Silvers golden as Troy pulls away from North Texas
NEW ORLEANS — Troy, co-champions of the Sun Belt Conference, made a “program” statement in September by shocking eventual No. 16 and host LSU.
But by routing North Texas 50-30 Saturday in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Trojans hit another significant milestone, winning 11 games for the first time in school history.
The Trojans (11-2) won their final seven games, averaging 40.3 points per game, and have won 21 of their last 26 games.
“This is a program win,” said Troy coach Neal Brown, who followed up a 4-8 first season with 21 victories the last two years. “We had seven guys on our two-deep (roster) who didn’t play, but we’re building a program. Any time one guy gets hurt, it’s another man up.”
Senior quarterback Brandon Silvers, voted the bowl game’s MVP, threw for four touchdowns and ran for another, and Troy turned five turnovers into 29 points, critical factors in the 20-point win.
“Our defense has been playing lights out all year,” Brown said, referring to the unit that forced four fumbles, recovering three, and picked off North Texas quarterback Mason Fine twice.
“We had five turnovers, but the big thing is we did something with the turnovers. We scored touchdowns with the turnovers. In the middle part of the year, our defense was creating turnovers, but we weren’t following that up with points. We were able to do that today.”
Silvers, who completed 24 of 31 passes for 306 yards, was the main reason. He completed his first 11 passes for 111 yards as the Trojans jumped out to a 22-7 lead.
“I wanted to keep it going — 15 or 20 (passes in a row),” Silvers said. “I don’t really think about it, but I felt good all week. I was trying not to make an incomplete pass.”
Silvers threw touchdown passes of 7 and 10 yards to Damion Willis, 59 yards to Tevaris McCormick and 20 yards to John Johnson. Silvers finished his Troy career accounting for a school-record 87 touchdowns.
Willis finished with 11 catches for 136 yards and McCormick had five receptions for 107 yards, the first time since 2013 that Troy had two 100-yard receivers in the same game.
The Trojans led just 22-20 at halftime but broke open the game by scoring three touchdowns on their first four possessions of the second half. The Troy defense intercepted Fine twice and forced him into three fumbles, two of which the Trojans recovered.
Troy led 22-7 late in the first half and seemed to be heading for another score, playing a second-and-10 at the North Texas 22. But center Deontae Crumitie air-mailed the shotgun snap over Silvers’ head, and linebacker Colton McDonald scooped up the ball at the 44 and returned it 56 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Troy lead to 22-13.
A short punt led to another North Texas touchdown just before half, a 13-yard pass from Fine to Michael Lawrence, making it 22-20 at intermission.
“We didn’t like how we finished the second quarter,” Silvers said. “We had to open the gates (in the second half) and blow them out. We chilled out. We’re a veteran group. We’ve all played ball with each other for a long time. We came out hot and went from there.”
Troy linebacker Hunter Reese picked off a deflected Fine pass on the third play of the second half to give Troy a short field at the North Texas 27. Three plays later, Silvers ran it in from 2 yards out, and Troy led 29-20.
After a North Texas punt, Silvers needed just five plays to march the Trojans 92 yards for another score, a 59-yard pass to McCormick, who outraced the North Texas secondary for a 36-20 lead
Silvers’ 20-yard slant to John Johnson finished off a 21-3 third quarter and put Troy comfortably in front, 43-23.
“It was (22-20) at halftime and we had the ball coming out and we felt like we could get some pressure on them if we scored,” North Texas coach Seth Littrell said. “But we had that turnover and never could get back in rhythm. You get down by 20 points in the fourth quarter, and you have to start doing (other) things.”
NOTES: Troy beat North Texas without leading rusher, RB Jordan Chunn (774 yards), who injured his knee in the regular-season finale against Arkansas State and was held out. ... Troy has defeated North Texas eight of the last nine times they have met. ... North Texas QB Mason Fine extended his school record for touchdown passes in one season. His three TD passes gave him 31 on the year.