By Kevin Eckleberry Sports Editor
August 30, 2013
They followed the script to perfection.
The Troup Tigers came into Thursday’s season opener against Redan hoping to control things with an up-tempo offense centered around the running game.
They also hoped to deliver a dominant defensive performance.
And most importantly, they wanted to begin a new season with a victory.
Check, with an exclamation mark.
In a game that was never in doubt, the Tigers delivered a fantastic all-around performance on the way to a 46-0 victory.
Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said after the game he wasn’t going to wait long before he got started breaking the game film down, and he expected to find plenty to work on.
“Like always, when you watch the film, you pick it apart,” Kendall said on the field after Friday’s game. “That’s what you have to do to get better.”
From an outsider’s perspective, though, it seems like you’d have to look long and hard to find reasons to quibble with Troup’s performance.
The offense was fantastic.
The Tigers pushed the pace, taking little time between plays, and they dominated Redan’s defense with a host of players carrying the ball behind a punishing offensive line.
The defense wasn’t too shabby, either.
Troup controlled the line of scrimmage, forcing the action into Redan’s backfield, and the visiting Raiders never came close to scoring a point.
Troup even got a nice special-teams moment, with sophomore Michael Young making a 32-yard field goal.
Running back and linebacker Daryl Dunlap called it “a total effort,” and it’s hard to argue with that.
It was just one game, and there will be much better competition down the road, but there’s no doubt it was an encouraging night for a team looking to bounce back from a 3-7 season.
“I’m real proud of them from top to bottom,” Kendall said. “They did a good job.”
One of the most positive aspects of Thursday’s game was the performance of the running backs.
Everyone knows what Dunlap, who had a remarkable junior season, can do, and he was as good as advertised against Redan.
But Troup also got strong performances from Dre Towns, Vanquez Bonner, Devonte Swanson and Cameron Russell.
With the up-tempo style the Tigers are looking to run this season, the team will need depth at running back.
“We’re trying to run a lot of different people, not just put the load on one person,” Kendall said.
Sophomore quarterback Will Smith didn’t put the ball in the air much, but when did he was effective.
Smith completed both of his pass attempts, and one of those went for a 44-yard touchdown to Quaydo Florence.
“Will did a good job running things,” Kendall said.
As good as the offense was, the defense was every bit as dynamic.
With defensive linemen Dikembe Billingslea, R.J. Hairston and Devin Power helping cave things in up front, Troup never let Redan’s offense breathe.
Even when the starters came out, the defensive reserves came in and continued to frustrate the Raiders, and they kept the shutout intact.
“It was good to get the shutout,” Kendall said. “That’s one of your defensive goals.”
It was a terrific showing, and it sets the stage for next week’s county showdown against Callaway.
Callaway was off last week after opening the season with a 34-0 victory over Heard County.
This has developed into a nice rivalry in the five years they’ve been playing, and it should be a heck of a Friday night at the stadium.
OPENING DAY: It’s not a national holiday, but perhaps it ought to be.
While there were a handful of games on Thursday, today is the unofficial opening day for college football.
While a lot of teams have the traditional cupcake opponents, there are some big-time games on tap, including tonight’s showdown between Georgia and Clemson.
Credit the Bulldogs for starting the season against an opponent of that caliber.
I like Georgia in the game, by the way.
Clemson can put up points by the boat-load, as it showed in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl against LSU last year, but I don’t think it can keep pace with Georgia.
The Bulldogs are the complete package on offense, and there may not be a team in the country that boasts a running-back tandem the caliber of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Throw in an All-American candidate in quarterback Aaron Murray, some talented receivers, and a veteran offensive line, and the Bulldogs should be able to out-score anyone, even Clemson.
Georgia’s defense has a lot of new starters, but that may not necessarily be a bad thing since the Bulldogs got gashed a lot last year.
Everyone remembers the way the SEC championship game ended with the failed play near the end zone, but Georgia’s inability to stop Alabama’s running game was the difference.
Today also marks the debut of Gus Malzahn as Auburn’s head coach, and the team will try to get things started on a positive note against Washington State.
Nick Marshall won the quarterback battle, and he’ll be tasked with running Malzahn’s fast-paced offense.
The Tigers are ready to put the miserable 2012 season behind them, and a win today would be a nice start.
Alabama also has an interesting opener today against Virginia Tech.
The Hokies have been one of the country’s most consistent programs under head coach Frank Beamer, but this one looks like a mismatch, but you never know what an opening day holds.
There are a handful of other intriguing games on tap as well.
I know I’ll be wearing out the buttons on the remote control today.
College football is back, and life is good.