Salado cannot overcome power running by Trojans
by Mason Simmons
It was a battle of wills between Salado’s air-it-out style of offense and Troy’s pounding run game, as the Eagles hosted the Trojans Oct. 18. Troy ultimately won the battle 42-32.
Defensively, the Eagles had a hard time slowing down the Trojans on the ground, as Troy racked up 383 yards on the ground. The Trojan offense was led by junior running back Coby Herring and senior quarterback Kyle Whitley, as they produced 174 and 152 rushing yards, respectively.
“They were physically prepared to win the battle in the trenches. They were stronger than us tonight. They ran through our tackles and did a tremendous job on the ground,” Salado head coach Brent Graham said.
Collectively, the Eagles struggled on defense, but significant performances were produced by senior James Collins and junior Jace Habiger. For the night, these two defenders accounted for 16 tackles, which was notable, considering that both defenders were playing new positions. “We switched Habiger to linebacker two weeks ago. Basically, he has had six practices at that position and he has evolved tremendously,” Graham said. “The same goes for James Collins. This is his first game at defensive end and he did some incredible things.”
Offensively, the Eagles were able to spread the Trojan defense with the passing game, and left the Trojans vulnerable on the ground. McLane Carter had 20 completions for 215 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Carter linked up with his favorite target, senior receiver Kase Spears, for 10 receptions and 105 yards and a touchdown.
Running back Ryan Simmons had his second consecutive game with over 100 yards rushing: 123 yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
Chase Crenwelge had a productive night with six receptions for 51 yards and a touchdown.
The Trojans drew first blood as Whitley powered into the end zone from the Salado 15 yard line and then again on a 23 yard run from junior Coby Herring.
Jack Riley sparked Salado with a 65-yard kick off return. Simmons would convert the return into points on a 4 yard touchdown run with 5 minutes left in the first.
On the ensuing drive, Troy brought the first quarter score to 21-7 with a 3 yard touchdown run by Colton Mayo.
Salado answered on the next drive, beginning the second quarter with two completions by Carter to Spear. A 13 yard run by Simmons set up a 5 yard shovel pass from Carter to Crenwelge for the touchdown. With 10 minutes left in the first half, Salado found themselves down by a touchdown, 21-14.
Troy quarterback Whitley attempted the Trojans’ first pass of the game with just four minutes left in the first half, At the four minute mark, Whitley attempted Troy’s first pass of the game. Under pressure by Simmons, Whitley hit Herring for 14 yards to keep the drive alive. After a few more rushes, the Trojans found themselves on the Salado 2 yard line.
Then, the Salado defense looked as though they would have a momentum-changing goal line stand, allowing only one yard in the first three downs. After a Troy time out, it was fourth-and-goal with only a minute and a half left in the second quarter. At the quietest moment of the game, Whitley was able to leap over the line into the end-zone. The Salado defense was able to block the PAT, leading to a 27-14 Troy lead.
The Eagles closed the gap before the end of the half, driving from their own 25 yard line before settingling for a 30 yard field goal, leading to a 27-17 Trojan lead going into halftime.
In the second half, Troy doubled Salado’s time-of-possession. Whitley and the Trojan offense were able to keep the ball in-bounds consistently and were able to drain as much of the clock as possible. This caused a sense of urgency by the Eagles’ offense whenever it got on the field.
In the third quarter, Troy took advantage of an interception by Whitley, who converted his pick into points by capping the drive with a 4 yard touchdown run. A two-point conversion gave Troy a 35-17 lead with seven minutes left in the third for a 35-17 lead.
The Trojans turned another turnover into points, after Carter fumbled as he was taken down in the backfield. The Trojans scored two minutes later on a 4 yard run by Seth Solis, increasing their lead to 42-17.
Troy looked as if it would run away with the game, but on Salado’s next drive, Carter again had nearly 40 yards of passing while consistently connecting with Crenwelge and Spears, setting up a 2 yard touchdown run by Simmons with just over seven minutes left to play.
After an unsuccessfull onside kick, the Eagles forced the Trojans to turn the ball over on downs, when James Robison stopped Mayo short of the first-down marker.
With less than five minutes left in the game, Salado moved the ball down the field with an 18 yard run from Simmons, scoring on a 9 yard pass to Spears.
As the Eagles were down 42-32, Salado tried for one more onside kick. The kick was far enough, and Salado was able to cause a fumble; but, Troy retained possession of the ball, running out the clock.
The Eagles look forward to next week as they face the Bumblebees in Academy Oct. 26.
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