Watson

Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson (18) will get his first career star this weekend.

While it may have felt like the 2020 season would never get here for the Troy Trojans, they will finally open the season on the road against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders this Saturday, Sept. 19.

Troy’s season opener was supposed to be last week against Louisiana Monroe at home but ULM was forced to enter a quarantine that forced the game to get rescheduled until December.

“We’re excited that it’s finally game week and it seems like we’ve been waiting on this week to arrive for a long time,” Troy coach Chip Lindsey said. “Our players had a lot of energy in our practice Sunday, and they’re looking forward to Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do between now and then but it’s exciting and surreal to finally be in game week.”

Middle Tennessee opened the season with a 42-0 loss to Army on Sept. 5 but Lindsey pointed to the Raiders having game experience as putting the Trojans at a disadvantage.

“They’ve already played a game this season and we haven’t, so that presents some challenges,” Lidnsey said. “Plus, it’s always a challenge to play on the road. Our guys are ready to play, and we have a lot of respect for Middle Tennessee.

“We expect them to rebound well after playing Army two weeks ago, and we need to be able to handle this first road trip well in order to win.”

This week Troy released the first official depth chart and while Lindsey announced that sophomore quarterback Jacob Free had won the starting quarterback job earlier in fall camp, the depth chart gave some insight on the quarterbacks behind Watson. Brantley native Jacob Free was listed as Watson’s backup ahead of highly rated freshman Kyle Toole.

“Jacob and Kyle Toole are really close right now. Jacob has matured and has handled himself really well on the field,” Lindsey said. “And he’s taking care of the ball much better. At the same time, Kyle has really developed, too.

“Right now, I would say those two guys are neck-and-neck for that backup spot. Jacob has progressed well and I’m very pleased with how he’s done. He’s a very talented guy that will hopefully continue to grow and get better. With all of the unknowns, we’re going to need every single member of our roster to be ready.”

One of the surprising revelations in the depth chart was that Texas A&M transfer Charles Strong – who is by far Troy’s largest running back – was listed as the Trojans’ fifth string running back behind BJ Smith, freshman Kimani Vidal, DK Billingsley and Jamontez Woods. Lindsey still said he believes all his running backs will contribute this season.

“Our running back room is really solid. BJ is one of the leaders of our football team, so having him back this season is huge for us; we feel really good about him,” Lindsey said. “Then DK did a good job filling in for BJ (last year), almost running for 1,000 yards last season. Then we added a true freshman in Kimani Vidal that I think people will really enjoy watching.

“We also have Jamontez Woods and Charles Strong who should contribute for us. When you look at that room it’s a solid group. All of those guys will get the chance to play.”

Lindsey said that Troy used the extra time to prepare for Middle Tennessee getting healthy heading into the game.

“The biggest thing we did was get healthy. We had some nagging injuries that went away,” Lindsey said. “I think our players will be fresh on Saturday, but there’s a fine line between being fresh and not being in game shape. We’ve been able to scrimmage and practice several times and hit all of the different game scenarios a couple of times, which is good.

“We tried to take what was a negative and turned it into a positive. College football really comes down to who you are and how well you can execute your game plan. If we execute in all three phases of the game, we’ll have a chance to win the game.”

Troy and Middle Tennessee will kickoff at 3 p.m. with the game airing nationally on ESPN2.

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