Troy game prepares team for conference play

After a game like this you have to catch yourself saying "Yeah, but it was Troy." Troy isn't a bad team and their road tests against Georgia Tech and Florida State should have proven that. They play all their tough games on the road, so they should be ready for anything. Well, they weren't ready for this.

Following the 56-0 route of the Troy Trojans even a Trojan defensive player had to remark about what Nebraska was doing on offense. It wasn't like he hadn't seen it, but not quite like that. "They had it down pat," Defensive tackle Franklin Lloyd said of Nebraska 's offense. "The formations and the switching around and the double teams and the blocking; their scheme was perfect and it worked."

 

"What they did worked. We tried to adjust to it, but we couldn't get a handle on it. They switched around and we wouldn't even get the calls in from the sideline before they even snapped the ball. That really hurt us."

 

It seems that just when everyone is ready to sell Bill Callahan down the river for his seemingly poor game plan against USC, they are now lauding him for being able to keep Troy on its heels.

 

Adam Carriker

Of course, this wasn't USC, and despite Troy 's attempts at upsets, they were attempts and not actual successes. This is yet another road loss for a team who lives on the road in non-conference play, competing against anyone who will play them.

 

In the fourth quarter Florida State needed two touchdowns to regain the lead and eventually beat the Trojans. And it took two late bombs to one of if not the best wide receiver in the country, Georgia Tech's Calvin Johnson, which sealed the deal for the Yellow Jackets.

This was a good team in Troy.

 

So, what happened to the tune of giving up 14 points every quarter of the game, a game in which they didn't stick to their season-long M.O. of staying with teams for three quarters before finally folding in the end. Head coach Bill Callahan saw it more as his team's focus going into this game than anything he did from a game planning standpoint. "Our team was extremely focused – you could feel them in the locker room," Coach Callahan said.

 

"They were tuned in. They were dialed into this game. It was important to them and they wanted to come out and perform well."

 

Dialed in could be an understatement as the offense could do little wrong as the only real hiccup was an interception thrown by senior quarterback Zac Taylor – a hail mary pass of sorts thrown at the end of the second quarter, Nebraska holding at that time a 28-0 lead.

 

On the day Taylor had only one more attempt in this game than he did against USC, but the conclusion was decidedly different.

Hello running game

 

When your starting running back is averaging over 10 yards per carry, which Marlon Lucky was, on his way to a 156 yard and three touchdown performance, it's going to be hard not to have passing lanes and receivers there for opportunities. It was remarked in the press box at one point wasn't about Taylor not having the options, but simply having too many wide open options down the field.

 

As it is, Taylor concluded the game with the interception, but finished with a completion percentage above 82, throwing one touchdown, that going to senior tight end J.B. Phillips.

 

Just the sheer volume and balance of the Nebraska offense, one which was just three yards short of 600 yards, impressed the team, who thought they could come in and compete. "Best football team we've faced in a long time," Troy head coach Larry Blakeney said of the Cornhuskers. "I don't know what they call that offense, if it's west coast or east coast or south coast or whatever, but it was very well-designed and it gave us more than we can handle."

 

Marlon Lucky had record day, rushing for
156 yards, scoring three times

Up to this game Troy had been fairly stingy against the run, allowing very few big plays on the ground beyond the line of scrimmage. With each significant run from sophomore tailback Marlon Lucky, the big play meter kept rising.

 

Three separate times we heard the announcer say after a Lucky run that was the longest allowed by Troy 's defense that year. The next run was longer and then the final run of 51 yards as Marlon galloped into the end zone just before the midway point of the third quarter. To add salt to the open wound that was Troy 's ego getting soundly pummeled along with the oft-hit starting QB Omar Haughabook, Lucky's 156 yards and 3 touchdowns were complimented quite well by Kenny Wilson's 106 yards, the junior college transfer scoring twice.

 

It was efficiency for a team who seemingly had little against USC the week before, but it was more than enough to impress someone given the unfortunate task of stopping this unit, which was to him, clicking on all cylinders. "They were probably the best offense we've seen this year. They are a lot better than Florida State and Georgia Tech," strong safety, Brandon Condren said. "They didnt take us lightly like Florida State and Georgia Tech did. They came out and put it on us, so I have to give them credit."

 

In a route such as this, what got lost was the fact that Nebraska didn't have the use of some key players on the defensive side of the ball. Sophomore linebacker Phillip Dillard went down in the first game of the season; Junior linebacker Steve Octavien is still nursing a hamstring injury, as is back up SAM linebacker Clayton Sievers.

 

Whereas many teams try to roll a variety of players in at the position, Nebraska didn't have that luxury. It usually fell upon one man. It was the man, who most people remember for two bone crushing hits against Michigan in the Alamo Bowl, but has been one of the most consistent performers for the Blackshirts, despite not playing all of the time.

 

"Lance wants his playing time and he deserves his playing time," Defensive Coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said of junior linebacker Lance Brandenburgh, who played all three linebacker positions against Troy . "It's easy when you play both inside positions, but then when you have to move to the outside positions, that's where the mental part come in and Lance is such a bright young man, he has no problem picking them all up."

 

Brandenburgh was one of many highlights on defense, but while the statistics might not bear it out, senior defensive end Adam Carriker was a force Troy simply had no answer for.

 

When Carriker was in one-on-one blocking against the senior DE, Carriker got up the field almost consistently. It was at certain points of the game Troy players were grabbing Carriker's facemask, holding him and consequently drawing a number of flags, because they couldn't slow him down. For Carriker, he just remarked about how this game, unlike every game prior to that this season, was a chance he and his cohorts across the line finally got a chance to show what they could do, and for him personally, he felt he needed to make amends.

Sophomore defensive end Barry Turner had
one of the most vicious hits on the day,
colliding helmet-to-helmet with Troy QB
Omaha Haughabook

 

"Last week (against USC) I don't think I played very well, so I was a man on a mission tonight to kind of redeem myself," he said. As a team he said they played solidly as well, but the most refreshing part was that they actually got to pin their ears back and do what they do. "We haven't had a whole lot of chances to show what we could do this year. Nicholls State ran the ball a million times and USC did a lot of quick-game, and even Troy threw the ball quick a lot of times."

"It was a lot of fun. I had a lot of fun tonight. Just getting after the quarterback, that's what I love to do."

 

For the game the team notched four sacks, which tops their total for the entire season up to this point. That puts them with seven on the year, which ranks them amongst the best in the nation thus far.

 

All in all, it was one of those total team efforts, but unlike games against Louisiana Tech and Nicholls State, Troy was a team who obviously had talent, had already played two solid teams on the road, and couldn't even 150 yards in total offense.

 

That draws an interesting parallel to last year as Nebraska faces Kansas next week. Going into that contest the Jayhawks were ranked as one of the worst offenses in the country, only to amass over 400 yards in total offense against the Huskers, routing them 40-15.

This team is almost notorious at this point when it comes to not looking too far ahead, but just the fact that this is the beginning of conference play has all excited about the goals they had set before the season even began. "It's not a revenge thing or anything like that – It's just another Big 12 opponent," Carriker said of Kansas.

 

"These are the games that really matter now. These are the wins and losses that get you into the Big 12 title game."

 

With Kansas approaching in a week, Nebraska setting up to play yet another night game, the conference becomes the holy grail for everyone in either division. While Texas certainly seems to have separated itself from the pack in the south, there's still somewhat of a paper battle going on for the teams in the north.

Nebraska looks to be the clear favorite at this juncture, but a resurgent Missouri offense led by quarterback Chase Daniel can't be counted out. Iowa State 's floundering against the Longhorns cements Texas more than it does condemn Iowa State .

 

After all, this is the Big 12 North, a division which has taken a lot of heat and criticism and deservedly so.

 

It's almost déjà vu that Nebraska should once again be on the cusp of taking over once again, looking at teams like Kansas State , Colorado and even Iowa State , as just possibly speed bumps on the way to Kansas City .

 

The head coach can't look at things like that, nor should he. He also won't make any predictions. But after a loss to USC, followed by an absolute crushing of Troy , things could be a helluva lot worse. "This was a good win for our football team," coach Callahan said. "To come back in this fashion, in this time of forum, is very satisfying."

Notes:

Sophomore running back Cody Glenn did not participate due to a hamstring injury
Sophomore Clayton Sievers did not participate due to a hamstring injury

Both are expected back next week

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