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11-26-2006, 01:25 AM
Troy Football: Miracle in Murfreesboro

Drew Champlin / Dothan Eagle
November 26, 2006

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Omar Haugabook pointed to the sky and got ready to take the biggest snap of his life.
Fourth-and-17 at the Middle Tennessee 22, with Troy down 20-14. Fourth-and-17 because Haugabook took a sack with 27 seconds left for a loss of 11, forcing the Trojans to burn their last timeout.
Fourth-and-17, and he hit Smokey Hampton for a gain of 19. One play later, a 3-yard touchdown pass to Gary Banks.
A Greg Whibbs extra point later and a desperation Hail Mary pass by MTSU - ball game, a 21-20 win by the Trojans that will go down as one of the greatest in Troy’s history.
One more win over a winless Florida International team, and the Trojans are going to the New Orleans Bowl.
“It’s amazing,” Banks said. “I don’t believe there’s enough words in the dictionary to describe the feeling we have right now.”
It wasn’t supposed to happen this way for Middle Tennessee, the surprise of the league who had jumped out to a 6-0 conference record.
It probably shouldn’t have, after Haugabook was stuffed two drives prior on a fourth-and-short at the MTSU 3 with the Blue Raiders leading 20-7.
But the Trojans held on and took over with 3:33 left. Four plays later, Haugabook hit Hampton for a 19-yard touchdown pass. Whibbs’ extra point cut the lead to 20-14.
Whibbs then had the second-biggest kick of the ball game. His onside kick bounced off MTSU’s Clinton Corder and was eventually recovered by Troy’s Henry Chubb.
“It was a do-or-die situation,” Chubb said. “We had to get the ball back and give our offense a chance to score again.
“When I saw the ball, winning was all that was on my mind.”
With 2:19 left, Troy took over on the MTSU 42 and scored the touchdown that kept their season alive.
Brannon Condren broke up a last-ditch Hail Mary pass from MTSU backup quarterback Joe Craddock and the celebration was on - just minutes after chants of “Troy sucks” and “Goalposts” came from the MTSU student section, situated behind the Troy bench.
This was when the Blue Raiders held a 20-7 lead as the game wound down. No doubt the students were ready to storm the field and pull down the goal posts in celebration.
“Maybe we should have pulled it down,” Troy defensive end Shawn Todd said.
MTSU finished the regular season with a 7-5 record under first-year head coach Rick Stockstill, though the Blue Raiders can hold out hope for an at-large bowl berth or a Troy loss next week.
“We are disappointed,” Stockstill said. “It was a heart-breaking, gut-wrenching loss.”
Troy’s Haugabook hit 30-of-40 passes for 235 yards and two scores. Hampton caught seven passes for 104 yards. Kenny Cattouse led the ground game with 83 yards on 18 carries.
The Trojans held Eugene Gross, a probable first team all-conference selection, to 13 yards on 17 carries.
Troy plays at FIU next Saturday at 6 p.m. With a win, the Trojans would tie MTSU with a 6-1 conference record and would go to the New Orleans Bowl by the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Troy Football: Hampton comes up big

Drew Champlin / Dothan Eagle
November 26, 2006

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - It hasn’t been a dream senior season for Smokey Hampton.
But Saturday night was a dream for Hampton, who had the game of his life.
Hampton caught seven passes for 104 yards and a score, but his 19-yard reception on 4th-and-17 from the Middle Tennessee 22 set up the game-winning score in Troy’s 21-20 win over MTSU.
Troy’s leading receiver last year, Hampton was only fourth on the squad this year with 17 catches for 199 yards. He had lost his starting spot midway through the season.
“It hasn’t been a great year for me,” Hampton said. “I haven’t had the year everybody expected me to have.
“I have a chance to play at the next level and I didn’t have the year I was supposed to have.”
But Hampton had the game Troy needed Saturday. His 19-yard touchdown catch was set up by a 19-yard reception.
“Thank God we didn’t give up on Smokey,” offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said. “He responded and we’re proud of him.”
It was Franklin who had a gut feeling this week that Hampton would have a big game. The two had a long conversation this week, as Franklin did with all of his receivers, about what this game meant.
“I knew he could make the plays,” Franklin said. “He proved me right. I’m so happy for him.”
Hampton went over the 1,000-yard mark in his career with a 14-yard reception early in the game. The last two weeks, it was sophomore Mykeal Terry who stepped up. For the whole season, it’s been Gary Banks.
Saturday, it was Hampton.
“Smokey had a hell of a practice (this week),” quarterback Omar Haugabook said. “His best practice of the year, and he showed it today.”
Haugabook, who said the 4th-and-17 defensive formation “looked like it was drawn up in the sand” and he “could have ran for the first down” saw Hampton cut in, then briefly out and back in before putting it right over his shoulder.
“He made a hell of a catch,” Haugabook said. “I knew he was holding on to it.”
Hampton took a shot on the play from a Blue Raider defender but wasn’t about to let go of the ball.
“I felt like their whole team was around me,” Hampton said. “I just had to block it out.”
Then, Hampton went off the field and watched his teammate Banks score the game-winner.
“All this week, I thought about playing for my team and getting us to the New Orleans Bowl,” Hampton said.

11-26-2006, 02:06 PM
Troy football: Whibbs kicks the winner

Drew Champlin / dchamplin@dothaneagle.com
November 26, 2006

MURFREESBORO, Tenn., - It was like any other kick. An extra point.

But it turned out to be the biggest kick of Greg Whibbs' life.

Whibbs, a junior kicker, hadn't always been automatic leading into the kick (7-of-14 FG, 27-of-29 XP), and had a kick blocked earlier in the game.

But after Gary Banks scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left, Whibbs lined up and toed the kick after holder Jason Wright got the snap from Zach Yenser.

"I knew I had an opportunity to win the game," Whibbs said. "I just took a deep breath and made sure I got it up because I had been kicking it low."

"I've kicked 100 of them in my career. It was just like every other one of them."

Earlier, Whibbs had kicked the onside kick that Troy's Henry Chubb recovered, setting up the game-winning touchdown.

"They had a lot more people on the front line than you'd normally see in that type formation," Chubb said. I hoped to get it behind them and let our speed get to it and it took a lucky bounce."

It was a little bit of atonement from missing an extra point last week against Arkansas State and missing a field goal in overtime last year at UL-Lafayette.

"People will remember you for the last kick, whether you make or miss," Whibbs said. "If you make one, you're great, if you miss, you're not. That's part of being a kicker."

Cain gets first start: Senior defensive tackle David Can got his first career start at defensive tackle, moving past junior Marcus Pittman and sophomore Steve McClendon on the depth chart.

Review hurts Troy: Late in the second quarter, Troy's Shawn Todd hit MTSU quarterback Clint Marks and the ball came out. Troy recovered at the MTSU 4, but the play was reviewed and overturned in MTSU's favor, as Marks' arm went forward.

However, Troy did force a punt on the next play.

Milestone: Smokey Hampton's first catch, a 14-yarder, gave him more than 1,000 yards for his career. Hampton finished with a season-best seven catches for 104 yards.

Keep on' sackin: MTSU entered the game with 29 sacks, a school record and a No. 21 national ranking.

The Blue Raiders sacked Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook four times, with Erik Walden being credited with two and a half.

Captains: Troy captains were linebacker Ryan Babb, center Zach Yenser, defensive tackle Frankie Lloyd and wide receiver Gary Banks.

11-26-2006, 02:47 PM
Troy keeps hopes alive with late TDs

Sunday, November 26, 2006
News staff writer

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Maybe the Troy fans can get their rooms in New Orleans cheap.

It's possible, since a lot of Middle Tennessee State followers had their Big Easy dreams crushed by the unlikeliest of comebacks by the Trojans on Saturday.

Troy scored twice in the final 2:19 - with the game-winner coming with just 14 seconds remaining after Troy recovered an onside kick - to beat MTSU 21-20 Saturday at Floyd Stadium. The victory keeps Troy in the hunt for the Sun Belt Conference championship and a New Orleans Bowl bid.

There was lots of talk in the Troy locker room during practice last week for this must-win game after some Blue Raiders fans discussed New Orleans hotel reservations for the Dec.22 bowl on their Internet message boards. But thanks to Smokey Hampton's three clutch catches, including one for a first down at the 3-yard line on fourth-and-17 in the final half-minute, those plans likely went down the drain.

Troy (6-5, 5-1) still must win this week at 0-11 Florida International to lock up the bowl bid and clinch a share of the league title with Middle Tennessee.

The Trojans had struggled to gain 158 total yards through three quarters and trailed 20-7 after MTSU's Desmond Gee threw a wide receiver pass to wide-open Stephen Chicola for a 15-yard score with 11:19 left in the fourth period. But Troy quarterback Omar Haugabook led the visitors to 158 fourth- quarter yards in the comeback.

It looked as if the Blue Raiders (7-5, 6-1) had wrapped up the game when they stuffed Haugabook on a fourth-and-1 from the 3-yard line with 6:11 left. But the Troy defense, led by Boris Lee's 11 tackles, held MTSU on a third-and-11 when Brannon Condren dragged DeMarco McNair down after an 8-yard run with 3:42 to play.

Haugabook hit Hampton for back-to-back 19-yard gains to cap a four-play, 47-yard scoring drive with 1:14 left in the contest.

After Henry Chubb grabbed Greg Whibbs' onside kick at the Raider 42, the Trojans mounted their miracle comeback. Haugabook was sacked for an 11-yard loss with 27 seconds remaining to set up a fourth-and-17.

After Troy's last timeout, Hampton - who caught seven passes for 104 yards - outjumped two Blue Raiders and held on despite being planted on his head at the 3-yard line.

The quarterback said he was stunned to see Hampton open. "Excuse my language, but I was saying, `What the hell formation are they in?' What we called was perfect for the defense they were in," Haugabook said. "I was surprised. I could have run for the first down. It was some coverage they drew up in the sand or something."

Gary Banks broke open on a post route for the 3-yard tying TD and Whibbs kicked the winning point after. "That was sure the sweetest kick I've ever made," Whibbs said.

"I've never had a game-winning catch," added Banks, who caught six passes for 44 yards. "When I first got to Troy I was a quarterback. I tell you what, it hasn't even sunk in. Once I stuck that post, there was a lot of grass in front of me."

MTSU got one more snap and Clint Marks was replaced by Briarwood Christian's Joe Craddock to throw a Hail Mary from the Raiders' 46, but Condren knocked it away.

11-26-2006, 02:58 PM
TROY: Trojans score two late TDs, move closer to bowl berth

By A. Stacy Long
Montgomery Advertiser

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- There were Troy players jumping all around, running toward midfield and looking for a teammate to hug.

Safety Brannon Condren jumped higher than he could ever imagine. Offensive coordinator Tony Franklin coolly took a water cooler.

And Smokey Hampton stayed behind.

Hampton calmly started his celebration of Troy's 21-20 win over Middle Tennessee State on Saturday.

He turned toward the MTSU student section, motioned that their goalpost-party plans weren't necessary, blew them a kiss and gave them a victory sign.

"It was like they lost their whole world," Hampton said. "I gave them a little peace-up sign. 'Nice try. Better luck next year.'"

Troy scored two touchdowns in the final 21/2 minutes to take a major step toward its first Sun Belt Conference championship and the bowl berth that goes with it.

"This is amazing," said Gary Banks, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass with 14.8 seconds to play.

"I don't think there are enough words in the dictionary to describe the feelings that we have right now and the way we came back to win this game."

Troy (6-5, 5-1 Sun Belt) has to win next week to wrap up a berth in the Dec. 22 New Orleans Bowl. It plays Saturday at Florida International, which hasn't won a game this season.

"We still have to win next week," Condren said. "If we go out and don't win, this game means nothing."

MTSU (7-5, 6-1) turned away Troy inside the 5 with six minutes remaining and took possession with a 20-7 lead, inspiring its students to chant "goalpost" behind the Troy bench.

"I really did get kind of down, I'm going to tell you the truth," defensive end Shawn Todd said. "I was thinking about what had to happen for us to win.

"We had to stop them, get a touchdown, get the onsides kick and get another touchdown."

Check, check, check and check.

The Blue Raiders, after stopping Troy, managed one first down, but no more. Franklin Lloyd made back-to-back tackles to leave MTSU facing a third-and-11. Condren brought down DeMarco McNair on the next play after an 8-yard gain.

Middle Tennessee punted back to Troy with 31/2 minutes left.

The Trojans rolled off a four-play touchdown drive. Hampton caught a 19-yard touchdown pass with 2:19 left to make it 20-14.

Henry Chubb recovered Greg Whibbs' ensuing onsides kick, giving Troy the ball at the MTSU 42. Three other Trojans had a chance at the ball.

"We knew where we wanted Whibbs to kick the ball," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "We had to get one that caromed. It could not have come in any lower or any harder than it did. It got loose and we got it."

The Trojans drove for the game-winning score but not without converting a fourth-and-17.

Hampton caught a 19-yard pass in traffic -- the hit he took flipped him and caused Hampton to land on his head -- to put the ball at the 3. Banks scored on the next play.

Whibbs' extra point gave Troy the lead.

"The game is never over until the clock goes to zero-zero," said quarterback Omar Haugabook, who was 30-of-40 passing for 235 yards and the two late touchdowns.

"It's a 60-minute ballgame. They didn't play 60 minutes. They played like 55."

Middle Tennessee returned the kickoff 34 yards to near midfield. With three seconds left, the Raiders had one last play.

Backup quarterback Joe Craddock, in because he has a stronger arm than starter Clint Marks, threw a desperation pass for Jonathan Grigsby. Condren knocked it down.

"We had a lot of stuff go our way," Condren said. "It usually doesn't happen for us like that. I guess we got lucky tonight.

"It was awesome. It was a miracle."

The Trojans had their party, claimed the Palladium trophy that goes to the game's annual winner and strutted off the field.

The goalpost was spared.

"Maybe," Todd said, "we should have pulled it down

1,000-yard career: Senior Smokey Hampton's 104 yards receiving included the 1,000th of his career.

Hampton cleared 1,000 with his first catch, a 14-yarder on the fourth play of the game, and now has 1,093.

Two other Troy receivers are near 1,000: senior Toris Rutledge and junior Gary Banks.

Banks had 44 yards, giving him 891, while Rutledge's 12 yards leave him 134 yards shy.

Hampton is the third Trojan to reach 1,000 since the school moved to Division I-A.

Smokey smokes MTSU in fourth

By A. Stacy Long
Montgomery Advertiser

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. -- Troy receiver Smokey Hampton, his season marked by disappointment after disappointment, has tried to keep a low profile.

He walked around dodging questions about his senior season and a lack of production.

"It's been frustrating for me personally," Hampton said. "People come up to me and ask, 'What's going on? Why aren't you catching the ball like you used to?' I haven't had much to say."

Now, after the Trojans' 21-20 win Saturday over Middle Tennessee State, Hampton won't be as shy.

Hampton's seven-catch, 104-yard day included a late touchdown and another fourth-down catch that set up the game-winning score.

Hampton, whose numbers have paled in comparison to his breakout junior season, helped Troy take control of the Sun Belt Conference race.

"Smokey has had a year that has been a struggling experience," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "We stayed with him and he came out tonight and made it happen for us.

"That's a great thing for him, and it was super for us. He gave us something extra we needed."

Blakeney and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin said they stayed confident in Hampton, despite Hampton's anemic performance.

He led the Trojans with 39 catches for 582 yards last year, including a 10-catch performance against Missouri. He entered Saturday with 17 catches for 199 yards.

The drop-off didn't take him out of Troy's plans.

"We had a great conversation this week," Franklin said. "I told him I believed in him, and I wasn't going to give up on him, and he proved me right."

Hampton had back-to-back 19-yard catches, the last for a touchdown, to cut MTSU's lead to 20-14. He made a gutsy grab on Troy's next possession that led to the winning score.

Quarterback Omar Haugabook was sacked for an 11-yard loss on third down, leaving the Trojans with a fourth-and-17 situation with 27 seconds left.

Troy called a play where four receivers simply run to the first-down marker, a play Franklin admitted "wasn't really a good call."

"It was just throw it up and let somebody make a play," Franklin said. "Smokey made a lot of plays at the end."

Haugabook chose Hampton, who was immediately hit when the ball arrived. The hit flipped Hampton, who landed on his head. He held on for a 19-yard gain and a first down.

"It looked painful, but I know he was holding onto that ball," Haugabook said. "Every time he got knocked down, he kept getting back up."

Hampton hasn't been known to make such catches, Blakeney said.

"He got drilled," Blakeney said. "Tremendous courage and it's not something that has been a trademark for him, necessarily. He's not afraid, but those kind of catches have not been his trademark."

Hampton was on the sidelines for the next play and watched Haugabook throw a 3-yard TD pass to Gary Banks to win the game.

Hampton said he took himself out because he was hurt.

"I got hit everywhere, my face, my arm, my hip. It hurt, but it was worth it," Hampton said. "I was banged up and took myself out. I wasn't 100 percent and I wanted someone in there that was 100 percent.

"I felt a little dazed after that play."

11-26-2006, 08:34 PM
Column: Hard work pays off for Troy

Jon Johnson / Eagle Sports Editor
November 26, 2006

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Where to start in one of the most amazing finishes Iíve ever witnessed in the years Iíve covered college football.

Troy was down and out. For goodness sakes, Middle Tennessee students were hanging on the rails and preparing to run onto the field and presumably tear down a goal post or two.

The Blue Raiders led 20-7 with under three minutes to play.

It was over, we thought.

Then Omar Haugabook connected with Smokey Hampton on a 19-yard touchdown strike.

Then Troy recovered an onsides kick at the Middle Tennessee 42.

Then Troy faced a fourth-and-17 play at the 22 with just 27 seconds left and a timeout on the field.

Then Haugabook threw the ball down the middle of the field and Smokey Hampton made a spectacular catch in traffic at the 3 for a first down.

Then Haugabook threw and Gary Banks caught it in the end zone.

Then everyone held their breath as Greg Whibbs lined to kick the extra point.

Then Whibbs, who had a field goal attempt blocked on the first drive of the game, nailed the extra point off the hold of Jason Wright.

Then you could hear a pin drop among the Middle Tennessee student section.

Oh, but you could hear some foot-stomping, raucous yelling going on down in the opposite corner of the field as the Trojans supporters who made the trip went a little crazy.

Then, after a kickoff return of 34 yards followed by a last-ditch effort long bomb being knocked to the ground by Brannon Condren, the Trojans could continue the party.

They could celebrate one of the greatest wins in the storied history of the schoolís football program.

They could celebrate because if a win follows next week at Florida International, they will secure a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship with Middle Tennessee.