We were wron. The most challenging opponent was not the now 1-3 Houston Cougars, but it is the 2-1 Troy Trojans. Proving he knows more than your's truly, Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy had been preaching that belief quietly for some time. Gundy is right.
First, the Trojans will not be intimidated at all on their visit to rowdy Boone Pickens Stadium. This is a Troy team that returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that took apart Oklahoma State 41-23 at Troy last season.
The 2008 Trojans are coming to Stillwater off a trip to Columbus, Ohio, where they hung in with Ohio State for the entire game in front of 102,000-plus fans and lost by a respectable 28-10 margin after outgaining the Buckeyes 315 yards to 309.
Head coach Larry Blakeney has never been shy about scheduling his teams out of Sun Belt Conference play against the major schools in the BCS. Last season Troy went on the road and played Georgia toe to toe. Besides Ohio State this season they already had a date at defending national champion LSU pushed back to November.
Blakeney has shown he can recover quickly from losing coaches as his offensive coordinatory Tony Franklin left with his spread playbook for Auburn after last season. The promotion came for receivers coach Neal Brown, and Brown has done an excellent job.
Here is the test Oklahoma State fans have been waiting for. It will come in privacy with no television coverage at 6:05 p.m. next Saturday at the Boone.
Gone is quarterback Omar Haugabook, who accounted for 3,606 yards and 300.5 yards a game in total offense last season. Brown selected dual threat sophomore quarterback Jamie Hampton to take over. The 6-2, 200-pound Hampton proved to have the right stuff as he has passed for 677 yards and rushed for 121 yards and a combined eight touchdowns through three games. Hampton had his worst performance so far at Ohio State as he was picked off twice, but he also completed 30-of-42 passes for 218 yards.
The Trojans have decent balance but lean to the pass as leading rusher DuJuan Harris has rushed for 241 yards but there have been eight different receivers catch the football. In the offense think of a spread closer to Texas Tech in purpose than to Oklahoma State or West Virginia.
The top receivers is Jerrel Jernigan with 22 receptions for 203 yards and two touchdowns. Jernigan caught a 45-yard touchdown pass from Hampton for the only Troy touchdown at Ohio State on Saturday. Harris comes out of the backfield and will motion or line up as a receiver and has 11 receptions for 54 yards and a touchdowns. Kennard Burton has 15 receptions for 153 yards.
The real secret to Troy's success is the return of right tackle Dion Small (6-2, 310), right guard Wesley Potter (6-5, 305), center Danny Franks (6-3, 290), left guard Tyler Clark (6-2, 275), and left tackle Chris Jamison (6-3, 312) on the offensive line, with sixth lineman Will Chambliss (6-6, 306) also returning. The line is veteran and stout as four of the six are seniors.
The heart of the defense is middle linebacker Boris Lee (6-0, 231). Lee is emotional and a big hitter when presented with the opportunity. He had 15 tackles, five unassisted against the Buckeyes, including a tackle for a loss. On the season he has 43 tackles, averaging over 14 stops a game and he has an interception.
Weakside linebacker Bear Woods (6-0, 228) is just that, a bear. He has 36 tackles on the season and two sacks blitzing from the backside. This is a very aggressive 4-3 defense the Cowboys will see.
The weakness is the Trojans have two new starting corners and they will be tested by Dez Bryant. Both senior Trevor Ford and sophomore Chris Bowens are listed at 6-0, but even a six-footer can have trouble getting up with Bryant.
Numbers to compare
Troy Oklahoma State
35.3 points scored 50.7
15.0 points allowed 21.0
192.0 rushing yards-avg 334.3
108.7 rushing allowed-avg 127.7
258.3 passing yards-avg 211.7
129.0 passing allowed-avg 164.0
450.3 total yards-avg 546.0
237.7 total allowed-avg 291.7
Even turnover margin -0.67