A chat with a college football coach is usually a one-stop-shop for upbeat cliches and praise for his team, even in the grimmest of circumstances.
Troy coach Larry Blakeney isn’t one of those coaches. He is quite candid about the state of his team.
“Right now we’re not a very good football team on offense, period,” he said. “Rushing or throwing or protecting the quarterback and everything else. We’ve got to find some answers and find them fast or it’s going to be a tough year.”
Troy (1-1) lost all but three starters on offense from a year ago, including starting quarterback Aaron Leak and offensive lineman Junior Louissaint, who played key roles in the Trojans’ 24-14 upset of Missouri last year.
Leak’s replacement, junior Carl Meadows, has struggled mightily, throwing five interceptions and connecting on one touchdown pass in Troy’s first two games.
The offensive line has allowed nine sacks without Louissaint, an all-conference selection, and the offense has gained a measly 223 yards per game (110th of 118 teams in NCAA Division I-A), a far cry from Missouri’s fourth-ranked 573 yards per game.
Troy’s defense has had a little more success replacing its seven lost starters but will be without senior linebacker Leverne Johnson, who suffered a broken leg in the Trojans’ 27-7 to loss to the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Saturday.
Blakeney said the defense must force turnovers to win.
“We’re 0-9 since 2000 in games where we don’t force a turnover and we didn’t force one the other night,” he said.
In 2002, the last time Troy visited Columbia, MU won 44-7. Senior linebacker Bernard Davis, the Trojans’ leading tackler this season remembers the game.
“One thing I can remember about going up there the first time was the cannons going off all the time because they put up a lot of points,” he said. “We’ll know if we don’t hear the cannon we’re doing our job.”
The Trojans’ win this season came against Division I-AA Cal Poly in the season opener but the team looked overmatched by UAB.
Blakeney said he thinks Missouri might be a good team to bounce back against.
“They’re not necessarily a good football team either,” he said. “I know I’m more worried about Troy than I am Missouri, and they are probably more worried about Missouri than they are Troy.”
Troy senior cornerback Johnny Faulk agreed that Troy has a chance to win.
“We’re pretty young but we’ve worked extremely hard this summer and in camp,” he said. “It’s kind of developed into a rivalry for me, playing them three of the five years I’ve been here. It’s always been a big game for us and I’m sure we’ll be ready.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel is taking the game seriously.
“Troy is a very good program,” he said. “We certainly have a lot of respect for them. We’re trying to get back on the winning track and this will be a very, very big game.”