View Full Version : The Sports Exchange Troy vs Rice Preview (CBSsportsline)

12-04-2006, 09:36 AM
Troy (7-5, 6-1) wrapped up a share of the Sun Belt title by defeating Florida International 24-13 on the road in its regular-season finale.
More important, because it defeated Middle Tennessee (7-5, 6-1), Troy earned the league's automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl and will face Rice on Dec. 22 in the Superdome.
"I was a little nervous about this game all week," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "I had a big knot in my stomach when we got to the stadium today. I knew our kids would come out ready to play, but I also knew Florida International would give us their best shot."
The Trojans go into the New Orleans Bowl having won six of their last seven games. Troy lost four straight games in September at Florida State, Georgia Tech, Nebraska and Alabama-Birmingham.
"We had a September that was really tough for this football team," Blakeney said, "but they did a good jog staying the course and realizing they had a chance to be a special team."
Troy played in the Silicon Valley Bowl in 2004, losing to Northern Illinois, but this is its first time to earn a league title and trip to the New Orleans Bowl.

Troy fell behind 14-0 at home against Louisiana-Lafayette, but scored 21 unanswered points and went on to win 42-28. The comeback was a sign of things to come as Troy rallied from a 20-7 deficit in the final 3:30 in week 11 to beat Middle Tennessee 21-20.
Troy moved to Division I-A in 2001, and its only previous bowl game was in 2004 when it went 7-5 and played Northern Illinois in the Silicon Valley Bowl. The Trojans lost 34-21.
Troy junior quarterback Omar Haugabook is the top passer in the Sun Belt and the Trojans have some very talented and speedy receivers. Rice, meanwhile, has struggled against the pass, allowing more than 225 yards a game. If Troy can protect Haugabook, the Trojans could have a chance to win a shootout.
DL Franklin Lloyd -- He is undersized at 6-foot, but the 283-pounder is very quick and strong. He led Troy with 11 1/2 tackles for losses. Loyd could have a chance to make an NFL team through free agency.
"I have heard the New Orleans Bowl is the best bowl going. Our conference is first class and they always try to do things right. It is a game our fans can get to and we are going to be excited to play in the dome." -- Troy coach Larry Blakeney, referring to the Trojans earning the Sun Belt Conference's automatic bid to the New Orleans Bowl.

Troy vs. Rice, New Orleans Bowl, New Orleans, Nov. 22, 7 p.m. (CST) -- The Trojans have won six of their last seven games, while Rice is on a six-game winning streak. Both teams have explosive offenses, which could make for a fun shootout to watch.
The Trojans went to a spread offense this season, and it was a success. Troy has very good athletes and wide receiver and junior college transfer quarterback Omar Haugabook has stepped in and done a great job running the offense. The offensive line has improved, as well as the running game with junior Kenny Cattouse.
Troy's defense hasn't fared well against the pass, but it has improved throughout the season. The defensive line is very physical and good against the run, and the linebackers are very athletic. Troy's team speed on defense will be a key in containing Rice's offense.
Troy kicker Greg Whibbs has made nine field goals. Punter Jason Wright has averaged almost 40 yards a kick, but more important, has gotten 17 fair catches and landed 13 inside in the 20-yard line on 55 punts. The return game is outstanding, led by junior Leodis McKelvin. The coverage teams also are very good because of Troy's team speed.
Although Troy is making only its second bowl appearance, coach Larry Blakeney is in his 16th season and has taken the program from Division II to Division I-AA to Division I-A. He has coached in a lot of Division II and Division I-A playoff game. Rice coach Todd Graham is in his first season after being hired away from Tulsa.
Blakeney's experience could be a huge key in this game. He has a knack for coming up with good game plans. Since moving to Division I-A, Troy has beaten Mississippi State, Marshall and Missouri when it was ranked.
Rice 34, Troy 30 -- The Trojans should make this a very close game because of their passing offense. The key is going to be whether than can slow down Rice's high-scoring offense. If Troy can avoid turnovers, the score could certainly go the other way.
Senior DB Derick Pendergrass (foot) is out. Senior WR Smokey Hampton (shoulder) is questionable for the New Orleans Bowl. Senior OL James Gardner (knee) left the Florida International game in the third quarter and his status is uncertain for the New Orleans Bowl.

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