#25 ranked Troy hosts Sun Belt’s Arkansas State Thursday
TROY, Ala. (troytrojans.com) – Never in the history of the Sun Belt Conference have two league teams met with unblemished records of 5-0 or better. That all changes Thursday night when No. 25 Troy plays host to Arkansas State in Veterans Memorial Stadium in front of a nationally televised audience on ESPNU.
Kickoff between the Trojans and Red Wolves is set for 8:32 p.m. and tickets are available. The Troy Sports Radio Network will have full coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m., and in addition to the ESPNU broadcast, the game will be streamed live on WatchESPN.
Troy and Arkansas State will meet just five days after the Trojans knocked off another of the Sun Belt’s unbeatens with a 28-24 victory over Appalachian State. That win pushed Troy to 8-1 on the season and into the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time in school and Sun Belt history.
It’s fitting that it will be Troy and Arkansas State (5-4, 5-0) playing a game of such magnitude as the teams have combined to win nine of the last 10 league championships – the Trojans winning five straight from 2006-10 and the Red Wolves winning four of the last five.
It will also be Senior Day at The Vet as Troy will honor 17 players prior to the game who will be playing for the final time at home.
Troy leads the Sun Belt in seven offensive categories including scoring (38.1), total offense (474.7) and red zone offense (92.3 percent). Junior running back Jordan Chunn became Troy’s ninth 1,000-yard rusher last week as he enters Thursday night’s showdown with 1,028 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the season.
The Trojan offense also boasts the conference’s top touchdown passer in Brandon Silvers (19) and the top two pass catchers in Deondre Douglas and Emanuel Thompson, who are tied with 5.4 receptions per game.
Defensively, Troy leads the league in three categories – rushing (105.4), turnovers (2.44) and sacks (2.78). The Trojans have held five of their nine opponents under 100 yards rushing and have recorded 18 sacks in their five league games.
Blace Brown ranks second nationally with six interceptions on the year, while Rashad Dillard is fifth in the league with 6.5 sacks and seventh with 10.5 tackles for loss.
Arkansas State has turned around its season after opening the year with four straight losses. The Red Wolves have won five straight games – four at home – to put themselves at the top of the league standings.
The Red Wolves have an aggressive defensive front led by Ja’Von Rolland-Jones and Chris Odom. The pair have combined for 14.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss to lead an Arkansas State defense that is holding opponents to 25.0 points per game.
Sophomore quarterback Justice Hansen has completed 58.5 percent of his passes to lead the Arkansas State offense, while Warren Wand is averaging a team-high 67.4 rushing yards per game.
“I am proud of it (national ranking),” Troy head coach Neal Brown said. “I think it is significant for our conference, for Troy University, for our athletic department. It proves and validates what we are doing with our program.
“In this game, we are going after what Arkansas State is. They are the conference champions and that is what we want to be. It changes people’s approach to us. We have been the team that has gone out to do the hunting and now we are going to be the hunted for the rest of the season.
“My challenge to our team is to drown out the noise. It doesn’t change being in the Top 25. None of that changes our daily approach. If we are able to drown out that noise and show the maturity that I think we have, then we will play our best game on Thursday night.”
• Four of the top 15 crowds in Veterans Memorial Stadium history have come this season; Troy needs a crowd of just 14,271 on Thursday to set the overall single-season attendance record (125,709 in 2012) and a crowd of 15,935 to set the single-season average attendance record (21,228 in 2004)
• Troy’s football Twitter account had 1.34 million impressions on the Sunday that the AP Poll came out; the same account had 682.7 thousand impressions all of November 2015.
• The Trojans are 60-20 at home since moving to the FBS level in 2001.
• Troy is averaging 3.6 sacks per game in league play, which is the sixth most in the country by a team in conference play.