The Troy Trojans (1-1) had a fast start on Sept. 11 against the Liberty Flames (2-0) but fizzled out down the stretch and lost 21-13 at home.
Troy started the game with a 13-play, 75-yard scoring drive to open the game that senior running back BJ Smith capped off with a 5-yard run. Liberty then marched down the field and scored on a 32-yard pass from quarterback Malik Willis to receiver Demario Douglas. While it looked like a scoring barrage was about to commence, both defenses began to settle down after that.
Liberty managed to score on a 2-yard pass from Willis to Jerome Jackson in the second quarter to take a 14-7 lead into halftime.
Neither team managed to get on the scoreboard in the third quarter and both defenses recorded five sacks. The big difference, however, may have been Troy quarterback Taylor Powell’s interception late in the third quarter.
Liberty made Troy pay for the turnover when Willis scored on a 4-yard run with 12:22 left to go. Liberty chewed up clock for much of the remainder of the game as the Trojan offense couldn’t get going.
Then, with a little over five minutes remaining Liberty looked to ice the game with a short field goal, but Troy defensive back Dell Pettus blocked the kick breathing new life into the Trojans.
Powell then marched Troy down the field on the team’s best offensive drive since the opening possession and looked like Troy was going to score in just four plays, but a former Enterprise player managed to bail out a former Dothan player to save the day. On the third play of the drive, former Dothan receiver Jabre Barber caught a 5-yard pass from Powell and fumbled inside the Liberty 40. Former Wildcat offensive lineman Dylan Bradshaw then made a heads up play by diving on the loose ball and saving the possession.
Powell then hit receiver Luke Whittemore on a fourth down pass for what appeared to be a 36-yard touchdown. Officials reviewed the score, however, and ruled that Whittemore was down at the 1-yard line.
Powell then scrambled on the next play and looked to have been clearly across the goal line on his stretch, which again the officials marked short of the goal line. Running back Kimani Vidal was then stopped on second down and Powell was sacked back at the Liberty 11-yard line on third down.
On fourth-and-goal, Powell threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to tight end Deyunkrea Lewis with just over a minute remaining. The time difference between the potential touchdown to Whittemore was a crucial full minute of game time. Liberty blocked the PAT to keep the score 21-13.
Troy attempted an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff but Liberty covered it and then was able to run the clock out to secure the win.
The Troy offense struggled all day and put up just 232 yards of total offense, while Liberty netted 339 yards of offense. Even more damning was Liberty rushed for 185 yards and held Troy to 21 yards on the ground, while Liberty also dominated the game clock with 38:59 in time of possession compared to Troy’s just 21:01 possession time.
Powell completed 18-of-25 passes for 211 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while Whittemore caught three passes for 70 yards.
TJ Harris led the Troy defense with 10 tackles, 0.5 tackle-for-loss and 0.5 sack, while Dell Pettus earned nine tackles and a blocked kick. Will Choloh was in the Liberty backfield numerous times as he recorded eight tackles, four tackles-for-loss and a career-high 2.5 sacks. Linebacker Carlton Martial also recorded eight tackles and one tackle-for-loss as he passed former NFL All-Pro Osi Umenyiora for third place all-time in tackles-for-loss at Troy.
Liberty was led by Willis with 93 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, while he also completed 13-of-18 pass attempts for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Troy hits the road for the first time this week against Southern Miss on Sept. 18 at 7 p.m.