August 29, 2014

Troy Preview: The Next Step

After outscoring their first two opponents 103-10, the Razorbacks get a step up in competition this week when they host the Troy Trojans (0-1) in Fayetteville.  The game will be televised by CSS and CST networks, with kickoff set for 6:30.

To say the Hogs are out of the gate quickly this season is an understatement.  Dominating performances on both sides of the ball against Missouri State and New Mexico proved to be good confidence builders, especially for quarterback Tyler Wilson.

With the anticipated conference opener against Alabama occupying the fans’ attention, the Hogs have to first take care of business against the Trojans.

Troy is fresh off a bye week after dropping their opener to Clemson 43-19.  The Trojans actually led that game at the half 16-13 before the Tigers stormed back in the second half.  Three turnovers helped fuel the comeback.

Head Coach Larry Blakeney (161-83-1, 21st year) continues to lead Troy.  Blakeney and the Trojans have won or shared the last five Sun Belt Conference championships, and have gone to bowl games five out of the last seven seasons.

On offense, the Trojans will line up in a four-wide spread most of the time, and they have some explosive playmakers.  Led by sophomore quarterback Corey Robinson (3,728 passing yards, 28 TDs in 2010), Troy moved the ball well against Clemson (423 total yards).  Robinson completed passes to 13 different receivers for 258 passing yards and a touchdown.

Hog fans will know one of Robinson’s main targets — North Little Rock wide receiver Brett Moncrief (6-3, 205).  Moncrief is the son of Razorback great Sidney Moncrief, and was named to several All-SBC Preseason teams.  Running back Shawn Southward (43 yards, TD vs. Clemson) is an SEC-caliber player.

Defensively, Troy is multiple, but will mainly line up in a 4-3 look.  The Trojans got after Clemson pretty good, sacking Tiger quarterback Tajh Boyd three times and intercepting him once.  Safety Brynden Trawick (11 tackles) and defensive end John Robles (2.5 tackles for loss, forced fumble) led the way.

On special teams, Troy has a quality placekicker in senior Michael Taylor (17-22, long of 50 in 2010).  Punter Will Goggans carries a 42.2 yards/punt average this year, but has been shaky in years past.

With the Hogs’ defense playing at a championship level already, the focus again Saturday will be on the Arkansas running game.

While the offense did roll up 259 total rushing yards against New Mexico, only 121 of those yards were gained by running backs on 30 carries (4.0 yards/carry).  An improvement, but not the level of production needed out of this group when the Hogs get into conference play.

Regardless, this game is more than merely a dress rehearsal for Alabama.  The Razorbacks will be challenged more than they have thus far, as the Trojans do have some SEC-caliber players.  Let’s hope the Hogs’ attention stays focused on the Alabama team from Troy, and not the one in Tuscaloosa.  Arkansas is favored by 25 points.