow Jackets had, they also gave something right back. Ball was wildly ineffective passing the ball, missing open receivers on a regular basis and making star receiver Calvin Johnson do all the work when the two tried to hook up. Johnson himself got banged up late in the first quarter, then missed a couple series and never got going and had just two catches for nine yards, his least productive day in a Yellow Jacket uniform. They were also flagged for a borderline personal foul on a hit by defensive end Michael Johnson while Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook was scrambling that led directly to the first Trojan touchdown.


Whatever the reasons, Troy was able to hang around. A 14-7 Tech halftime lead quickly evaporated as the Trojans took the second half kickoff and marched right down the field and tied the game. Then, they intercepted Ball in the end zone on a poorly thrown pass late in the third to keep it tied. For the second week in a row, Troy was on the road at an ACC school tied entering the fourth quarter.


"We told our team at halftime that we had another chance to win a game," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said after the game.


When Georgia Tech went ahead early in the fourth, though, you couldn't help but think that was it. It was. In the blink of an eye, the score was 35-14 Tech. Troy had finally run out of steam, and back-to-back games against Florida State and Georgia Tech had worn them down. But that wasn't the point.


Regardless of the final score, Troy has every reason to stand proud. And Blakeney knows that.


"I'm proud of our team. We're just not quite as deep as they are."


This isn't the way it is supposed to be when schools like Georgia Tech schedule schools like Troy. After last week's near-miss for the Trojans at Florida State, I don't think many people thought they could do it again. Troy is in the middle of a three game stretch where they were in Tallahassee last week, Atlanta today and at Nebraska next week. That is a brutal trio of games for even the highest ranked teams. For teams in a conference like the Sun Belt, though, it is all about collecting the paycheck and hoping the score isn't too lopsided.


"We're gaining on them," said Blakeney. "We just can't look back. We've got Nebraska next week."



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