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TSU Trojans impressive in D-1 play

There were not many highlights for our state college football teams this past weekend, the first full weekend of college gridiron action for the 2002 season.

Tommy Tuberville's Auburn Tigers stumbled on the West Coast to an average Southern California squad while Watson Brown's Alabama-Birmingham squad were not even able to provide a ghost of a challenge against the Florida Gators falling in dismal fashion 51-3.

Dennis Franchione's Alabama football team was able to pull off a victory in its opener last Saturday, although the Tide's shaky 39-34 win over Middle Tennessee State did not exactly inspire visions of grandeur for the 2002 edition of the Crimson Tide, and in fact has many dreading the Tide's trip to Oklahoma this weekend to battle the No. 2

Sooners.

I think without a doubt the highlight of the past weekend for our state schools was in fact a loss, but a very respectable 31-16

loss by Larry Blakeney's Troy State Trojans to the No. 8 Nebraska Huskers.

Kicking game woes ultimately stymied any opportunity for the Trojans to actually pull off what would have been a monumental triumph for a Trojan program currently in its second year of Division 1 play, but the close loss to the Huskers at the storied edifice which is Memorial Stadium is yet another example of what has been an amazing Division 1 journey for the Trojan program thus far.

In case you have forgotten, the Trojans broke into the big leagues of college football in a big way last season, giving gritty efforts in losses to traditional powers such as Nebraska, Miami and Maryland before gaining a huge 21-9 win against Mississippi State.

Saturday's effort by Troy State against the Huskers, in arguably one of the toughest road environments in college football, perhaps is a sign that Troy State, who finished 7-4 overall last season, could be headed for another prosperous season.

The statistics do not lie when pointing out just how competitively the Trojans played against one of the legendary programs in college football.

The final numbers showed Troy State actually outgaining Nebraska in the contest with 347 yards compared to the Huskers' 313, with the Trojans gaining 155 yards on the ground and 193 through the air.

In the middle of the third quarter, the Trojans had the host Nebraska team basically on the ropes, with the Huskers clinging to a precarious 14-10 advantage, with the score no doubt shocking college football fans all over the nation and of course the 76,000-plus red-clad fans in Memorial Stadium.

Of course a Trojan victory was ultimately not to be, but a polite ovation given by a group of Nebraska fans, to the Trojans and not their beloved Huskers, was a true compliment to just how far Blakeney's program has come in such a short amount of time.

Another prime example of just how far the Trojan program has come will likely occur this weekend as the Trojans travel to Legion Field to battle UAB. The Blazers are currently listed as a slight favorite over the Trojans, but I for one am projecting a Trojan win.

Just as a side note, it must be deflating, and in fact embarrassing, for the Blazer program to witness the TSU program take off in such a short amount of time while UAB continues to struggle to build a football identity and following.

It certainly will not be easy for the Trojans the rest of this season, as games against Iowa State, Missouri, Mississippi State, Marshall and Arkansas among others remain to be played, but still the progress the Trojan program has made under the steady direction of Blakeney has been impressive, and really nothing short of amazing.

Stan Griffin is a reporter and columnist for, The Andalusia Star-News.