TROY – The old? Running back B.J. Smith gained 41 yards on the first play from scrimmage.
The new? JUCO transfer wide receiver Reggie Todd was 15 yards behind the secondary and caught Kaleb Barker’s pass for a 61-yard touchdown.
The good? Troy wasted little time stamping out thoughts of a Campbell upset by scoring on its first two possessions and scoring 17 points in the first quarter.
The bad? Todd fumbled a punt inside the Trojans’ 20-yard line, setting up Campbell’s first score of the game.
The ugly? Seconds after the end of that first quarter, both teams were sent to the locker room for a weather delay as a front blew through Troy. Play was halted at 5:51 p.m. and resumed at 7:05.
There was something for just about everyone as Troy kicked off the Chip Lindsey era with a 43-14 victory over the outmanned Fighting Camels on Saturday in front of 23,172 at Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“It was really important for us to get off to a fast start,” Lindsey said. “Sometimes when you’re playing an opening game and you don’t know a lot about your opponent, you try to figure out, ‘OK, what should we run and how should we attack this defense.’
“The No. 1 thing you want to do is complete balls and execute in the running game. B.J. got us off to a great start. I wish we’d have scored a touchdown (on that drive), but we kicked a field goal. … The second drive we had a play we had worked up based on some looks we thought we’d get. It worked out. We got the exact look we thought and Reggie made the catch.”
Perhaps the best part of the game for Trojan fans was Troy taking command early. Campbell never settled into “upset mode.”
“Mike Tyson said it good – everybody’s got a plan until you hit them in the mouth,” Smith said.
Smith’s first-play gain of 41 yards to the Campbell 9 set up Tyler Sumpter’s 27-yard field goal. The defense forced a three-and-out and the Trojans started on their 33. On second down, Barker dropped back and saw Todd 15 yards behind the secondary. They executed the pitch-and-catch and it was 10-0 3:56 into the game.
Smith later added a 24-yard touchdown run and finished with 108 yards rushing on 10 carries. Backup running back DK Billingsley added 86 yards on 12 carries, including touchdown runs of 1 and 38 yards.
Barker, whose 2018 season was ended by a knee injury at the halfway point, had a solid return. He finished 18-for-29 passing for 282 yards and two touchdowns.
“Pretty good, pretty efficient,” Lindsey said about Barker’s numbers. “Took care of the ball, didn’t put the ball in jeopardy a lot and he threw a couple touchdowns. Really pleased with how he responded and came back.”
The quarterback had a pair of 100-yard receivers in JUCO transfers Todd and Kaylon Geiger. Todd finished with 108 yards on just three catches. Geiger had five catches for 104 yards.
“We lost a lot of production (at wide receiver) last year,” Lindsey said. “You usually don’t want to sign a junior college player unless you think he can come in and really help you. Both those guys showed that tonight. Really pleased with how they’ve fit into our team and they’re a huge part of us moving forward.”
The Trojans even faced some adversity – although it was self-inflicted. Todd caught a 45-yard punt from Brad Dennis, took two steps up the field and was stripped by Monchovia Gaffney. Cam Hill recovered for the Fighting Camels on the Troy 16. It was Troy’s only turnover.
One play later, freshman quarterback Hajj-Malik Williams hit Caleb Snead on a crossing route in the end zone for the touchdown and it was 10-7 at the 7:23 mark of the first quarter.
After an exchange of punts, Troy extended its lead with a 60-yard touchdown drive. The Trojans converted on third-and-6 when Barker threw a strike to slot receiver Bret Clark for 13 yards at the Campbell 13.
A pre-snap penalty took Troy back five yards. On first-and-15 from the 18 Barker rolled to his right and eventually was chased out of bounds, but the quarterback took a shot from Damien Dozier, who was flagged for the late hit.
On the next play, Barker hit Luke Whittemore over the middle for a 10-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.
The quarter clock expired with the Fighting Camels facing third-and-8 from their own 27. As teams were flipping the field, they were ordered to their locker rooms with lightning in the area. Fans took cover under the upper deck areas, while some returned to their tailgating tents to celebrate the first 15 minutes.
Players returned to the field at 6:55 p.m. and warmed up for 10 minutes before play resumed after a delay of about an hour and 15 minutes.
“It’s really odd, to be honest with you. Football’s all about momentum and rhythm,” Lindsey said about the delayed. “… We stayed focused in the dressing room. I credit coach (SaJason) Finley and his staff.”
Campbell converted the first down, and two more third downs on that march with its running game. The Camels failed to score when Colin Gary pulled a 36-yard field goal try wide left.
Barker promptly engineered a 13-play, 72-yard drive. A screen pass to Geiger on third-and-15 picked up 41 yards. Later on the march, Barker hit Geiger again on fourth-and-5 for 13 yards to the Campbell 16.
The drive stalled inside the 10, but Sumpter hit his second field goal of the game, a 25-yarder from near the right hash, for a 20-7 Troy lead with 5:31 left in the first half.
The Trojans tried to add to that with a drive in the final two minutes. They went 68 yards in 11 plays before Sumpter missed a 47-yard field goal try as time expired.
While lightning delayed the game in the first half, anything more than a drizzle didn’t really fall until the second. Campbell held the ball for 6:05 to open the second half, but both teams were sloppy. Campbell and Troy kept the penalty flags flying. A pass interference call on second-and-30 gave the Camels a first down.
Troy’s defense dialed up more pressure. Jarvis Hayes had a tackle for loss, Justin Whisenhunt sacked Tajj-Malik Williams and KJ Robertson sacked him again on the next play. Despite the long possession time, Campbell ended up punting from its own 11 on fourth-and-30.
Troy’s Smith, the Preseason Sun Belt Offensive Player of the Year, took over the first drive of the second half. Two runs – a gain of 23 yards and a touchdown run of 24 – put the Trojans in the end zone with a 27-7 advantage with 8:27 left in the third.
On Troy’s next possession, Smith had a 9-yard gain that put him over 100 yards for the game. Backup running back DK Billingsley ended that drive with a 1-yard touchdown run, the sophomore’s first collegiate TD.
Campbell’s second-half freefall – it was outscored 16-0 in a little over six minutes – continued on special teams. A bad punt snap sailed into the end zone and Camels punter Brad Dennis took a knee for the safety. It was 36-7 Troy with 2:01 left in the third.
The Fighting Camels added a score when Snead caught his second TD pass of the game from Williams, a 30-yarder into the left corner of the end zone with 8:35 left in the fourth quarter.
Troy answered that one when Billingsley broke his 38-yard TD run with 6:01 remaining.
The Trojans’ defense dominated most of the night. Campbell earned just 50 yards on the ground and 143 for the game. That was the fewest yards in a game Troy had given up since Alcorn State in 2008.
Troy piled up 527 yards of offense, 245 on the ground.
Linebacker Carlton Martial, the freshman All-American in 2018, led Troy with a career-high 13 tackles, two behind the line of scrimmage.
“That’s just like practice. He’s doing exactly what he does in practice,” Lindsey said. “He’s around the ball all the time. He’s got great instincts.”