TROY – Through its first three games, Troy had zero points after turnovers. Of course, the Trojans didn’t force any turnovers in the first two games and recovered a fumble and got an interception last week against Akron.
But on Saturday, the Trojans were more opportunistic.
Troy took advantage of a fumbled kickoff following Tyler Sumpter’s 20-yard field goal. DJ Chatman dropped a short, high kick near the right sideline and Jawon McDowell recovered for the Trojans at the 29.
On the next play, Kaleb Barker found big-play specialist Tray Eafford for 29 yards in the end zone.
Troy scored after another turnover in the second quarter. Carlton Martial stripped the ball from Chatman and recovered it on the Troy 48. The linebacker took it back six yards for a first down at the Red Wolves’ 46.
Four plays later, the Trojans cashed in the turnover on a 27-yard TD strike to Bret Clark that helped Troy pull within 21-17.
Points a’plenty: The 62 combined points in the first half were the most in a Troy football game in nine years, dating to the 2010 South Carolina game – which had much different circumstances.
While Saturday’s 31-all tie inspired a what’s-going-to-happen-next mindset, Troy trailed the Gamecocks 56-7 in 2010.
Career first: Trojans receiver Kaylon Geiger scored his first rushing touchdown midway through the second quarter that cut Arkansas State’s lead to 28-24.
Geiger, the JUCO transfer, caught three passes for 22 yards in the first half. But his 2-yard touchdown run cut Troy’s deficit to 28-24 with 8:27 left in the second quarter.
Career second: Bret Clark caught his second career TD pass. His first came last week at Akron.
Clark’s TD came on a 27-yard strike from Barker. Clark was lined up on the right side, then went across the field in motion. At the snap of the ball, he turned up the left sideline and was completely uncovered. Barker threw a strike that pulled Troy within 21-17 with 11:40 left in the first half.
Another career second: Will Sunderland, Troy’s 6-foot-4 cornerback, needed every inch to make a big play for the defense. Sunderland had very good position and outjumped the 6-foot-3 Omar Bayless, stopping an Arkansas State drive midway through the four quarter.
Unfortunately, Sunderland came down with the ball on the Troy 1-yard line – and the Trojans had a safety on their next possession to trail 47-43.
It was Sunderland’s second career pick. He had an interception at Nebraska last season.
Down early: Arkansas State’s first play from scrimmage went for 92 yards and a touchdown. Layne Hatcher hit Bayless on the left sideline in front of the Red Wolves’ bench. The 6-foot-3 Bayless outjumped cornerback O’shai Fletcher, who went to the ground and Bayless breezed the remaining 50 or so yards to the end zone.
Down worse: About a minute later, Barker dropped to pass off play-action and the ball simply slipped out of his hand. Arkansas State’s Logan Wescott scooped it up and raced 40 yards untouched to the end zone and a 14-0 lead.
9 seconds apart: Troy scrambled back into the game with two scores in 9 seconds. Kicker Tyler Sumpter capped a 10-play, 70-yard drive with a 20-yard field goal with 8:42 left in the first quarter.
Arkansas State’s DJ Chatman then dropped the ensuing kickoff and Jawon McDowell recovered the fumble for the Trojans on the ASU 26.
On first down, Barker hit Tray Eafford in the end zone for a Troy touchdown with 8:33 on the clock, pulling the Trojans within 14-10.
Those were believed to be the two fastest consecutive scores ever by a Troy team. In 2008 the Trojans scored 16 seconds apart against Florida Atlantic.
Military Appreciation Game: The Trojans came out in their charcoal gray pants and jerseys with white helmets and a red, white and blue “T.”
There was a pregame flyover that, well, missed on the timing. Four planes flew over Veterans Memorial Stadium well before the playing of the National Anthem.
Nose tackle Will Choloh carried the American flag and led the Trojans onto the field. However, he left a bit early and a game official raised his arms to stop Choloh, causing the player to slip. He didn’t fall and the flag didn’t go down, but it was a prelude to an off-balance start by the Trojans.