JONESBORO, AR (WSFA) - The final seconds of Saturday's game between Troy (10-2, 7-1) and Arkansas State (7-4, 7-2) turned out to be the difference maker as Troy pulled out a 32-25 win to claim a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship.
Brandon Silvers' pass to Deondre Douglas with 17 seconds to play pushed the Trojans ahead 33-25. Head coach Neal Brown opted to go for two for a chance to push the lead to seven, and the Trojans converted, thanks to a little trickeration. John Johnson took the shovel pass from Silvers around the edge, but before he could cross the line of scrimmage, he threw the ball back across field where a wide open Silvers awaited, catching the ball and taking it in for the conversion.
How did we get to that point? Arkansas State, trailing 24-19, put together a 1-minute 6-second drive that ended in a 39-yard touchdown strike from Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen to Christian Booker, gaining a momentary 25-24 advantage after failing to convert a two-point conversion.
That's when the Trojans, left with 1:28 on the clock, used a 1-minute 6-second drive of their own helped by a huge fourth-and-5 pick up by Douglas to take the lead. Troy only needed a field goal, but got six points instead.
Freshman defensive back Marcus Jones had himself a day. The 5-foot-9 cornerback out of Enterprsie returned his school record third kickoff of the season for a touchdown in the first quarter to put the Trojans up 7-3. Then in the fourth, in a critical situation after Troy had just fumbled the ball back to the Red Wolves, Jones intercepted Hansen's pass in the end zone and returned it 100 yards for the score to push the Trojans' lead to 24-13 at the time.
Overall, Troy's defense had a day. While the defense did give up more than 24 points for the first time this season, they also had four sacks and three interceptions. They gave up 606 total yards of offense but were helped out by missed opportunities. Arkansas State was unable to capitalize Saturday night, throwing two interceptions in the red zone and missing two key field goals in the second half.
With one final chance, Arkansas State threw a Hail Mary to the end zone but the ball was batted down by Trojan defenders, thus rebuilding the wall officially and making Troy conference champions.
While yards were hard to come by for Troy, particularly on the ground where they only rushed for 47, the offense was still held together by quarterback Brandon Silvers who completed 23 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Senior running back Jordan Chunn had 33 of the team's 47 rushing yards, a rather pedestrian day for the man they call "MegaChunn".
Troy's win clinched a share of the Sun Belt Conference Championship with Appalachian State who won 63-14 earlier Saturday. The win also clinches back-to-back 10-win seasons for Troy, the first time in its Division I history, and is the school's first Sun Belt Conference Championship since 2010.