Good friends face off as Troy meets North Texas in R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl
NEW ORLEANS – The last time Troy visited the state of Louisiana, it left with a huge 24-21 victory over LSU on Sept. 30.
Eleven days later, the Trojans lost at home to South Alabama. But that would be the last time Troy would lose in the regular season as it finished 10-2 and won the Sun Belt Conference title, earning a trip to Saturday’s R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against North Texas.
“You would assume (with a 10-2 record it’s been) kind of smooth sailing, but it’s been the exact opposite,” Troy coach Neal Brown said Thursday. “I don’t think anybody in our program handled (the LSU win) very well.
“I think this is another challenge for us. The Arkansas State game two weeks ago, winning a conference championship, was huge. Can we handle success? Can we put back-to-back performances together? That’s the challenge ahead of us.”
The game not only matches a conference champion in Troy and a division champion in North Texas, which won the West Division of Conference USA, but good friends in Brown and North Texas coach Seth Littrell.
“We both kind of grew up in the same system with Hal Mumme and Mike Leach,” Littrell said. “We have very similar backgrounds. We’ve had that friendship over the years.”
Added Brown, “Seth and I are similar in ages, both with an offensive background. If you look at Seth, he’s been around some of the who’s who of college coaches. When you watch his team play, what really sticks out is how fundamentally sound they are in all phases.
“We’re excited about being here, but not necessarily excited about playing one of my better friends in the coaching profession.”
The game features a pair of potent quarterbacks in Troy’s Brandon Silvers, a four-year starter who has thrown for 2,985 yards and 13 touchdowns, and North Texas’ Mason Fine, who has 3,749 passing yards and 28 touchdowns on the year.
The Trojans average 30 points per game, while the Mean Green have scored at a pace of nearly 36 points per game. Troy’s defense has allowed only 17.5 points per game, compared to 33 for North Texas.
“It’ll be a great challenge,” Littrell said. “That’s why we all play this game.”
Troy will be without wide receiver Emanuel Thompson, cornerback Blace Brown and safety Kris Weatherspoon on Saturday, while wide receiver Tray Eafford will be a game-time decision against the Mean Green.
“The Arkansas State game was as freak of an injury game as I’ve been a part of,” Brown said.
Added Littrell, “I think this year, everybody’s kind of beat up.”
Kickoff inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is at noon. The game will be televised by ESPN.
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Lenny has been involved in college athletics since the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…