TROY — It might take a microscope to find it, but there can be good news from the rash of injuries that Troy has endured this football season.
Young players have been thrown into the fight, perhaps before they were ready. Some have stepped up and come along much faster than anticipated. Count backup running back Trevon Woolfolk in that mix.
The 6-foot, 212-pound redshirt freshman from Fort Valley, Ga., is coming off his most productive game. Woolfolk had just 12 touches, but recorded three touchdowns — a pair of 13-yard pass receptions from Kaleb Barker and a 2-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
“He caught the shuffle and the swing pass, both for touchdowns,” Troy head coach Chip Lindsey said. “He’s a guy that, as the year has gone, his role has increased. We didn’t know that he would have this big a role and he’s really come on. He’s grown up and become a better player.”
Saturday at Texas State, Woolfolk caught four passes for 24 yards and the two TDs. He carried eight times for 26 yards — including a 15-yard run — and his third touchdown.
Lindsey and Barker were impressed with Woolfolk’s game awareness. The head coach liked his patience on a shuffle pass that went for a touchdown.
“Sometimes backs can rush through that and it doesn’t help the play,” Lindsey said.
Barker noted the freshman noticed no defender went with him when he lined up wide on his other TD reception and made a “ball” call.
“Basically when the running back does that, I’m supposed to go to him as fast as I can,” Barker said. “We were on the same page. I was coming to him right after he said that, but he kind of jumpstarted me to throw him the ball.
“Well deserving of everything he’s getting. What did he have, 10 (actually 12) touches and three of them were touchdowns? You can’t beat that.”
Turning them over: Lindsey called the defense’s four interceptions against Texas State the key to the game.
“When you get turnovers, it helps create more opportunities for the offense and it stops their drives,” Lindsey said. “In the games we’ve played well, we’ve got turnovers. I think that’s a key.”
Linebacker Carlton Martial had two highlight-reel, one-handed interceptions — including a 64-yard pick-six with just eight seconds remaining to put the cherry on top of Troy’s 63-27 victory.
Cornerback Will Sunderland and linebacker KJ Robertson had the other two picks.
“When your defense plays as good as it did and they give you the ball on a shorter field a lot, I think we were able to take advantage of those opportunities,” offensive coordinator Ryan Pugh said.
With help from a couple short fields, Troy was a perfect 7-for-7 in the red zone — with seven touchdowns.
“It was good to put two games back-to-back together finally,” defensive coordinator Brandon Hall said.
Hall didn’t dispute the turnovers were huge, but noted the Trojans were much better on third down last Saturday.
“The difference between this game and the Coastal game (one-point loss) was third down,” Hall said. “I thought we played well against Coastal. (Texas State) was 3-of-13 on third down, where Coastal was like 9-of-13 (actually 12 of 19). The turnovers were big, but getting off the field on third down was really good.”
Mocking Martial: Of course, Martial took his share of good-natured abuse for his long interception return. The catches were awesome. The return? Open for debate.
Lindsey was asked if the dominating linebacker would be moving to receiver this week.
“I don’t know. He didn’t look great running down that sideline. He was tired, wasn’t he?” the coach shot back. “I’ll tell you what, he’s got great instincts. He does that in practice all the time. He’ll read the quarterback’s eyes and get a hand on the ball, just really solid. He’s really a fun guy to watch and coach.”
Guard Kirk Kelley just shook his head about the one-handed catches.
“I ain’t ever seen that from him,” the senior said. “I was kind of shocked myself when I saw that. I thought that was somebody else in his uniform, the way he’s out there catching the ball like that.”
As for the return, even Barker noticed things seemed to, uh, slow down a bit.
“He looked really tired,” the quarterback said. “Luckily, everybody on defense wanted him to score. He had, like, seven blockers out in front of him.”
Back in action: Kelley had a unique, unwanted perspective of Saturday’s game. He was in Troy, rehabbing an injured ankle and watching the game on television.
The senior from Marrero, La., isn’t going to miss this week’s game against Louisiana in Lafayette. In fact, he likely will return to the starting lineup.
“That was my first time not traveling since my freshman year. It was definitely kind of boring,” Kelley said. “I really didn’t know what to do. I got a little workout in the morning and watched them play and just kind of enjoyed some football the rest of the day.”
He said he enjoyed watching his replacements — senior Bobby Klemm and redshirt freshman Jake Andrews — step up in his absence.
“They’ve done a great job. They kind of got those reps in the spring when I was out as well,” Kelley said. “They’ve played a significant role, both of them, so far this season in helping us win a lot of games.
“I try to stay in their ear and let them know if I pick up on something from the sideline. I try to help them out as much as I can. They do a great job.”
Kelley has missed the last two games. After Saturday’s game, Kelley let Pugh know he’s ready to return.
“After that game I texted coach Pugh and I’m like, ‘I’m out of vacation hours. I’m ready to get back to work.’
“It’s been a struggle, kind of like mentally, sitting out. You want to be there with your teammates. I want to help the team any way I can.”
Players of the Week: Not surprisingly, Kaleb Barker, who was the Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week, was Troy’s POW, as well. Barker continued his assault on the Troy single-season record books with six touchdowns as he tied Sim Byrd’s school record. Barker completed 30-of-43 passes for 363 yards. He completed passes to 11 different receivers.
Martial was Troy’s Defensive Player of the Week. He added seven tackles to go with his two interceptions.
Long snapper Cameron Kaye was the Special Teams Player of the Week.
As Lindsey said, “The long snapper goes unnoticed a lot — until something bad happens and then you notice him.
“He’s done a good job all year. He also does a pretty good job covering (punts), as well.”