A LOOK AT TROY STATE

Aaron Sones previews Mississippi State opponent Troy State.

After last week's disappointing loss to Auburn, Mississippi State steps outside the conference to try to right the ship versus an up-and-coming Troy State ballclub. The Trojans are playing their first season of Division 1 football, and so far they have weathered the storm reasonably well. This is a game that the Bulldogs, without question, should win. But it is also a game that could be a dangerous one, especially if MSU comes out flat. Just looking at the SEC West standings and the remaining schedules, it becomes evident that the West winner could very well have three losses. So the goal of winning the West is not totally down the tubes. But the Bullies must find a way to execute and play better. This weekend would be a good time to start.

TROY STATE'S SCHEDULE
9.1 @Nebraska L 14-42
9.8 @Middle TN L 17-52
9.22 Nicholls State W 26-0
10.6 @Miami, Fla. L 7-38
10.13 @Miss. State
10.20 Cal St. N'ridge
10.27 Southern Utah
11.3 @Maryland
11.10 @La-Monroe
11.17 Jacksonville St.
12.1 North Texas

TROY STATE'S COACH

  • Larry Blakeney.
  • 93-32-1 at Troy State (11 seasons).
  • Graduated from Auburn in '70.
  • His teams qualified for the Div 1-AA playoffs in seven of their eight seasons of eligibility, advanced to the semifinals twice ('96 and '93).
  • Won three Southland Conference titles in five years of eligibility ('00, '99, '96).
  • Spent 14 seasons as an assistant at Auburn, when AU won four SEC titles and played in 9 bowl games.

    TROY STATE'S OFFENSE

    Explosive offense that likes to spread the field and take advantage of what the defense gives them. Troy has a veteran quarterback in BROCK NUTTER, who enters the game as a four-year starter. DEMONTRAY CARTER transferred from Auburn and is their lead-back. The receiving corps is tall and athletic. They will make you fight for the ball. Troy typically runs a 4-wide-out, 1-back set. The Trojans haven't had a whole lot of success so far offensively, but that is because they have played tough competition.

    WHO'S HOT: Troy State's opponents. Take away Nicholls State, and their opponents are a combined 15-0.

    WHO'S NOT: Troy State's running game. The Trojans are averaging just 77.2 yards a game on the ground.

    TROY STATE'S OFFENSIVE BACKFIELD

    QB 11 BROCK NUTTER (6-1.209.5-SR)

  • 58-112 for 676 yards this season.
  • 4 TDs/6 INTs.
  • Threw for 167 yards in the first half vs. Nebraska.
  • Was 14-for-25 for 152 yards and 1 TD at top-ranked Miami last week.
  • Has started 37-consecutive regular-season games for the Trojans and 41-consecutive games overall. He is 30-11 as a starter.
  • Has thrown for 5,910 yards in his career. He's 417-for-769 with 38 TDs.

    RB 1 DEMONTRAY CARTER (5-10.191.SR-TRANSFER)

  • Transferred from Auburn before last season.
  • 49 rushes for 216 yards and 2 TDs this season.
  • Averaging 4.4 yards a carry.
  • Rushed for a season-high 83 yards last week @Miami.
  • 13 catches for 90 yards.
  • Averaging 17.4 yards on 8 kick returns.

    RB 33 LEBARRON BLACK (5-10.215.JR)

  • 28 rushes for 63 yards as Carter's back-up.
  • 2.2 yards per carry.
  • Has 8 receptions for 84 yards and two scores

    TROY STATE'S RECEIVERS

    WR 3 HEYWARD SKIPPER (6-0.181.JR)

  • Leading ball-catcher with 23 catches for 329 yards and 3 TDs.
  • Averages 14.3 yards per catch.
  • Averaging 82.2 receiving yards per game.
  • Had 10 catches for 133 yards at Middle Tennessee.
  • Returns punts, averaging 9 yards a return, his longest is 14 yards.

    WR 2 CHRIS DAY (6-0.174.SOPH)

  • Six catches for 83 yards.
  • Averaging 13.8 yards a catch.

    WR 5 JASON SAMPLES (6-3.185.FR)

  • 3 catches for 41 yards.

    SLOT 81 TOMMIE VENISEE (6-2.206.JR)

    SLOT 83 ERIC FELTON (5-10.180.JR)

    TE 86 CEDRIC PHILLIPS (6-2.232.SOPH)

  • Has 3 catches for 18 yards, all versus Middle Tennessee.
  • Rarely is used in the spread offense.

    TROY STATE'S OFFENSIVE LINE

    RT 76 BRANDEN HALL (6-4.315.SOPH)

    RG 55 RODNEY JORDAN (6-4.287.JR)

    C 57 TRENT GARMEN (6-1.313.JR)

    LG 61 ROBIN LEE (6-2.290.JR)

    LT 71 STAN CURINGTON (6-7.294.JR)

    TROY STATE'S DEFENSE

    The Trojan defense had a spectacular game versus top-ranked Miami, holding the Hurricanes to 101 rushing yards and 38 points. Troy State is near the bottom of the national defensive statistical rankings in every category, but keep in mind that they have faced Nebraska, Miami and explosive-Middle Tennessee. The best way to attack them is by balancing your offense equally with the pass and the run. And it is probably a good idea to run some clock and keep their offense off of the field.

    WHO'S HOT: Hmmm.. I guess you could give kudos to the Troy run defense for last week's effort. But other than that, and a shut-out against Nichols State, there really hasn't been much to write home about.

    WHO'S NOT: Opponents are averaging 221 passes yards a game and 231 yards a game on the ground.

    TROY STATE'S DEFENSIVE LINE

    LE 92 VERNON MARABLE (6-2.265.SR)

  • 20 tackles, 5 for a loss.
  • Has one fumble recovery.

    RE 72 OSI UMENYIORA (6-3.267.JR)

  • 21 tackles, 4 for a loss.
  • 1 quarterback sack.

    NT 93 JOSE GAMBOA (6-1.265.JR)

  • 25 tackles, 4 quarterback hurries.

    DT 96 DAVERN WILLIAMS (6-3.283.JR)

  • 25 tackles, 2 for a loss.

    TROY STATE'S LINEBACKERS

    WLB 4 COREY SEARS (6-0.220.SR)

  • Third-leading tackler on the team, with 36.
  • Has one fumble recovery and a blocked kick.
  • Had a career-high 11 tackles at Nebraska.

    SLB 45 JIMMY McCLAIN (6-1.230.SR)

  • Has 30 tackles, including three for a loss.
  • Has a sack to his credit.
  • Is a team captain.

    MLB 46 NAAZIR YAMINI (5-11.234.JR)

  • Second-leading tackler, with 40.
  • Has two tackles for loss.
  • Has recorded a sack and 7 quarterback hurries.

    TROY STATE'S SECONDARY

    LCB 27 DEIRIC JACKSON (5-9.183.JR)

  • Has 9 total tackles.
  • Has 2 pass deflections.
  • Is credited with one quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery.

    RCB 24 FREEMAN WHITE (5-9.160.SOPH)

  • Has one of the team's two interceptions.
  • Is credited with 14 total tackles.
  • Has 6 pass deflections and one quarterback hurry.

    SS 16 RAYSHUN REED (5-10.179.JR)

  • Is team's fourth-leading tackler, with 30.
  • Has one pass deflection and a quarterback hurry.

    FS 15 RONALD HARPER (6-0.171.SOPH)

  • Has the team's other interception.
  • Has 14 tackles.
  • Credited with 2 pass deflections, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery.

    TROY STATE'S SPECIAL TEAMS

    P 37 JEREMY SCHATZ (5-9.160.FR)

  • Averaging 36.9 yards a kick.
  • Longest is 60 yards.

    PK 12 DREW BOTELER (5-9.156.R-FR)

  • Has connected on 1-of-4 attempts.
  • Made a 35-yarder versus Middle Tennessee.
  • Missed from 44, 48 and 45.

    POINTS OF INTEREST

  • First meeting between the schools.
  • Trojans are 35-7-1, under Blakeney, in the month of October.
  • Troy State has never played a team from the SEC.
  • MSU Coordinator of Football Operations, David Wilson, is a TSU graduate. Wilson lettered with the Trojans for four years (1974-78). Began his coaching career at Troy, helping lead the Trojans to a national title under coach Chan Gailey.
  • Linebackers coach Jim Tompkins is also a graduate of TSU (1962). He served as defensive coordinator at TSU for ten years, from 1973-82.
  • Troy State's football team will be featured for four minutes on Saturday's ESPN GAMEDAY
  • TSU won the time of possession battle with Miami (35:56-24:04).
  • Opponents are just 4-of-11 on fourth down conversions.
  • Backup SLB Robby Farmer is out for the season (broken leg) and defensive tackle Carlos Stennis will miss 2-3 weeks with a foot injury.
  • Punter Schatz transferred from Alabama and was on campus just 10 days before the season opener.
  • TSU is Alabama's best program, according to winning percentage (.742) since 1991. North Alabama (.693), Alabama (.659), Auburn (.642) and Samford (.586) follow.
  • TSU has blocked 2 field goal attempts. Opponents are 1-for-6 in field goals against them.
  • Trojans have rushed for 100 yards or more in 26 of their last 30 games.
  • TSU has allowed 20 sacks in 4 games and has just 4 sacks to their own credit.

    WHAT TO LOOK FOR

  • State will try to find their running game again. Look for Dicenzo to get a majority of the carries as Sherrill tries to get him ready for the stretch run.
  • State to have a tough time in the field goal department. Their block protection better be polished.
  • MSU will put pressure on Nutter and will probably get to him. Not sure if he's seen a defense that will blitz like State will.
  • State to win the field position battle. Troy's punter hasn't shown he can consistently pin teams deep.

    OUTLOOK

    This might be just the game State needs to get back on track. However, Troy State is a much better team than was anticipated when this game was scheduled a few years ago. They are a first-year Division 1 school, but they don't act like it. Just ask Miami, which had a tough time against them in the first half. But Troy has shown a tendency to turn the ball over a lot and with the exception of last week, has given up massive amounts of yardage, both on the ground and in the air. If State can force turnovers and move the ball themselves, it could be a long day for TSU. But if the Trojans control the clock and score points, it will be a restless day for State fans at Davis-Wade Stadium. One thing is for sure, TSU will not be intimidated by playing here. They've played at Nebraska and at Miami and are ready for anything State throws at them. So Saturday's game will likely come down to whether State's players are mentally and physically ready to play after a tough going in the early season. In other words, can State not beat themselves, and take care of business? We shall see. The guess here is that the Dogs will look sluggish at times, but will get it done.

    Mississippi State 38
    Troy State 13


    Aaron SonesAaron Sones is a free-lance correspondent for Gene's Page. Aaron, who is a student at Mississippi State University, works part-time in the MSU Athletic Department. He is also co-host of WFCA FM 108's Gameday show which airs two hours prior to each football game. You can contact him by email at asones8@aol.com.


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