Trojans comeback attempt falls short against JMU

Troy running back Kimani Vidal (28) runs between James Madison linebackers Trent Hendrick (24)...
Troy running back Kimani Vidal (28) runs between James Madison linebackers Trent Hendrick (24) and Aiden Fisher (11) during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Troy, Ala. (AP Photo/Vasha Hunt)(Vasha Hunt | AP)
Published: Sep. 16, 2023 at 9:41 PM CDT
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TROY, Ala. (WSFA) - The Troy Trojans welcomed in the James Madison Dukes on Saturday night for what would turn out to become an epic Sun Belt Conference battle. The James Madison run defense forced the Trojans to become a one-dimensional team, relying heavily on the passing game. Despite a valiant effort, the Trojans fell 16-14 at the end of the night.

The Trojans did not get off to the best of starts on the game’s opening drive. Quarterback Gunnar Watson was intercepted on the fourth play of the game by Devyn Coles, setting Dukes’ offense up with excellent field position at the Troy 42-yard line.

The Troy defense was able to keep James Madison off the scoreboard on the ensuing drive and took over on their own 6-yard line. However, the offense fell short, and the teams began exchanging punts until the first quarter’s final seconds when James Madison kicker Camden Wise sent a 28-yard field goal through the uprights for the game’s first points.

JMU added another field goal on their next offensive possession as the defenses continued to be the story early on.

Troy answered back on the next drive when Gunnar Watson went to the air, going 6 for 7 and 63 yards. The drive was capped off by a Devonte Ross 14-yard receiving touchdown, putting the Trojans on top by a point.

Later in the second quarter, JMU marched down the field looking to regain the lead and did just that. James Madison quarterback Jordan McCloud piloted the offense 52 yards down the field, and with just under two and a half minutes remaining in the half, he found Elijah Sarratt for a nine-yard touchdown.

James Madison led at halftime 13-6.

The Dukes started the second half with the ball and were looking to expand on their lead. With the help of a 28-yard run by Kaelon Black and a Reggie Brown 28-yard reception, James Madison found themselves in scoring range once again. The Trojan defense succeeded in keeping them out of the endzone, so JMU settled for another field and pushed the lead out to nine points.

The defenses controlled the remainder of the third quarter, forcing each other to punt a combined four times. Troy headed into the fourth quarter with the ball on their own 47, desperately needing to put some points on the board to stay in this one.

With the James Madison defense smothering the run all night, the Trojans took to the air. Watson, on fourth and three, from the JMU 46-yard line, threw the ball to Chirs Lewis in the endzone, and Lewis showed his athleticism, bringing the ball in and keeping on foot in bounds to cut the Bulldog lead down to two points with just under 14 minutes remaining in the game.

On the Trojan’s ensuing offensive drive, they failed to get anything really going and were forced to attempt a 49-yard field goal to take the lead with roughly five and a half minutes remaining on the clock. However, kicker Scott Taylor was unsuccessful, and the defense came back out looking for a big stop once again.

The defense did their job and forced another JMU punt. Troy took over with 3:03 on the clock from their own 10-yard line. Three quick incomplete passes forced head coach Jon Sumrall to make a tough choice on whether to go for it on 4th and 10 from deep in their own territory. He elected to go for it, and Watson connected with Chris Lewis for a huge 16-yard gain to keep the drive alive.

Watson followed that fourth-down conversion up with back-to-back 18-yard completions to Jabre Barber and Landon Parker, respectively. Once again, though. the Trojans were facing fourth down and a decision with 58 seconds left in the game. They went for it, but this time, they were unsuccessful and turned the ball over on downs, ultimately ending the game.

The Trojans have now droppedtheire last two games and will look to right the ship next Saturday when they welcome in Western Kentucky to Veterans Memorial Stadium.

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