TROY — Just for a fleeting moment, KJ Robertson thought he had his second interception of the Texas State game coming his way.
Then teammate Carlton Martial snatched it away, one-handed, and took off for the end zone.
“If you watch the play, I’m right behind and I’m going to catch the ball,” Robertson said in mock indignation about Martial’s pick-six in the closing seconds of the Trojans’ 63-27 victory last Saturday. “Then he wants to Spider-Man and stuff.
“I really wanted to trip him up or something, but in the middle of the play I just told him, ‘Get behind me and I’m going to take you to the end zone.’ … I was a little jealous. I was like, ‘Man, that could have been a good sendoff to the game,’ but it was awesome though. That’s my brother, for sure.”
It was Martial’s second interception of the game. Robertson, a 6-1, 232-pound will linebacker from Alabaster, already had a pick, in addition to a team-high eight tackles.
“KJ Robertson had his best game since I’ve been here,” Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said.
Defensive coordinator Brandon Hall said he thought Robertson played the best of anyone on defense.
It continues a recent surge of production for the sophomore linebacker.
“He’s coming into his own,” Hall said. “You can tell his comfort level is improving. He’s really starting to feel and see things pre-snap. Great players are the ones who can anticipate things by formations and sets. I’m starting to see those type of things (from him).”
One play particularly stood out, when Robertson was one-on-one in space and tackled a running back on fourth-and-4.
“The angle that he took and getting the guy down, there was never any hesitation,” Hall said. “You could tell he was very confident in how he played, but he’s practiced like that the last two weeks. I’ve told him, ‘If you continue on this path, you’re going to be really special, a really good player.’”
Lindsey said Robertson’s speed is showing up on film.
“Really, he was flying around Saturday,” the head coach said. “I mean, he tackled in space and caused some issues, disrupted the quarterback a couple times. That’s good, because he’s young and I think the guy has got a bright future.”
Robertson had been less than 100 percent — “a knee here, a shoulder here,” is how Lindsey put it — early in the season, but said he’s playing faster because he knows what he’s doing.
“Two months ago, I was probably not as sure of myself. I wasn’t as confident. I was so scared to do something wrong and not go full speed,” Robertson said. “I knew I was a much better ball player than that.
“Something clicked and I knew I couldn’t do that anymore. All of a sudden, I put my head down and everything should go full speed. I have been in the film room all day trying to perfect my craft and I think that is what is giving me that confidence to go out there.”
His health, his preparation and his performance combined on Saturday. He is fifth on the team with 43 tackles this season.
“It was really due to preparation and coach Hall and (inside linebackers) coach (Andrew) Warwick getting me in the right places, watching a lot of film on them. I was comfortable out there,” Robertson said.
“What (Texas State) showed us is what I have watched 100 times. It was getting to the football and the guys up front did a real nice job for me and Martial. I was comfortable out there and having fun.”
There are at least two more opportunities to keep riding this momentum. Troy will play West-leading Louisiana in Lafayette on Saturday then finish the regular season against East-leading Appalachian State on Friday, Nov. 29.
“It’s huge. It’s two heavyweight fights,” Robertson said with a smile. “Both of them have huge weapons on both sides of the ball. The next two weeks can really show how much we have grown this year and what we can do next year.
“A lot of guys who are playing, especially on the defensive side of the ball, are younger guys that are coming back next year. It’s going to be huge and it’s going to be exciting. I am very excited.”