TROY, Ala. – Thirty seconds. Thirty-five seconds. The time remaining on the clock the last two seasons when Coastal Carolina scored its game-winning touchdowns against Troy; the games were decided by a combined five points.
The Trojans have their shot at redemption in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPN2 Thursday night as they travel to Conway, S.C., and the teal turf of Brooks Stadium for a showdown with the 24th-ranked Chanticleers. Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. (CT).
Troy rallied from a 12-point deficit with five minutes to play last season before a 23-yard touchdown pass by Grayson McCall with 35 seconds left pushed Coastal Carolina in front. In 2019, Coastal gambled and went for two following a score with 30 seconds remaining to escape with a 1-point victory.
Troy (4-3, 2-1 Sun Belt), coming off back-to-back victories and a bye week, sits in a four-way tie atop the Sun Belt East Division standings heading into Thursday’s matchup at Coastal (6-1, 2-1). Sophomore quarterback Gunnar Watson is 2-0 as Troy’s starter behind center and has completed 46-of-65 passes for 452 yards and three touchdowns in those two contests.
Troy’s running game has seen a resurgence the last three weeks after B.J. Smith rushed for 102 yards at South Carolina, Jamontez Woods rushed for 98 yards against Georgia Southern and Kimani Vidal had a career game with 162 yards and two scores last time out at Texas State.
The Trojans’ success runs through its defense. Troy enters the week leading the country in sacks (4.43), tackles for loss (9.0) and forcing negative plays (18.95%). In addition, the Trojans are third in the country in interceptions and sixth in total takeaways, while Richard Jibunor and Javon Solomon are first and fourth nationally in sacks, respectively.
Know Your Foe
No. 24 Coastal Carolina enters the weekend coming off its first regular season loss since the 2019 season after falling at App State last Wednesday. The Chanticleers are 17-2 since the start of the 2020 season, the second-best mark in the country behind only Alabama. Coastal ranks among the top 20 nationally in every major offensive category and enters the game averaging 45.7 points and 524.4 yards per game.
• Kimani Vidal ranks fourth in the Group of Five and eighth nationally, averaging 3.92 yards after contact this season (min 95 carries); he was second nationally among freshmen last year with a 3.83 average
• Troy’s defense has held nine of its last 13 opponents to 21 points or fewer dating back to last season
• Troy’s 45 wins since the start of the 2016 season are the 24th most in the country and seventh most among Group of Five programs
• Troy is throwing the ball 55.52 percent of the time the last three seasons, which is the 11th highest percentage nationally and the fifth highest in the G5
• Troy is 10-2 when winning the time of possession battle under Chip Lindsey; the Trojans’ victory over Georgia Southern was just their fourth when possessing the ball for fewer than 30 minutes
• Tez Johnson’s 45 receptions are the third most by a Trojan since at least 2000 through the first seven games of a season — Gary Banks (50, 2006), Jerrel Jernigan (48, 2008)
• Troy is one of just three two teams (Iowa) to have three or more interceptions in a game this season.
• In Al Pogue‘s last four seasons coaching Troy’s cornerbacks (2016-18, 21), Troy has ranked 2nd, 15th, 5th and 3rd nationally in interceptions.
• Troy ranks 11th nationally in red zone touchdown defense; the Trojans have held opponents to touchdowns on just 42.9 percent of their red zone opportunities.