The Troy Trojans continued their recent dominance of Middle Tennessee on Saturday as the Trojans defeated the Blue Raiders, 38-35, to capture their sixth straight victory in the "Battle for the Palladium."
Troy (1-2, 1-0) did so in front of 20,185 fans at the newly dedicated Larry Blakeney Field at Veterans Memorial Stadium. The win moved the Troy head coach to 21-0 at home openers and 90-12-1 in Troy.
"It's great to get a win, it's great to get a conference win," Blakeney said. "Even though we try to prepare to win every week, and I think it's obvious in those first two games our kids had been prepared to try to win. We didn't quite get it done but we were able to 'eek' it out tonight. I'm proud to be sitting here with a 1-0 conference slate heading into next week against UAB."
Middle Tennessee (0-3, 0-1) out-gained the Trojans on the day, 582-479 but two turnovers proved to be costly for the Blue Raiders. The Trojans committed one turnover but the Blue Raiders did not score on the possession.
Logan Kilgore became the fourth Middle Tennessee quarterback to ever throw for 400 yards as he piled up 415 on 28-for-48 passing. His five touchdowns were the second most in Blue Raider history, but his one interception was costly.
Middle Tennessee marched 95 yards on nine plays and scored with 3:18 remaining in the game to get within three at 38-35. Kilgore would complete his fifth touchdown pass of the game, this one to Anthony Amos from 34 yards out.
The Blue Raiders sent the following kickoff deep into the end zone and used two timeouts along with a Troy incomplete pass to get the ball back on their own 34 yard line with 2:53 left to go.
The Trojans defense bent but didn't break as they forced Middle Tennessee into a fourth down at the Troy 35 where Brannon Bryan came up with his second career interception to seal the deal.
Corey Robinson recorded his second consecutive 300-yard passing performance as he put up 348 yards on 24-for-38 with three touchdowns. He didn't throw a pick for the first time this season.
Eric Thomas captured the first 100-yard receiving performance of the season for the Trojans as he led the way with 108 yards in four catches with one touchdown.
Shawn Southward nearly broke the 100-yard rushing mark as he recorded 94 yards on 13 carries for a 7.2 yards/carry average.
The Trojans took their first lead in the third quarter. Robinson found Chandler Worthy streaking down the middle of the field for a 75-yard touchdown grab to put Troy up 31-28. The long bomb was the only play on the drive as Michael Taylor's PAT put Troy up by three.
"I kept telling myself, 'Rookie we've got faith in you man (Worthy).'" Robinson said. "Sure enough, he got in on the play and made a great catch and run. We're glad we've got three years left with him."
Chris Anderson's first touchdown of the season came on an eight-yard rush early in the fourth to cap off a seven-play, 64 yard drive. Taylor's PAT put the Trojans up by 10 as they continued to attack a tired Middle Tennessee defense. The Trojans picked up 302 of their 479 total offensive yards in the second half.
"Those guys were getting a little bit tired," Robinson said of MT's defense. "They were playing there hearts out."
Taylor connected on a 28-yard field goal mid-way through the third quarter to get the Trojans within four and set-up the go ahead and pull away scores. The three points came after the two sides traded touchdowns early in the half.
Malcolm Beyah caught a 30-yard touchdown pass for the Blue Raiders while Eric Thomas caught a 46-yard strike for the Trojans.
The first half was one of big plays as the first three scoring plays all went for 50 yards or more.
The Blue Raiders struck first as Reggie Whatley took a screen pass from Kilgore down the sideline for 82 yards and a touchdown. The quick strike touchdown marked the first time that Middle Tennessee led against Troy since 2006.
For the second straight week the Trojans defense put points on the board as Kilgore coughed up the ball early in the second quarter. On a third down pass play, Jonathan Massaquoi and John Robles combined to sack Kilgore with Robles forcing the fumble.
Chris Pickett scooped the loose ball at Troy's own 37 yard line and took it to the house to tie things up at 7-7.
"This is my second time winning the Palladium," Pickett said. "And this year it was extra special. Our defense is still working to get where we want to be, but we feel like we can stop anybody."
The Blue Raiders went back ahead mid-way through the second quarter as Kilgore connected with Sancho McDonald down the middle of the field for a 50-yard touchdown.
The Trojans used the first sustained drive of the contest to pull even at 14-14. Troy marched 68 yards on 10 plays with the score coming on an eight-yard pass from Corey Robinson to Jaquon Robinson.
Middle Tennessee would respond before the close of the half with their own 10 play drive that covered 80 yards and capped off with a 37 yard touchdown pass from Kilgore to Benny Cunningham. The score came with 50 seconds left in the half and gave the Blue Raiders a 21-14 halftime lead.
The Trojans will return home next Saturday as they host UAB at Veterans Memorial Stadium. Kickoff between the Trojans and Blazers is set for 6:00 p.m.
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