TROY — For the next four games of Troy’s football season, character is going to count.
Not that it hasn’t already, but few predicted a 3-5 record, 1-3 in Sun Belt Conference play as the team prepared for the last third of its regular season.
First-year head coach Chip Lindsey said the frustration of the season — which only grew in the heartbreaking loss to Coastal Carolina last Saturday when the Chanticleers scored a touchdown and two-point conversion with 30 seconds left to steal a 36-35 victory — has not fractured his team.
“First of all, we have good guys on the team. The culture here is really good,” Lindsey said Tuesday. “We have kids on the team that care about each other. … Life is tough. You go through tough times and our guys, this is a great preparation of what can happen in life, as well.
“We have four opportunities left and we can finish the right way and get ourselves into position with four wins and you’re going to feel pretty good at the end of the year. We still have a great opportunity. For us, it’s been frustrating being in close games and not winning them.”
Three of Troy’s losses have been by a total of 13 points. Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall was asked if his team “believing” it was going to win could be replaced by “hoping” it was going to win.
“That’s every program in the country, you deal with that,” Hall said, adding he hasn’t seen that basic mindset change in his unit. “The thing I give credit to these guys is when you have good people that have good character, they’re going to keep fighting.
“It’s bigger than just football for them. I think we’ve got a lot of those guys. Carlton Martial, regardless, he’s going to play hard.”
The other thing, equally frustrating, is the fact that Troy played pretty well on defense against Coastal Carolina, but quarterback Bryce Carpenter had a big day.
“What’s crazy is we hit the quarterback 17 times in that game,” Hall said. “If you go back and watch, there’s so many times where he completes passes that he doesn’t even see the ball completed.”
Hall noted a play late in the game when it looked as if Carpenter had fumbled the ball back to Troy. Review showed he was down before the ball came out.
“A millisecond earlier it’s a fumble and the game’s over and everybody’s cheering and yelling,” the coordinator said. “Just little things like that. I mean, shoot, our kids played hard, man. I really believed they were going to win that game. We had a great week of practice.
“I think there at the end you get to that point when you’re having that type of season where, as a player, you’re trying not to lose the game.”
Helping out: So many things went right for the Troy offense against Coastal Carolina. It scored on its first three offensive possessions. It tied the game 28-all late in the third touchdown. And it drove to a go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter.
But offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh noted Troy punted three times between the second and third quarters. Even worse, the Trojans were a first down away from putting the game away, but couldn’t grind out a first down with Troy facing third-and-3 at its 33 year line. DK Billingsley slipped down on the carry after a gain of 1. Coastal Carolina used its final timeout with 2:29 remaining before Tyler Sumpter punted the ball back to the Chanticleers.
“We have to be able to get a first down at the end of the game,” Pugh said. “If we do that, we have to be able to run the ball for two yards. We have to be able to execute at all 11 spots across the board.
“Offensive line has to be better in that situation and those situations to be able to extend the drive and take a knee at the end of that play and the game is over and we’re not sitting in this situation. It is what it is. We have to learn from it and make corrections as coaches. … Obviously, it’s unfortunate and we’re disappointed on offense that we didn’t get the job done to win the game.”
POW: Troy’s players of the week from the Coastal Carolina game were kicker/punter Tyler Sumpter for the special teams, Reggie Todd for the offense and linebacker Carlton Martial for the defense.
Todd had four catches for 89 yards with TD receptions of 47 and 19 yards. Sumpter averaged 43.4 yards on five punts with two inside the 20.
Martial made 12 tackles, two for losses totaling 21 yards. He forced a fumble, broke up a pass and had one quarterback hurry.
“He’s a true Trojan, he’s a warrior,” Lindsey said of the sophomore linebacker. “I know we’re glad he’s on our side.”
Banged up: Troy’s injury outlook doesn’t appear to be brightening on the defensive side.
End or bandit linebacker Jarvis Hayes was injured late in the game against Coastal Carolina and the senior co-captain from Slocomb is doubtful for this Saturday’s homecoming game against Georgia Southern.
“The last few weeks he has played better and better. He’s probably going to be doubtful this weekend,” Lindsey said of Hayes. “We are thin in that spot. Maybe we’ll get Kevin (Nixon) back. We’ll see. It’s been a tough deal on that side of the ball, for sure.”
Safety Melvin Tyus has fought through a knee issue since the season opener against Campbell.
“It’s nothing major, nothing to keep me out, but it’s been lingering on,” Tyus said. “I’ve been in treatment trying to get it better week in and week out.”
The senior from Montgomery shook his head when asked about this season.
“It’s always tough to lose. We’ve been winning here for a few years now. It’s been one of those rough years for us,” Tyus said.
But he also credited Coastal Carolina for its gamble to go for the win at the end of the game rather than kick an extra point and go to overtime.
“I didn’t even think they were going to go for the win. They could have easily kicked the extra point,” Tyus said. “We get a penalty on the first try, and they go for it again. Kudos to them, and they got it to win the game. They had nothing to lose, and they went for it and came up with it.”