TROY – Troy senior quarterback Kaleb Barker is “questionable” for next Wednesday’s game against rival South Alabama, Trojans head coach Chip Lindsey announced Tuesday.
“Coming out of the game, I think we came out pretty healthy minus Kaleb Barker,” Lindsey said at his weekly press conference. “…Kaleb is probably questionable, and we hope he’ll be available, but it’s too early to tell that.”
Lindsey declined to go into details about his quarterback, who has thrown for 1,459 yards and 14 touchdowns this season.
“Right now he’s banged up, so we need to do everything we can to make sure he’s available and ready to go for next week,” Lindsey said when asked the nature and the severity of Barker’s issues.
The quarterback took a late hit in Saturday’s loss at Missouri, although a targeting call on the play was overturned. He also got up gingerly after a couple scrambles.
Barker was pulled late in the first half and did not return in the second half of Troy’s 42-10 loss at Missouri.
“He’s a tough guy. I didn’t know how bad he got hit,” said Lindsey, who added the quarterback wasn’t quite himself after leading Troy to a touchdown on the game’s opening drive.
“He just made some uncharacteristic bonehead decisions – not throwing the ball, but where he was looking to throw the ball. I was like, ‘Wait a minute, we practiced that all week.’ I knew something was up. I kept questioning him. ‘No, no, no, I’m fine.’
“He kept dropping the snap. It was wet, I get it. I think he was a little out of whack. And sometimes good defenses can make you look that way. I told him, let’s go to work this week, let’s rebound and let’s get you back in the groove.”
Ugly hit: Lindsey defended defensive lineman Travis Sailo, who was flagged for a low hit to the knee of Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant.
Bryant, who threw a touchdown pass on the play, left the game and did not return. He has since been diagnosed with a sprained knee.
“I don’t think Sailo did it on purpose,” Lindsey said. “Now, it looked bad. It looked bad on the video. He didn’t go after the guy’s knee. I know that. It looks bad. I don’t like the way it ended low, either.”
The coach said he talked to Sailo.
“He was upset. He was like, ‘Coach, I was hurt all of offseason. I don’t want anybody to get hurt,’” Lindsey said. “When you watch it, the guy is kinda holding him at first and then lets him go. He was trying to tackle him – 100 percent – but he wasn’t trying to injure his knee. I don’t think the kid from Missouri was trying to injure Kaleb’s knee, either.”
Lindsey credited Missouri coach Barry Odom for not throwing gas on the situation.
“He was telling me after halftime, ‘Hey, he’s gonna be fine. I appreciate you saying what you said. Everything’s good.’ It’s the people making a bigger deal out of it than it is. Then those guys on the SEC Network and all them. …
“The good thing is Barry and I are good friends, so we know each other. Because the other coach can stir it up and he didn’t do that. “
Watson fills in: Lindsey praised backup quarterback Gunnar Watson’s play in a tough circumstance, entering the game late in the first half with Troy trailing 42-7. The redshirt freshman finished 5-for-9 passing for 58 yards in his first extended playing time.
“I thought he played well. … He had really good composure,” Lindsey said. “I thought he made a great back-shoulder throw. He had one to Reggie (Todd) really that was a pretty good throw. I thought he made good decisions.
“Sometimes we’ll call a run play then check it to the other side depending on the look. I thought he handled that well. … He hadn’t done that in a game. He’s played very little. I was pleased with him. Gunnar’s a smart guy. He’s still a young player but he’s a smart kid. It’s important to him. I think he’ll be fine.”
Watson said he felt much more comfortable than when he was pressed into action last season against Florida A&M and Liberty. He had already played late-game duty against Campbell and Akron this season, but noted these were his first “meaningful” snaps.
“Coach Lindsey has prepared me for whatever I need to do. I’m locked in in meetings and in practice. I know what I need to do. I feel comfortable, and I think I fared pretty well,” Watson said. “Just the speed of the game slowed down. I’ve gotten a little used to it. …
“Last year, I was definitely nervous, especially against FAMU when I came in. That first play, at home, yeah, I was nervous. There was really nobody in the stands. It was still a big deal. First collegiate snap and everything, that’s a big deal to you. I was nervous, anxious, I guess you could say.”
With Barker’s status unclear, Watson understands what he has to do.
“I have to stay locked in and ready all the time,” the quarterback said. “That’s what I’ve done the whole time, and I’m going to keep doing that just in case.”
Players of the Week: Lindsey said wide receiver Khalil McClain, safety Dell Pettus and Patrick Richardson were the Trojans’ players of the week on offense, defense and special teams, respectively.
McClain caught three passes for 44 yards, including a 15-yard TD strike from Barker that capped the game’s opening drive. Those were the first points Missouri had allowed in the first quarter this season.
Pettus, a true freshman, led Troy with nine tackles, all solo, from his safety spot.
Richardson, who plays on all four special teams, graded out at 100 percent and had five production points.
Up next: Troy has scheduled three practices – Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday – before taking Friday off. The Trojans will return Saturday for a typical Tuesday practice as they back up their routine to play the rival Jaguars next Wednesday at The Vet. Kickoff is 7 p.m. for the game on ESPN2.
Lindsey said this week is important for his team.
“This is when we’re trying to get some guys healthy,” the coach said. “We’ll be working some basic things and looking at ourselves a lot. Yesterday I spent all day watching every throw that we’ve made. Was his drop good? Did he know where to go with the ball? And when you watch it, there’s a lot of good. But there’s a handful of plays that he would like to have back – and I would, too.
“There’s certain calls I’ve made that I would like to have been different. We’re just trying to self-evaluate ourselves and really show Kaleb, ‘When your feet are set and you’re going through the right progression, we’re pretty good. When you kind of freelance a little bit, things are bad.”
Offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh had a sense of urgency to get back in the win column.
“We’re a play or two away from being a team sitting here at 4-1 but we’re 2-3 and we’ve got to own it,” Pugh said. “When you look back at these first five games and we go through it as a group, they’re going to realize what they’ve left out there. The challenge this week is to focus on us for these three days and let’s be better when we get here on Saturday.”
Lindsey said the Trojans have got to find a way to win.
“We’ve got to do better, we’ve got to coach better, we’ve got to play better, we’ve got to figure out how to win with what we’ve got,” he said.