New Orleans Bowl Recap: Troy runs past North Texas, 50-30

Troy and North Texas met in the Big Easy for the New Orleans Bowl with a record season on the line for both teams. The Trojans walked out Mercedez-Benz Superdome with the 50-30 victory, capping Troy’s first 11-win season in the Trojans’ division I FBS history.

Troy came into the game ravished with injuries, especially on offense. The Trojans were down two receivers and starting running back Jordan Chunn was available only in “emergency situations”. Junior wide out Damion Willis stepped up Troy’s first drive, however, with three receptions for 56 yards. Two of those receptions came on third down.

Trojan running back Josh Anderson finished the opening drive with a one yard plunge to put Troy up 7-0.

North Texas’ first drive didn’t last long, going three yards backwards on the first play. Quarterback Mason Fine then fumbled while being sacked by defensive lineman Jamal Stadom. Mike linebacker Sam Lebbie recovered and the Trojans took over inside the red zone.

A few quick plays later, Anderson found the end zone for the second time in six minutes. Troy head coach Neal Brown elected to go for two and Troy converted with a Silvers to John Johnson pass to give Troy the early 15-0 lead.

After the two teams traded possessions, North Texas then decided to wake up. Fine orchestrated a… fine… 11 play drive that featured two receptions by wide receiver Rico Bussey, Jr. His first came on a toe tapping 45 yard fade and his second was the drive-capping eight yard touchdown.

Troy’s Anderson, making sure Chunn doesn’t see the field, broke a 55 yard run- the third longest in New Orleans Bowl history- on the first play of the Trojans’ next drive as the first quarter ended.

To start the second quarter, wide receiver John Johnson made a first down catch that was followed by a seven yard touchdown pass to Willis. It was Willis’ sixth catch of the game and it put Troy up 22-7. Silvers was a blistering 10-10 for 107 yards in the first 17 minutes of the game.

After North Texas squandered a way an extended possession with a turnover on downs, Troy put its offense in drive once again. However, while threatening to score again, the center’s snap flew over the head of Silvers and was recovered by Colton McDonald who returned it all the way to the house for a score. The ensuing two point conversion came up short, bringing the score to 22-13 with under six minutes to go in the half.

It didn’t get any better for Silvers, who through an interception deep down the left sideline on the first play of Troy’s next possession. North Texas took over but the Troy defense held, forcing a Mean Green punt.

On the next North Texas possession, Fine hit running back Evan Johnson on fourth down for a gain of 22. That set up a 13 yard touchdown pass from Fine to receiver Michael Lawrence. That cut Troy’s lead to 22-20.

The Trojans couldn’t get past midfield before the half and the teams went into the locker room with just two points separating them.

Silvers completed 16 of 21 passes for 138 yards while his counterpart completed 13 of 23 for 146 yards in the first half. Anderson tallied 90 rushing yards in the half while North Texas had 15 rushing yards as a team.

North Texas received the ball to start the second half but apparently wanted nothing to do with it, throwing an interception on the third play of the drive.

Troy took over in solid field position and used a 24 yard pass to Willis to set up a two yard touchdown run by Silvers. The score put the Trojans up 29-20.

Troy forced North Texas into a punt and after Silvers found Willis for the 10th time, Silvers threaded the needle on a go route to Tevaris McCormick and McCormick raced his way into the end zone for a 59 yard touchdown. The Trojan lead was expanded to 36-20 with 10:28 to go in the third.

Fine was able to carve up Troy’s secondary on the next drive but a sack on third and goal forced Seth Littrell’s team to settle for a field goal. The Mean Green forced Troy into a punt on the drive and before Fine’s offense could get anywhere, safety Tyler Murray leveled Fine, knocking the ball loose and then recovered it.

Troy took over at the Mean Green 25 and made quick work of the opportunity. Silvers hit Johnson on a tunnel screen and he maneuvered his way into the end zone from 20 yards out to blow Troy’s lead out to 43-23 with 2:02 remaining in the third.

That’s where the score stayed until the fourth quarter started with North Texas driving. Coming out of the break, the Mean Green’s long drive ended abruptly with an interception by Adarius Wesley.

The teams traded possessions until Troy used a fumble recovery to set up a 10 yard touchdown pass to Willis that put the final nail in North Texas’ 10-win season hopes.

The final score in the game came on a garbage time touchdown pass from Fine to Turner Smiley with :28 seconds left in the ball game.

Silvers finished the game with 24 completions on 31 attempts for 306 yards and four touchdowns. Anderson accounted for 113 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was the senior’s first 100-yard game of his career. Willis caught a career-high 11 passes 136 yards and two touchdowns.

The Trojan defense held the Mean Green to -8 rushing yards on 25 carries and forced forced five turnovers.

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