View Full Version : Troy tries to move up in Sun Belt

10-14-2005, 09:49 AM
By Ken Rogers, The Messenger

There is parity in college football - and then there is the Sun Belt Conference.

In the eight-team league, four teams have played just one conference game and four teams have played twice. Only two teams are undefeated - Troy (1-0) and Louisiana-Monroe (2-0).

The Trojans and Indians battle at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Monroe. The league, just like this game, is going to be close. The Trojans are coming off a road victory over North Texas, which had won 26 consecutive league games. The Mean Green has won the Sun Belt in its first four years. But there is no margin for error for the Trojans.

"This league is pretty equal," Troy head football coach Larry Blakeney said. "Any letdown can cost you the championship. Any letdown can cost you the bowl game."

Blakeney said the Trojans would have to be even better than they were last Tuesday against North Texas.

"Monroe is a different type football team," the coach said. "Defensively, they've got the capability to load the box. That means we've got to be able to throw the football."

Carl Meadows credited his offensive line for allowing him to do just that against North Texas.

"That was a dominant performance by them," Meadows said of the line. "I don't think anybody was getting touched until they got to the safeties and defensive backs."

Troy rushed for a season-high 283 yards on 64 rush attempts.

"I think the changes we made helped us on the offensive line," Blakeney said. "Credit goes to the guys up front. We've moved Rob Austin from tight end to tackle and back to tight end. He's really blocked well. Sean Dawkins has blocked well at fullback. And moving Zarah Yisrael from left guard to left tackle lets his athleticism become more prominent. Then we moved Chris Jamison to left guard to replace Yisrael."

Defensively, the Trojans will see a quirky, but effective, spread offense from Monroe.

"They've got two wins in the Sun Belt and both came late," nose guard Torre Lankford said. "That means they're confident. If they decided they can score they score. They'll be a good team. They're similar to Missouri."

"They do a good job stretching the field and making you cover everywhere," Blakeney said.

In fact, asked a particular concern about the matchup, Blakeney answered with open-field tackling. His phrase was "tackling in the grass."

"They create a lot of space offensively," he said. "They'll run the ball left and right, then trap you up the middle."

The big challenge will come from Monroe's passing game. Senior quarterback Steven Jyles leads the league with more than 192 yards passing per game. Jyles became Monroe's career passing yardage leader last week against Arkansas. He has thrown for 7,832 yards. The only remaining career passing record at the school he doesn't have is career passing touchdowns. He's five away from surpassing Raymond Philyaw's 52, set from 1993-96.

Favorite target Drouzon Quillen has caught passes in 25 consecutive games.

Despite the weapons, Blakeney stressed the basics for the Trojan defense.

"Find the ball and tackle the guy with it," the coach said.

Blakeney said last week's victory was a milestone for the Troy program in the Sun Belt.

"But it won't be any bigger than beating Louisiana-Monroe," the coach said. "It's a challenge for a young team to understand the season is long. It's a marathon, not a sprint. You've got to bring it every week."