Scrolling Headlines:

Whose American Dream? -

June 24, 2017

Man who threatened to bomb Coolidge Hall taken into ICE custody -

June 24, 2017

Cale Makar drafted by Colorado Avalanche in first round of 2017 NHL Entry Draft -

June 24, 2017

Conservatives: The Trump experiment is over -

June 17, 2017

UMass basketball lands transfer Kieran Hayward from LSU -

May 18, 2017

UMass basketball’s Donte Clark transferring to Coastal Carolina -

May 17, 2017

Report: Keon Clergeot transfers to UMass basketball program -

May 15, 2017

Despite title-game loss, Meg Colleran’s brilliance in circle was an incredible feat -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball loses in heartbreaker in A-10 title game -

May 14, 2017

Navy sinks UMass women’s lacrosse 23-11 in NCAA tournament second round, ending Minutewomen’s season -

May 14, 2017

UMass softball advances to A-10 Championship game -

May 13, 2017

UMass basketball adds Rutgers transfer Jonathan Laurent -

May 13, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse gets revenge on Colorado, beat Buffs 13-7 in NCAA Tournament First Round -

May 13, 2017

Meg Colleran dominates as UMass softball tops Saint Joseph’s, advances in A-10 tournament -

May 12, 2017

Rain keeps UMass softball from opening tournament play; Minutewomen earn A-10 honors -

May 11, 2017

Former UMass football wide receiver Tajae Sharpe accused of assault in lawsuit -

May 10, 2017

Justice Gorsuch can save the UMass GEO -

May 10, 2017

Minutemen third, Minutewomen finish fifth in Atlantic 10 Championships for UMass track and field -

May 8, 2017

UMass women’s lacrosse wins A-10 title for ninth straight season -

May 8, 2017

Dayton takes two from UMass softball in weekend series -

May 8, 2017

Cyr: Troy is better than you might think

Caroline OConnor/Collegian

(Caroline O’Connor/Collegian)

When the Massachusetts football team’s schedule was announced, how many people thought Troy would be one of the hardest games on its schedule?

No one? Maybe a few in the back?

Boston College stood out. Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina all carried their well-deserved SEC-aura when UMass battled teams from arguably the deepest and most difficult conference in college football. Even Louisiana Tech and Brigham Young created a bit of excitement.

But Troy?

The Trojans (6-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) are a much better football team than you would think. The only blemish on their schedule was a road loss against at-the-time No. 2 Clemson, where Troy battled the Tigers deep into the fourth quarter.

“This is a really talented football team—one of the best we’ve played all year,” quarterback Andrew Ford said after Tuesday’s practice. “We know it’s going to take our best game and our best week of preparation to have a chance.”

Against Clemson, the Trojans forced its Heisman candidate quarterback Deshaun Watson to throw a pair of interceptions. Watson’s 108.4 quarterback efficiency was the lowest he’s had against any opponent this season.

“You have to look at not only the Clemson score, but how they played,” Minutemen coach Mark Whipple said. “Probably Deshaun Watson’s worst game rating-wise, whatever that means. He had a couple of interceptions.”

Whipple added: “[Troy] knows how to win. They’re playing like a team that’s won a lot. They’re getting the bounces and playing really good complementary football. They’re kicking the ball well. In that area they have a lot of skill. It shows up on tape.”

“They were in until the end, and probably should have won it,” Ford said. “That right there shows the caliber team we are playing against this week. You just have to be ready to go.”

UMass (2-7) is going to have to be nearly flawless offensively as Troy is tied for fourth in the FBS forcing 14 interceptions. Blace Brown has four already on the season for the Trojans, while three others have a pair.

Troy’s defense has 10 players with at least 20 tackles this season, as well has five who have registered at least two sacks.

“There’s not just one guy out there doing it, it’s a collective unit,” Ford said. “They have 11 guys flying to the ball all over the place. When you have a defense like that, breaks go your way, and that’s why they’ve created so many turnovers this year.”

The Trojan offense isn’t half-bad either. Troy ranks 24th in the nation averaging 37.6 points per game behind quarterback-running back tandem of Brandon Silvers and Jordan Chunn. Silvers has thrown for 1,834 yards this year with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 15:6. Chunn’s ran for 816 yards on 156 carries and has scored seven rushing touchdowns.

As talented as the Trojans have played this season, they owe a lot of it to Neal Brown, head coach, who’s no stranger to the Minutemen program.

Brown—the fourth youngest head coach in FBS at 36 years old—played under Whipple at UMass in 2001 and 2002. The next season, Whipple called him and offered him a job coaching tight ends and the offensive line as a graduate assistant.

Brown was the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech (2010-12) and Kentucky (2013-14) before he was hired by Troy as its head coach prior to the 2015 season, where the Trojans finished 4-8.

Brown spent four years with the program—two as an inside receivers coach, two as the offensive coordinator—from 2006-09.

“He loved the game and always did things the right way. He did a good job in school and was a great guy to coach,” Whipple said of his former disciple. “Kids respect him—you can tell by the way they are playing. They have a lot of confidence and are making a lot of plays and that says a lot about his leadership.”

I get it.

The Trojan’s schedule hasn’t been that demanding playing in the Sun Belt, but having not played a game since Oct. 20, they are a well-rested, relatively healthy team. Vegas odds currently have Troy as a 21-point favorite, which has to stand for something.

“I don’t know how they can be sneaky good,” Ford said. “I think they’re a really good football team. Watching their tape these past couple days, they’re just a really, really good football team. It’s going to take our best chance to win.”

Andrew Cyr can be reached at arcyr@umass.edu, and followed on Twitter @Andrew_Cyr.

Leave A Comment