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August 29, 2008

MT/Troy postgame: The decisive five plays

There are always a few select plays that turn the tide in a football game, and Troy's 31-17 win over Middle Tennessee Thursday night is exhibit A of the huge difference a single play can make.

GoMiddle.com breaks down the five biggest plays from the season opener at Floyd Stadium.

All five went Troy's way, and that's why the Blue Raiders start the 2008 schedule 0-1.

TROY 31, MT 17: The decisive five plays
Early INT digs quick hole
1st quarter, 10:00: The game had gotten off to a tame start with an exchange of punts and Middle Tennessee's defense forced a quick three-and-out on its first series. Facing a 3rd-and-12 from his own 18 yard line, Blue Raider quarterback Joe Craddock fired an ill advised pass right to All-Sun Belt linebacker Boris Lee, who returned the interception 18 yards to the four yard line. One play later, Troy had a 7-0 lead, an advantage the Trojans never relinquished.
Near pick six
2nd quarter, 14:47: A David DeFatta 52-yard booming punt backed the Troy offense to its own 30 yard line to start the second quarter with the score still 7-3. When Trojan quarterback Jamie Hampton dropped to throw on first down, he fired a sharp pass that went directly at Blue Raider defensive end Chris McCoy. Had McCoy reeled in the interception, he appeared to have a clear path to the end zone. But he didn't reel it in, as the ball deflected off his hands and fell to the turf. If that wasn't unfortunate enough, Hampton bounced right back on the very next play and fired a 30-yard pass, which sparked what turned out to be a nine play, 70 yard touchdown drive. The drive increased the margin to 14-3, when McCoy had come within a razor's edge of putting MT up 10-7.
Red zone disaster
2nd quarter, 2:30: Though trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, the Blue Raiders were still right in the game after a botched Troy punt gave Middle Tennessee great field position at the Troy 21 yard line. A 20-yard Craddock pass to Sancho McDonald put the offense on the end zone's doorstep, but three straight running plays failed to move the ball even a yard. MT elected to go for a touchdown on fourth down, bypassing a short field goal that would have cut the lead to 14-6. Dwight Dasher, who entered the game for the first time on the 2nd-and-goal play, was sacked in the backfield and fumbled. Troy defensive tackle Steve McLendon picked up the loose ball and raced 62 yards all the way down to the MT 21 yard line. That ended up leading to a Troy field goal, making the score 17-3 when it could have been 14-6 had Blue Raider freshman kicker Alan Gendreau connected on his second short field goal of the night. The six point swing ended up affecting play calling for much of the rest of the game as MT tried in vain to draw even.
Almost Gloved it
4th quarter, 6:44: A late rally had pulled MT to within 24-17 with just less than seven minutes remaining, and the diminished crowd that remained was whipped into a frenzy knowing that the Blue Raiders were just one defensive stand away from having a chance to tie the game. On first down, Hampton lofted a poor throw down the middle of the field that MT safety Anthony Glover appeared to be stalking down for a sure interception. Glover needed one more half step though, as his outstretched hands couldn't corral the interception that would have given a suddenly hot Blue Raider offense the football in Troy territory.
The near stop
4th quarter, 5:56: Two plays after Glover's near interception, Troy faced 3rd-and-4 at its own 27 yard line. Hampton fired a quick pass to Jerrel Jernigan, who was immediately hit by MT cornerback Alex Suber for what looked like an impending tackle for a loss. But Suber couldn't wrap up Jernigan, and the Troy wideout bounced outside for a first down. Eight plays later, the Trojans were in the end zone, celebrating the game clinching DuJuan Harris touchdown run that set the final score at 31-17.



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