By; Michael Hanich | Sports Editor
The eighth annual Battle for the Belt trophy between the South Alabama Jaguars (1-5) and the Troy Trojans (2-3) will take place once again in the middle of the week on October 16th in Troy, Alabama. In the short time of the heated in-state rivalry, the Trojans are currently leading the series 4-3. No program has had a winning streak of more than two games within the series.
Last season, the Trojans beat the Jaguars in Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile. The last Jaguars’ victory in the rivalry was the year before in 2017 when they defeated the Trojans in Troy with a 19-8 score. The Jaguars defeated the Trojans one game after Troy upset the #25 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge with a 24-21 score.
The South Alabama Jaguars are settled in the Western Division of the Sun Belt and the Troy Trojans are settled in the East Division of the Sun Belt. This is the only protected cross-divisional rivalry by the Sun Belt Conference. This is because Alabama is the only state with teams in the Sun Belt Conference in separate divisions.
To put this rivalry into a more interesting spectrum is the fact that the home teams are 2-5 in the game. The last time either South Alabama or Troy won their home meetings was in 2014 when the Jaguars defeated the Trojans in Mobile with a 27-13 score.
In the 2017 matchup, the Jaguars shocked the Trojans with a 19-8 score in a heavily defensive slugfest. Jaguars sophomore running back Tra Minter had 12 carries for 21 yards. It was in the passing game where Minter really made an impact for the Jaguars. Minter caught three receptions for 83 yards with his longest being of 49 yards.
The defense for the Jaguars constantly disrupted the running game of the Trojans as held the Trojans to 30 total rushing yards including senior running back Jordan Chunn to 28 yards on 10 carries. South’s defense accounted for two sacks, seven tackles for loss, and six pass deflections against Troy’s conservative offense. Jaguars sophomore defensive end Rocel McWilliams had a huge game as he accounted for five total tackles, four solo tackles, two sacks, and two tackles for loss.
Last season, the Trojans got revenge by jumping off to a quick start by outscoring the Jaguars 31-17 by halftime. The Trojans would win the game with a 38-17 score. The Trojans only outgained the Jaguars in total yards 410-to-385 but it was in the rushing game where the Trojans’ offense really excelled. The Trojans’ offense rushed for a total of 252 rushing yards. In the passing game, Troy quarterback Sawyer Smith (now the starting quarterback of the Kentucky Wildcats) was highly efficient in his throws. Smith threw for 158 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception on nine completions (out of 16 attempts).
After halftime, the Jaguars’ offense had problems of creating a spark to extend drives. Jaguars quarterback Evan Orth threw three costly interceptions with one of them being returned for 88-yards and another returned for 60-yards.
The Trojans will host the Jaguars on Wednesday night at 7 pm central and it will be televised on ESPN2.