2020 Game 4 Preview: Troy
QB Quad Brown warms up prior to the 2019 contest at Georgia Southern. Brown will face a big test this weekend as the Panthers look to win on the road against the Troy Trojans for the first time in program history. Photo: Jordan Crawford for THERSdayNight.com
The Georgia State Panthers (1-2, 0-2 Sun Belt) head back out west to finish their two-game road trip in Alabama and face off against the Troy Trojans (3-1, 1-0 in Sun Belt). Georgia State comes off their second conference loss, falling in a 59-52 shootout to the Arkansas State Red Wolves last week. The Trojans needed a 47-yard field goal as time expired to beat FCS Eastern Kentucky 31-29 and prevent the upset. Troy’s only conference win came earlier in October, a 37-17 win over Texas State.
The Panthers enter Saturday’s contest in desperate need of a win if their goal is to keep pace in the Sun Belt East. In order to pick up their first conference win, they will need to do something that the program has never done before – win on the road against Troy. For Troy and second-year head coach Chip Lindsey, their schedule is about to pick up soon. After hosting Georgia State, the Trojans will travel on the road against Arkansas State and Georgia Southern in back to back weeks, then host No. 25. Coastal Carolina a week later. This week’s matchup between the Trojans and Panthers could prove to be pivotal for each team’s season.
The Trojans offensively are a pass-first team, and while the Panthers defense was just decimated by a pass-first team, the Trojans average about 100 yards less per game through the air. To counteract that lack of passing production, the Trojans have a much stronger ground game than the Red Wolves do which provides a more balanced offensive approach. Troy has called upon sophomore Gunnar Watson to be their signal caller in 2020, and he has had a nice season so far. Watson has completed just under 69% of his passes for 1,081 yards, 9 TDs and 3 INTs through 4 games. Watson has been successful at spreading the ball around, as there are 5 Troy pass catchers with more than 10 receptions each. Behind Watson is a stable of running backs that can produce modest numbers on the ground as well as feature in the passing game.
The Troy running back room is led by freshman Kimani Vidal, who has been a surprise for the Trojans so far this season. Behind Vidal, carriers are dispersed evenly between senior BJ Smith, and DK Billingsley. If Troy is to be successful against the Panthers, it will come on the strength of their offense.
Defensively, the Trojans are led by preseason All-Sun Belt Defensive Player of the Year LB Carlton Martial. Troy’s front seven have been a very good unit so far this season, averaging about 2 sacks per game and recording 26 TFLs through 4 games. In the defensive backfield, junior Terrance Dunlap leads a group of defensive backs that are looking to find some consistency this season. The Trojans secondary has had two games allowing under 200 passing yards and two games where they allowed more than 350. Dunlap leads the group with 3 interceptions, but the defense as a whole has yet to force a fumble this season. Getting off the field is key when facing Georgia State, so the Trojans must do a good job of finding ways to get Georgia State QB Quad Brown to make mistakes. Georgia State has a very strong offensive line, but if the Trojans are to bring adequate pressure, they must get home on Brown. That is no easy task, though, as Brown has gone two consecutive games without being sacked.
Speaking of Brown, each successive week, Quad has taken a step forward and proved why he is emerging as another star QB from the Sun Belt East. Expect more of the same from the redshirt freshman this week against Troy. The Panthers’ signal caller had a phenomenal game against the Red Wolves, producing his first turnoverless game and totalling almost 400 total yards. The Trojans should expect a heavy dose of RBs Destin Coates (if he is healthy), Tucker Gregg and some combination of Seth Paige or Jam Williams. But in addition to that deep running back rotation, the Troy defense has to watch out for Quad calling his own number. If the Panthers’ offensive line continues to play well, Georgia State should have no trouble running effectively against an up-and-down Troy defense. Couple this with Quad’s continued success with the big play through the air, and the Panther Touchdown Express should continue for another week.
Everyone is waiting with bated breath to see which version of the 2020 Georgia State Defense will show up vs Troy. If the version of the defense that came out against Louisiana and East Carolina shows up, then Watson and Co will be battered in the pocket and force bad decisions. The Trojans also won’t be able to get much going on the ground. If the version of the defense that faced the Red Wolves goes up against Troy, it will be another long game with college receivers putting up NCAA ‘14-type numbers. Look for the Panthers to get pressure on Watson. Watson is the least mobile quarterback the Panthers have faced so far this season. Troy’s offensive line has already allowed 10 sacks so far this season. It will be important for the big guys up front to play a consistent 60 minutes, instead of disappearing after halftime like they did last week. Lastly, the way in which the secondary bounces back will also be key. After having at least two interceptions in each of their first two games, the Panthers’ defense secured zero against the Red Wolves. Watson doesn’t throw many picks, but if he does make a mistake, the Panthers have to capitalize.
After the crazy game against the Red Wolves, the Panthers could use a relatively painless victory tomorrow. Taking care of business and rendering the Arkansas State game as a defensive anomaly is the only way to keep pace in a tight division. With Sun Belt Championship aspirations and a tougher schedule just around the corner, the Panthers need to steal one on the road to have a fighter’s chance at some conference glory.
Kickoff from Veterans Memorial Stadium is at 4pm EDT on ESPNU.