TROY – He didn’t shoot fire out of his eyes. He didn’t cuss out his players or glare at reporters who asked routine questions after a defeat.
Chip Lindsey chose to focus on the positives after Troy’s 47-42 home loss against Southern Mississippi on Saturday night.
He seemed to be encouraged by the character his players showed, and liked what he saw as they went toe-to-toe with a program he really respects.
“We continued that fight, just like a Troy team does,” Lindsey said. “Really pleased with the way they did that.”
Sure, he wanted to win the game. He didn’t make excuses. His quarterback, Kaleb Barker, set a school record with 504 passing yards. Four Trojans had more than 100 yards receiving. That should have been enough to win.
On this night, it wasn’t. Southern Miss had 514 yards passing – 463 by Jack Abraham and a 51-yard TD throw on a trick play by backup receiver Neil McLaurin. The Golden Eagles put up more than 600 yards of offense. They had the ball 10 more minutes than Troy did and ran 77 plays to Troy’s 59.
“We win together, we lose together as a unit,” Lindsey said in his postgame comments. “Tonight, Troy, we just didn’t get it done, didn’t play well enough to win the game. But really pleased. I think we’ve got a team that’s going to fight throughout the whole year.”
Lindsey used this game as a measuring stick for what’s ahead for the Trojans. Barker noted the coach needed to learn about his team, how it would respond to adversity, how it would react to getting hit in the mouth.
“For coach Lindsey, that was kind of the thing going into this game,” Barker said. “I mean, we knew they were a really good football team. He didn’t know what kind of team we were.
“I didn’t know about the new guys, but I knew about the guys that have been here. And I think he’s going to be really proud when he watches the film and sees that our guys fight. They fought til the end. That’s really all you can ask for on both sides of the ball.”
Adversity hit both sides, too. Just the style of the game forced Troy to leave the running game, although star running back B.J. Smith left with an injury in the second quarter and did not return. Jabir Daughtry-Frye and Jamontez Woods also were dinged up, leaving DK Billingsley as the only healthy back in the last half of the fourth quarter.
“It’s not about how many times we run it or throw it,” Lindsey said. “The quarterback has a lot of freedom and he did a great job tonight getting us in the right plays. Obviously, B.J. is a quality player and then you lose Frye, too. So you’re down two backs and DK’s carrying the load and the young guy came in some, too. He actually got banged up, too.
“I’m very pleased with the decisions Kaleb made. It’s just one of those things where we struggled early getting some movement inside and we lose a couple guys and whatever’s working you keep running it.”
Well, the passing game was working. Tray Eafford (7 catches, 110 yards, 1 TD), Kaylon Geiger (6, 118, 1 TD), Luke Whittemore (5, 110) and Khalil McClain (4, 104, 2 TDs) all came up big and kept bringing Troy back in the game even as Southern Miss kept answering scores with more scores.
“Once we got behind, I felt, let’s just keep playing, man, keep playing. Good things are going to happen,” Lindsey said. “We were obviously hoping for a turnover or something magical to happen there – a fumble or something. We were close on a couple, but at the same time, again, our guys kept fighting and playing the next play. That’s really exciting to see that.”
There even were some positives on defense – at least for the effort, if not the execution. Troy still hasn’t created a turnover. It had 87 turnovers in the three previous seasons, the most in the country.
Travis Sailo had the Trojans’ only sack against Abraham. Sailo said he’d been involved in a couple similar shootout s in junior college. Sailo indicated the Trojans had several players limited by injury during the game.
“Seeing the young guys compete and seeing them step up when all the older guys got hurt and seeing them taking on a challenge. That’s a positive, seeing the younger guys just balling out and doing their job,” Sailo said.
Linebacker KJ Robertson said it will be business as usual for the defense this week.
“Now it’s just fixing our mistakes, getting better, going over our next opponent (Akron). I mean, it’s in the past already,” Robertson said.
Perhaps. But wait until he sees the film.