Scouting Troy: Breaking down the Trojans
Location: Troy, Alabama.
Coach: Neal Brown (26-14, fourth season).
OFFENSIVE RATING: 6
Offensive averages / national rank
39.5 / 38
428.0 / 64
208.0 / 45
220.0 / 76
DEFENSIVE RATING: 6
Defensive averages / national rank
31.5 / 99
351.5 / 56
89.5 / 24
262.0 / 96
SPECIALISTS RATING: 6.5
Special-teams averages / national rank
22.2 / 51
15.5 / 23
41.1 / 32
Why you may need Rolaids
1. Troy ain’t afraid. It’s well-known that the Trojans went into Baton Rouge last year, and in a night game in Death Valley against LSU — where precious few teams come out on top — dominated the Tigers for three-and-a-half quarters in a 24-21 victory. Troy led 24-7 with less than eight minutes to play before LSU mounted a late rally to make things interesting. Two years ago, Troy went into the other Death Valley, against then No. 2-ranked Clemson, and pushed the Tigers to the end in a 30-24 loss.
2. Troy’s defense is undersized, but the Trojans will present the Nebraska offense with a number of different looks. No matter who is playing quarterback — whether it’s true freshman Adrian Martinez or walk-on sophomore Andrew Bunch — NU’s signal-caller will need to be on his toes when it comes to reading coverages and picking up blitzes. Troy has 19 tackles for loss in two games, which is 10th in the nation, and the Trojans have forced five turnovers while allowing less than 90 rushing yards per contest.
3. Trojans head coach Neal Brown is an offensive wizard who coordinated the attacks at Texas Tech (2010-2012) and Kentucky (2013-2014) before taking the top job at Troy. The 38-year-old Brown is the sixth-youngest coach in FBS and one of the brightest minds in the business, and he’s certainly aware that Nebraska gave up 351 passing yards last week while not forcing a turnover. Troy may not have a Steven Montez or a Laviska Shenault, but it does have a coach capable of scheming his way to a win.
Why you might chill
1. This game will be a good test of how far the Huskers have come under new strength and conditioning coach Zach Duval. Nebraska will generally be the bigger team — not just across the offensive and defensive lines, but at nearly every level. If the Huskers truly are stronger and better-conditioned than in past seasons, this should be a game NU controls physically. Warm weather won’t bother Troy, but eating rubber pellets out of the field turf for 60 minutes will take its toll on anyone.
2. Troy’s quarterback isn’t young, but he is new. And he’s been sacked nine times in two games. Junior Kaleb Barker was a career backup before this season, sitting behind four-year starter Brandon Silvers before taking the starting job this season. He nearly tied a school record last week, accounting for five touchdowns in a win over Florida A&M, but this will be his first start on the road. And Troy’s offense, despite scoring 21 first-quarter points last week, hasn’t been strong out of the gate. The Trojans went three-and-out to start each of their first two games.
3. It’s tough to tell just how good this Troy team is. Boise State, which might just be the best Group of Five team in the nation, went into the Trojans’ home stadium, and in front of a Troy school-record crowd, laid a 56-20 beatdown that marked the most points Troy has ever allowed in an opener. Florida A&M didn’t put up much of a fight against the Trojans last Saturday, but the Rattlers haven’t exactly been an FCS powerhouse in recent years. Troy won 10 games two years ago and 11 last season, but much of the firepower from those teams is gone.
By the numbers
The first season Troy and Nebraska met on a football field. The Trojans came to Lincoln that season for their first-ever game as an FBS program after moving up from FCS (then I-AA)
Troy’s winning percentage over its last 29 games. The Trojans are 23-6 after going 3-8 in head coach Neal Brown’s first season.
Troy led the nation in red-zone defense last season, allowing opponents to score on just 61.36 percent of their opportunities inside the 20-yard line. The Trojans allowed just 12 touchdowns and seven field goals in 44 opponent red-zone trips. Through two games this season, that number stands at 80 percent.
Snippets from Troy head coach Neal Brown’s Monday press conference.
On Troy’s mindset and expectations for Saturday’s game:
We want to win the game, and we are playing the game to win, but we have to continue to get better. That was my message to the staff last week. The way our season starts out, we play seven games in a row before we get a break, which is a really challenging early season schedule. We have to continue to make progress and positive improvements this week. We have to make sure we play good fundamental football, if we do that I think we will have an opportunity. They are a high-level opponent. They provide some major challenges for us on offense and defense.”
On Troy’s intensity level against Florida A&M:
I thought our wide receivers downfield blocked at a much higher level than they did the previous week. I still think that we can take it up another notch. I think that we can strain a little bit more. I thought our energy level was better, our sideline was better, and I thought we played with more confidence than we did a week ago. So, those are all positives.
On Nebraska’s offense:
Great scheme. I think Scott Frost does a tremendous job putting his guys in position. They are a big, physical offensive line. We are going to have to do a really good job playing with technique defensive line-wise because they are going to outweigh us in almost every position. (Adrian) Martinez was dynamic. I’m not sure who is going to play so we will follow that and get ready for both (Martinez and backup Andrew Bunch). Martinez is a dynamic runner for a true freshman, I thought what he did last week was special. The backup, you’re not a backup quarterback at Nebraska unless you can play. I’m sure that if (Bunch) has to play, he will perform at a high level.”
On Nebraska’s defense:
They may be the biggest defense that I have ever played against, and that’s going back into the SEC and Big 12 days as well. Across the board they are 290-plus, they don’t have a linebacker under 230 pounds; just really a big unit. The three D-linemen really stick out, but I think they go about nine deep that can play and are really good. (Freedom Akinmoladun), (Khalil Davis) and (Carlos Davis) are really active — I thought they played at a high level last week. (Mohamed Barry) really flies around and the safety (Tre) Neal, you can tell he’s directing traffic back there and he’s a real solid player.”
On playing in Memorial Stadium:
I think Nebraska has one of the top venues in all of college football. They are one of the top football programs in all of college football historically and I think they are one of the top brands. Glad our coaches and staff get a chance to experience that.
Breaking down the Huskers’ 2018 opponents