Troy heads west, hoping the momentum gained in a victory over Georgia Southern travels to San Marcos, Texas, for Saturday’s 2 p.m. game against Texas State.
“I think it was our most complete game,” Trojans head coach Chip Lindsey said after his team piled up more than 600 yards of offense and held the Eagles’ vaunted option attack to 100 yards below their average.
Troy is seeking its first Sun Belt Conference road victory of the season. Texas State (3-6, 2-3 SBC) defeated South Alabama last week and, in a head-scratcher, beat Georgia State earlier in the season.
It is an intriguing Troy offense vs. Texas State defense matchup.
Troy quarterback Kaleb Barker is seventh in the country, averaging 312 yards per game passing. Slot receiver Kaylon Geiger averages 6.7 catches (15th in the country) and 82.3 yards (ranked 31st) per game. Very quietly, running back DK Billingsley is 41st in the country with 86.6 yards per game for the Trojans (4-5, 2-3).
Texas State counters with one of the Sun Belt’s best passing defenses. The Bobcats are giving up just 186 yards per game through the air. They are led by Bryan London, the Bobcats’ equivalent to Troy linebacker Carlton Martial. Martial is eighth in the country in tackles, averaging 10.4 per game. London is 15th at 9.9 per contest and leads a front seven Lindsey said is impressive.
“They have some really good players in the box, which is important because their scheme puts a lot on the guys who play inside the box in the run game,” Lindsey said. “They have one of the best secondaries that we’ve played so far, and they do a nice job of executing what they ask them to do.”
Lindsey earlier this year talked about how every staff seems to have at least one connection to somebody on Troy’s staff. It doesn’t take too long to find relationships in this game. Lindsey talked this week about first-year Texas State head coach Jake Spavital being one of his closest friends in this business.
“I got to know Jake when he was a GA at West Virginia when he was with Dana Holgorsen and then became a position coach,” Lindsey said. “I was a high school coach and visited up there in 2011 and 12, back to back years.
“We run the same offense, and just got to know each other and stayed in touch. Then he went to A&M and I was at Auburn. He went to Cal and I was at Arizona State. We just kind of became friends and now we’re in the same league. I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
That’s not the only connection. Troy defensive coordinator Brandon Hall is an Oklahoma native like Spavital and his brother, Texas State defensive coordinator Zac Spavital.
When Hall said he “grew up with” the Spavitals, he’s not kidding.
“Zac actually replaced me as a GA at Oklahoma. When I was at Northern Iowa, Jake was playing quarterback at Missouri State. They’re good people, man. They’re good coaches,” Hall said.
“Their dad (Steve) will end up being a Hall of Fame coach in Oklahoma. Their grandfather was, like, an All-American football player at Oklahoma State. Just a football family. They’ll be ready to play Saturday, I know that.”
But his connection is even more personal with Steve Spavital, Jake and Zac’s dad, who coached at Broken Arrow High School in Tulsa.
“Jake was in college and Zac was working. I had been coaching in Iowa. My wife and daughter didn’t go with me and I was up in Iowa for a year by myself,” Hall said. “I wanted to get back closer to them, so I took a job in Tulsa, which is still two hours, and hour and a half from where my wife and daughter were.
“They weren’t going to move until June and this was March. So coach Spavital, their father, let me come into their house — both boys had moved out — and I lived there and worked at the high school that spring until my family moved up in June.”
As anyone would guess, nobody wants to lose to their friends.
“It’ll be a lot of fun competing against them,” Lindsey said. “We’re real good friends and for the three hours we play we’ll try to win, then be good friends again.
“They’re great guys. I think Jake’s got them playing better. You can tell as the year’s gone on — they’ve had some injuries and things, like we have — and they fought through it and I think you see his team getting better.”