Rushing Attack on Point in Victory over Georgia Southern

Anyone who knew before the game that Troy would outrush Georgia Southern on Saturday night would have loved the Trojans’ chances to win.
 
Troy’s 27-24 victory didn’t exactly follow conventional thinking, but it certainly snapped a two-game losing streak and gave the team some momentum as it embarks on another two-game road trip.
 
Troy turned to Gunnar Watson at quarterback for Saturday’s contest. Starter Taylor Powell did not play with a knee injury. Watson completed 24 of 36 passes for 270 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.
 
Head coach Chip Lindsey didn’t throw Watson to the wolves, but he certainly helped his quarterback establish an early rhythm. Watson threw 16 of his 36 passes in the first quarter and had 12 of his 24 completions in the opening 15 minutes.
 
What helped the sophomore quarterback as much as anything was the threat of a running game that kept the Georgia Southern defense honest. 
 
“We did a much better job early on of running the football and protecting, and we scored some points,” Lindsey said after the Trojans had improved to 3-3 overall and 1-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. “I really thought we were in a groove, and all of a sudden, the wheels just came off on us.”
 
Georgia Southern came into the game fourth in the nation in rushing offense, averaging 291 yards on the ground per game. The defense limited the Eagles to 82 yards rushing. To be sure, Troy didn’t run all over the visitors, either, but the Trojans’ 139 yards on the ground kept Watson from having to throw on every snap. 
 
Running back Jamontez Woods stepped in for B.J. Smith, who got Troy its first 100-yard rushing performance of the season a week earlier at South Carolina. Smith got the bulk of the carries a week ago with Kimani Vidal ailing. Vidal returned Saturday, but Smith was held out of the game. That created an opportunity for Woods, who rushed for 96 yards on seven carries – including a 34-yard touchdown – in the first half.
 
“Jamontez is continuing to improve,” Lindsey said. “He had almost 100 yards rushing on nine carries. He had some explosive runs, and we needed some of that in the running game. Very talented guy, got a great attitude, works really hard every day.
 
“He’s getting much better with doing the things running backs have to do other than just carrying the ball – things like pass protection, those kind of things. Understanding the concept we’re running, whether it’s in the pass game or the run game, route running and so forth. I think the sky’s the limit for Jamontez.”
 
Watson called Woods’ first-half production “huge.”
 
“I remember turning around one time, and he’s hitting a hole that’s not a foot wide,” the quarterback said. “He hits the hole hard every single time, and he’s not scared of anything. It showed tonight. He had a heck of a game and I’m proud of him.”
 
By contrast, when Troy couldn’t run the ball effectively or get some explosive runs the entire offense was missing a gear. After Troy took its 24-3 lead on its first possession of the second half, the Trojans followed with a fumble and four three-and-outs on their next five possessions.
 
Georgia Southern rallied its way back into the game, eventually tying it on a field goal with 6:08 remaining in the game. 
 
Brooks Buce’s 24-yarder with 1:46 left proved to be the game-winner for the Trojans. That kick was set up by a T.J. Haris interception 
 
The defense then sealed it with another interception, this one by Javon Solomon after Elijah Culp’s deflection. It was the third interception of Georgia Southern quarterback Justin Tomlin.
 
Ultimately, that was the difference in the game. Troy had surrendered three interceptions in its past two games, both losses. Watson, who started nine games last season, knew that ball security was paramount, particularly after the Trojans opened their big lead.
 
“I love the way he responded,” Lindsey said of the quarterback, calling his approach “old school.” “It makes me proud to know we’ve still got a lot of kids on our team that are wired that way.
 
“I thought he played really good. You could tell early on he was pretty dialed in. Hit some big throws down the field. Held the ball a little bit in the second half, maybe, right toward the end of the second quarter. But I thought overall he took really good care of the football, which is something we really harped on.”
 
 
 

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