Troy 42-17 on Nov. 11, 2017
Strength: Offensive efficiency
Weakness: Youth and inexperience
Strength: Forcing turnovers
Weakness: Inexperience at offensive skill positions
Coastal Carolina’s offensive line vs. Troy’s defensive front seven: With Coastal Carolina starting quarterback Kilton Anderson either missing the game or hobbled with a high ankle sprain on his left leg, the Chants may try to rely on a running game that is the best in the Sun Belt and ranks 12th nationally this season with an average of 266.5 rushing yards per game. CCU has gained more than 300 yards rushing in each of its last two games with 333 yards at Campbell and 311 yards on 56 carries in a 30-28 win over Louisiana last week. Marcus Outlow (358 yards), Torrance Marable (262 yards) and Anderson (215 yards) all rank in the top 10 in the Sun Belt in rushing.
Troy allows 389 yards per game but just 142 on the ground this season. The Trojans start a two seniors and two juniors along the defensive front and are younger at linebacker with a junior and a pair of sophomores. If Anderson can go, the offense may be more balanced and difficult to stop. Anderson has completed 39 of 56 passes (69.6 percent) for 564 yards, six touchdowns and one interception, and has rushed 34 times for 215 yards (6.32 yards per carry) and a TD.
Players to watch
Freshman quarterback Bryce Carpenter: He is going to see the field whether Anderson starts or not, and has completed 9 of 12 passes for 128 yards and three touchdowns, and has rushed 13 times for 61 yards this season.
Senior wide receiver Malcolm Williams: He has had at least one reception in nine straight games and is 9 yards shy of recording 1,000 for his CCU career.
Redshirt freshman safety Brayden Matts: He recorded a career-high six tackles, including five solo, his first career sack and forced a fumble in the win over Louisiana last week.
Junior quarterback Kaleb Barker: He is the reigning Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week, accounting for four touchdowns and 323 yards of total offense in a 35-27 win over Louisiana-Monroe. Barker completed 82.1 percent of his passes (23 of 28) for 273 yards and a touchdown while rushing 15 times for 50 yards.
Senior wide receiver Deondre Douglas: Most experienced offensive skill position player with 13 career starts leads the team with both 19 receptions and 201 receiving yards and has scored two touchdowns.
Senior safety Cedarius Rookard: The 6-foot-1, 205-pound senior from Spartanburg has started 33 consecutive games and he took a punt 58 yards for a touchdown in Troy’s victory at Nebraska.
He said it
“I think our team approached the situation well. When you spend 10-plus days on the road together it creates a bond. All you’re doing is hanging out with the guys and you’re creating relationships that are going to last forever. As a team, when you go through adversity it only makes you stronger, and I think it’s helping us grow as a better team.” – CCU senior quarterback Kilton Anderson
“Especially in football where so much is dependent on team chemistry, when you go through adversity and go through adversity together like they are . . . I think it brings you closer. You can see the effects of that on the field. When I watched them play Lafayette, I thought they were really hungry, I thought they played extremely hard, you could almost sense that they were playing for each other. I think when you go through adversity and spend that much quality time together, you grow closer and you can tell they have the benefits of that right now.”” – Troy coach Neal Brown, whose team has experience with a closed campus following a storm
“We know they’re really good, we know they’re really well coached, we know they’re disciplined. But I feel the same way with us and our team. The biggest thing is we’re looking forward to it. I don’t think guys are nervous at all. I feel we’ve proven what we’re capable of. . . . The matchup is something we’re all looking forward to and I honestly can’t wait for it.” – CCU senior running back Marcus Outlow
The big question for Coastal Carolina is whether or not Anderson will play. He was in a protective boot at least through Thursday’s practice and CCU coach Joe Moglia said a decision would likely come Saturday morning. Bryce Carpenter was 5-for-5 for 82 yards and a touchdown in relief last week.
Both teams are on three-game winning streaks and Troy has defeated a big-name Power Five Conference school for the second consecutive year, winning at Nebraska 24-19 on Sept. 15 after knocking off LSU last season en route to an 11-2 record. Last week, Troy earned its first win at Louisiana-Monroe since 2001, 35-27.
But the Trojans were dominated in the second half. The Trojans led 35-7 at halftime and were outscored 20-0 in the second half, and after outgained ULM 368-114 in the first half they finished the game with fewer yards after being outgained 376-101 in the final two quarters. The game ended with a Troy interception on its own 11-yard line.
“We played our best half of football in the first and the worst half in the second,” Troy coach Neal Brown said. “Offensively that’s the best we’ve executed since our bowl game against North Texas, then defensively after the first series we did a really good job. In the second half our attention to detail and our discipline was lacking, and a lot of that had to do with Monroe. They made a bunch of plays. . . . We were fortunate to win the game.”
Coastal is looking for its sixth win in its past seven games and fourth consecutive Sun Belt victory after losing its first six conference games last season. Troy has won six consecutive Sun Belt games, which is the fifth longest active conference winning streak in the country.
Coastal will have to protect the ball, as Troy has forced nine turnovers through four games, which ranks seventh nationally. The Trojans rank fourth nationally with 2.17 turnovers per game since 2016, including 44 interceptions.
▪ Anderson has the fifth best Total QBR among FBS quarterbacks behind only Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins and West Virginia’s Will Greer.
▪ The CCU offense has scored 135 points over its last three games for an average of 45 points per contest, and has had at least one player score two touchdowns in each of the three wins.
▪ Coastal is playing its third consecutive road game because the Campbell game was moved from Conway to Buies Creek, and the team has been away from campus and its its home field, locker room and weight room since Sept. 11 because of Hurricane Florence and subsequent flooding. After 12 days on the road the Chants have been staying in the Myrtle Beach area and practicing this week at Doug Shaw Memorial Stadium.
▪ After opening 3-8 under coach Neal Brown, Troy is 25-6 in the 31 games since.
▪ Troy improved last week to 21-1 all-time under Brown when it has a positive turnover margin.
Troy 34, Coastal 23: Can the Chants keep up with the Trojans if they are forced to start a true freshman at quarterback?
Who: Coastal Carolina (3-1, 1-0 Sun Belt) at Troy (3-1, 1-0 Sun Belt)
When: 3:30 p.m. (Eastern)
Where: Veterans Memorial Stadium, Troy, Ala.
Occassion: Sun Belt opener for both teams
TV: Live on ESPN3 and WatchESPN app
Radio: WRNN 99.5-FM
Live stats: Through www.goccusports.com GameTracker