By John Shryock| October 6, 2010 at 10:12 PM CDT - Updated June 22 at 8:52 AM
MURFREESBORO, Tenn. – The Drive for Five is alive and well and the Palladium Trophy is on its way back to Troy after the Trojans dismantled the favored and home-standing MTSU Blue Raiders 42-13 in front of a national television audience Tuesday night.
With the decisive victory, the Trojans sent a message across the Sun Belt Conference that taking the league title away from the four-time defending champions is not going to be easy.
The Trojans improved to 3-2 on the season and 2-0 in league play while the Blue Raiders fall to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in the Sun Belt. Over the last four years, Troy has manhandled MTSU to the tune of 139-44.
The 2010 renewal of the rivalry proved to be very similar to the previous three games. The Trojans harassed Blue Raiders quarterback Dwight Dasher, who made an unsuccessful return after a four-game NCAA suspension, sacking the senior four times, among five sacks in the game.
The Blue Raiders managed just 207 yards of total offense against a blitzing, stunting Troy defense that threw every possible look and formation at Middle Tennessee. The Trojans held MTSU to just 28 yards rushing in the game.
While MTSU was struggling to move the ball, the Trojans continued to roll offensively behind freshman quarterback Corey Robinson. Troy piled up 519 yards of total offense, even with senior star Jerrel Jernigan severely limited by a tender elbow he injured late last week.
As has been the case in each of the last four meetings with the Blue Raiders, the Trojans jumped on top with a quick score in the opening quarter and proceeded to push their lead to 21-0 by mid-way through the second.
The scoring started when Robinson connected with Jernigan on a 3-yard shuffle pass to cap an eight-play drive that covered 55 yards.
Two possessions later, Troy got the ball in great field position when sophomore Kanorris Davis sacked MTSU junior quarterback Jeff Murphy, who was in for an injured Dasher, forcing a fumble that Xavier Lamb recovered at the Blue Raiders' 17.
The Trojans needed just four plays to cover that distance, with 15 of the yards coming on an end around by Jernigan. After a penalty put the Trojans back to the five, Robinson connected with Tebiarus Gill in the back of the end zone with 2:16 left in the first quarter, pushing Troy's lead to 14-0.
The game settled into a battle of punts early in the second quarter, but Troy got a break when MTSU's Josh Davis managed just 27 yards to the Troy 44. The Trojans used seven plays to cover the distance to the end zone. Robinson hit Jason Bruce for a 16 yard gain, followed by a 14-yard pass to Jernigan which moved the senior past Johnny Quinn of North Texas into first on the Sun Belt career list for receiving yards.
After three running plays moved the ball to the MTSU three, sophomore D.J. Taylor plowed in for his first career touchdown, pushing Troy's lead to 21-0 with 6:06 left in the half.
The Blue Raiders finally got their offense going late in the half, using a nine-play drive that was aided by a pair of Troy penalties. The Trojans were flagged nine times for 76 yards in the first half. By comparison, MTSU managed just 82 yards of total offense.
The penalties helped the Blue Raiders move to the one yard line, where Dasher, who was back in the game after suffering an injury to his non-throwing hand, plowed in for the score. The PAT cut Troy's halftime lead to 21-7.
After a relatively quiet third quarter, the Trojans exploded for an 87-yard scoring drive that needed just five plays. Chris Anderson opened the drive with a 39 yard run up the middle. Robinson followed with a 28 yard pass to Brett Moncrief, giving Troy a first down at the MTSU 20.
Shawn Southward and DuJuan Harris carried for three and eight yards on the next two plays before Robinson hooked up with Gill in the end zone for the second time, covering the final nine yards with 1:52 left in the quarter.
The Trojans put the game away mid-way through the final quarter when Robinson connected with freshman Jamel Johnson for a 7-yard TD pass. The Blue Raiders answered with a nine-play scoring drive, with Dasher going in from two-yards out.
Troy used just 11 seconds after a failed onside kick attempt to get those points back when Harris blasted through the Blue Raiders defense for a 41-yard touchdown run.
Robinson passed for 259 yards in the game for the Trojans, completing 26-of-37 attempts, three for scores. Jernigan also completed two throws in the game, for 19 yards, and Hampton completed what will be his final pass of the year for a touchdown.
A total of 12 different Trojans caught at least one pass in the game, led by Bruce with seven for 62 yards. Harris led the Trojans on the ground with 11 carries for 80 yards. Sophomore T.J. Mitchell got his first career carry late in the game, and almost took it to the house, running for 46 yards.