Sunday, September 23, 2012

Troy-North Texas postgame link & final blog

Me talking to Larry Blakeney after the game / Adam Prendergast photo


Now getting settled into the DFW airport before a flight home.

HERE is my game story from Troy's 14-7 win over North Texas.

HERE is my notebook.

And this is me signing off on this blog for the final time. Thanks again for all the kind words about my coverage of Troy over the last 7.5 years. It was a tremendous opportunity and while I am looking forward to my future endeavors, I know this beat will be in good hands when we hire someone to take over, hopefully by November. Jon Johnson will be writing daily stories from here on out until someone replaces me.

I've had people ask about what the best game I saw. Without hesitation, I say Troy's 21-20 win at Middle Tennessee in 2006, when the Trojans rallied from down 20-7 in the final minutes, recovering an onside kick and converting a 4th and 17 on the final drive. If not for that game, there is no streak of five straight Sun Belt championships.

I'll see you guys from al.com if you want to keep reading me, and I hope to be at the UAB-Troy basketball game at Trojan Arena in November, and I will be at the 2013 season opener at Veterans Memorial Stadium.

Thanks again to all who made this possible.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Troy-UNT game updates


 
This thread will be for some live game updates between Troy and UNT - likely just scoring and end-of-quarter updates. I'll have to head down to the field late in the fourth quarter, so will have to leave the blog for just a bit.

Personnel-wise, starting safety Chris Pickett, reserve corner TJ Bryant, reserve running back Khary Franklin are not here. Franklin is the only one of the three that I can tell you for sure is injured, but I'm sure we'll get an explanation on the other two after the game. Running back D.J. Taylor is here.

Kanorris Davis didn't start but he is here. DeVon Terry started in his place. But Davis is hurt and likely won't play.

FIRST QUARTER

5:24 - N - Derek Thompson throws a 50-yard touchdown pass to Brelan Chancellor, gives UNT a 7-0 lead. Troy has gone 3 and out 3 times so far, but had some bad news when backup right tackle Chris Hawkins suffered what looked to be a broken leg. He was carted off on a stretcher and had his left leg in an aircast. That would be 2 key OL that Troy has lost, along with Zach Johnson 2 games ago. UNT 7, Troy 0


 End first, UNT leads 7-0. Robinson hit Bryan Holmes for what would have been a deep TD pass, but he dropped it. He then threw an interception.

SECOND QUARTER
1:00 - After UNT misses the second of 2 field goals, Robinson leads the Trojans down the field. DJ Taylor made a big play on a third down reception. Later, Corey Robinson to Jaquon Robinson for 15-yard TD. 10 plays, 70 yards, 1:28 TOP. Troy 7, UNT 7

HALFTIME - 7-7 tie 

THIRD QUARTER

Troy started off recovering an onside kick, but went 3 and out. 

10:00 - Trojans did hit the big play on its second drive. Third and 6, Robinson to Chip Reeves for 76 yards on the deep ball. Reeves had also recovered the onside kick. Troy up 14-7 

5:06 and UNT misses a 27-yard FG. Mean Green have missed three field goals so far. 

End of third quarter and UNT faces a 3rd and 10 at the Troy 16. Still Troy 14, UNT 7

FOURTH QUARTER
Final ended up being Troy 14, UNT 7.
Trojans are 2-2, 1-1 in SBC play.
 

Pregame: Troy at North Texas

Apogee Stadium


 We're live at the new Apogee Stadium for Troy's road game against North Texas. It's a huge game for both teams and one both feel like they have to have to be in position for bowl eligibility at the end of the season. You can't count games like Arkansas State, FIU and WKU as automatic Ws even though they are at home, because of how good those teams were last year.

So, Troy needs to take care of North Texas, South Alabama, FAU and Middle Tennessee on the road to get to 5 wins, and then win a couple of the home games - the three aforementioned and Navy.

**Troy has running back D.J. Taylor back and he's slated to make his season debut.

**Running back Khary Franklin (upper body injury) did not make the trip.

**5:50 update, some big news, starting safety Chris Pickett and reserve cornerback T.J. Bryant did not make the trip, and no explanation given pregame for why.

Links from Denton

Realized that the first Sun Belt road game I ever covered was Troy at North Texas in 2005. The Trojans won 13-10 to snap UNT's 25-game (or was it 26?) Sun Belt win streak. UNT had talented backs Patrick Cobbs and Jamario Thomas, but Troy's Kenny Cattouse and Anthony Jones were better that night, and Troy's stingy defense held up. That was a Tuesday night ESPN or ESPN2 game. It may be at least 13-10 after one quarter tonight.

Check out the box score from the 2005 game.

The QB matchup that day featured Troy's Carl Meadows vs. North Texas' Daniel Meager. Not exactly all-conference candidates. This year, the Trojans try to cool down UNT's Derek Thompson while their own QB Corey Robinson tries to keep his steady play going.

You can read my game preview HERE.

Game preview from Denton, where UNT is confident, even as an underdog.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Troy defense giving up too many big plays

Today's story focuses on how Troy's defense gave up too many big plays against Mississippi State.

TROY – Troy gave up 457 yards in last week’s 30-24 loss to Mississippi State, but the Trojans are still smarting on giving up a big chunk of that yardage on just a few plays.

All four of Mississippi State’s touchdowns were more than 25 yards. It started with a 30-yard run from LaDarius Perkins and Chad Bumphis caught three touchdown passes from 72, 58 and 25 yards. The longest one was on a screen pass.

Perkins also burned Troy on the final drive, getting 30 yards on first down and helping the Bulldogs run out the clock.

“That’s what’s been killing us the last two weeks, big plays,” defensive end Tony Davis said. “Coach (Jeremy) Rowell talks about it all the time, eliminating the big plays.”


For the rest of the story, go here ...

Check out Brett Vito's blog on a key matchup in the game.

I'll be traveling to the Dallas-Fort Worth area today and may add some more links.

**Here's another story from Denton on UNT safety Lairamie Lee, who should run into Shawn Southward a time or two Saturday.

Thursday links

Normally I post these in the mornings, early before I even go to sleep. Maybe lunchtime was a better time after all.

Wrote THIS STORY on now starting right guard Jimmie Arnold, who has waited patiently for his chance and is taking advantage of it.

Some North Texas links, from the Denton Record-Chronicle:

UNT has been working extra on special teams.
Veterans are hungry for a winning season.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

This is my last week at the Dothan Eagle



Heads up, turn your microphone up if you want to hear me. Even though my mic was up to my face, it went in and out. I talk about Troy in the beginning, other schools in the middle and my future over the final minute.

This was filmed Monday and it was the first realization that this was it for me in the Wiregrass, at the Dothan Eagle and covering Troy University. Some of you knew this, but this is my last week with the paper and the game at North Texas this weekend will be my last assignment.

I've enjoyed almost every minute of it, but I'll be moving on to a new challenge in covering UAB for the Birmingham News/al.com. I have to monitor other schools, such as Samford and Jacksonville State, but for any UAB fans reading this, rest assured, it's going to be predominantly Blazers from what I was told. I'll be at all the football games, all the home basketball games and I want to say several road games as well, but haven't been told that. I'm crossing my fingers. Basically, if UAB has something important going on, I'll be there.

I was hindered by more around here covering high schools and desk shifts and even being an hour away from Troy, was still able to get plenty of material out. I should be able to do much more with UAB and I'm looking forward to the challenge of a new fan base/readership, new school, new people to deal with and living in Hoover.

But back to being here - I can't thank Jon Johnson and Ken Tuck enough for taking a chance on someone just a few months out of college with no contacts at Troy. I think it turned out well.

Larry Blakeney, Don Maestri and Bobby Pierce, and their assistants, have been first class. I've been through a lot of their best and worst moments since Feb. 2005, when I took over and the first Troy athletics event I saw was Troy beating Jacksonville in an Atlantic Sun basketball game. It hasn't been perfect, but it's been professional.

The staff in the Troy athletics media relations department has bent over backwards to help me out, from Ricky Hazel's crew to now Adam Prendergast, and I'll miss being in the press box making jokes with the current crew while waiting for them to pass along Troy notes throughout the game.

I can't imagine many University heads taking time to help out a newspaper writer, but Dr. Jack Hawkins always made time for when I had a question and I can't thank him enough for his class and time. The University, despite not being in a great location in a huge town, has thrived under Hawkins' leadership and I expect that to continue.

I've been asked about who will replace me. I don't know that answer, but I do know they are working hard to fill it. They got corporate approval to make a hire. The job posting is HERE. We'll still have Troy stories each day, and Jon Johnson will write them in the interim. I would think this blog would still be maintained by my replacement.

In the meantime, it's been great dealing with the people, the student-athletes over the years and writing about them while watching them grow from teenagers to grown men. The best part has been the interaction with the readers, and that can still continue. I'll stay on twitter @DrewChamplin, for new followers, and I'll respect if you have to unfollow because I won't be updating Troy any more after Sunday.

My personal e-mail is dchamplin1@gmail.com, which is the best way to get me after Sunday. I start my new job on Monday, and will be fully immersed in the UAB beat on Oct. 1. I'm still not exactly sure what all I'll be doing next week. I'll have a new work e-mail, but I'm not sure what that will be yet. I just know to show up Monday at 8 a.m. for orientation.

To close it out, I just need to say thanks to everyone who made this coverage grow, and that was the readers. We'll have Troy coverage (written by someone else) on al.com, but don't forget the Dothan Eagle - I'm positive the newspaper will continue on its path to be the leading source of Troy news long after I'm gone.

From the other side: North Texas

This week we catch up with North Texas beat writer Brett Vito from the Denton Record-Chronicle. You can read Brett's blog HERE.

1. Sounds like Sun Belt coaches didn't have much respect for North Texas in the preseason poll but early returns show the Mean Green could be better. How would you assess that after three games?
UNT has played pretty well overall, hanging in there for quite a while against Kansas State and doing some good things against LSU. The Mean Green took care of the Texas Southern game like it should have. This team is right where I or any other reasonable person thought it would be.

Considering all the team lost after last season, I don't think UNT could have asked for much more. I have said all along, the whole season really hinges on the Troy game. If UNT wins, that's two W's and you can start looking down the line and seeing a pretty clear path to six wins and the end of the streak of seven straight losing seasons. If UNT loses this game, getting to .500 gets a lot tougher.

2. How has the run game look since Lance Dunbar departed?
UNT has looked pretty good running the ball. This team does not have a running back like Lance Dunbar, but its offensive line is still really good. Most of the key linemen are back. Brandin Byrd, Antoinne Jimmerson and Jeremy Brown form a pretty effective rotation at running back.

3. Troy made Derek Thompson look like Tom Brady last year. Has he built on that performance?
Derek struggled in the first couple of games of the year outside of a couple of touchdown passes against LSU, but really seemed to find it against Kansas State. He hit on 25 of his 28 pass attempts and set a school record for completion percentage in a game. The question now is if he can carry that performance over.

4. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the defense?
UNT has a pretty good corps of linebackers. Zach Orr is the team's best defensive player and there is a good chance Jeremy Phillips will be back this week. He has a lot of experience. Where UNT might struggle a bit is against a good team's passing game. The whole secondary is new and the defensive front didn't get any pressure against Kansas State last week.

5. How do you see the game going?
It will be a lot like the last time these teams played. It will be close and will come down to the end of the game. It will be a matter of who makes the big plays and who doesn't turn the ball over. It could go either way.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Wednesday links

As I celebrate the last time I have to take a JV volleyball call ever, I hope (more on that later), here are some links to read this morning.

Check out THIS STORY on Troy wide receiver Chris Williams. He only has one catch this year, but he's got cool hair and a nice back story. I think he'll develop into a solid player before his time is done.

CBSSports.com ranks the conferences and the Sun Belt is in some unfamiliar territory after big wins from ULM and Western Kentucky.

The press conference video and transcript from the TV room for Troy's game at North Texas.


Tuesday links

So, we're into North Texas week and I get the feeling this is a must-win game if Troy wants to still contend for a Sun Belt title and be in position for bowl eligibility this season.

For that to happen, Troy can't turn the ball over. THIS STORY focuses on that, and has some notes tacked on at the end.

From the other side, check out THIS STORY on North Texas QB Derek Thompson turning things around against Kansas State. Thompson had a monster game for UNT last year in a 38-33 win over Troy.

Our good friend Brett Vito writes about Kansas State coach Bill Snyder's praise on North Texas. Also, the one-stop shop for UNT information is Brett's BLOG for the Denton-Record Chronicle.