12 September 2015

Back on college football, back in Troy, Alabama

I don't always call college football, but when I do … I often wind up calling the Troy Trojans.

On Saturday, I will call Troy football for the third time, and I also saw them as a spectator last year. However, the most memorable Troy game I've ever been to is a bittersweet one: The Trojans crushed Rice in the 2006 New Orleans Bowl, the Owls' first bowl appearance in 40 years. I treasure that night because I got to watch the game with my father, a fellow Rice alum who had been to our previous bowl appearance in the 1960s, but we got a pretty good butt-kicking in the actual game.

2015 marks my second visit to Veterans Memorial Stadium in Troy, Ala. (here's a look back at my first), reachable via the airport in Montgomery, Ala., and an hour's drive south.

Naturally, Troy just happened to have its 2006 New Orleans Bowl trophy sitting in the office of new head coach Neal Brown. Thanks for the welcome!

But seriously, I'm calling Saturday's game between Troy and Charleston Southern with former FCS championship-winning coach Mickey Matthews, and we had an excellent visit with Troy on Friday. We got to take in a practice session that was definitely more practice than walkthrough, and we had excellent conversations / storytelling sessions with Brown, defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, and former head coach Larry Blakeney. (They did most of the storytelling, I did most of the listening and a good share of the laughing.)

Charleston Southern is a small Baptist school that just got lights for its football stadium and was ecstatic to draw more than 4,000 fans for its home opener last week. But the Buccaneers have been excellent recently, are used to winning, and took Vanderbilt down to the wire last year. What's more, they run an unusual option attack that is very difficult to defend. For a Troy program that is in rebuilding mode, this is no simple task. Still, the Trojans will have a size advantage, run an up-tempo offense that can also be difficult to defend, and should be highly  motivated.

So it should be a good one! Mickey and I are asking for good weather and a close game, so check it out Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN3!

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