Ah, sweet victory.
First off, this is the last time I'm working a full day on a Troy-Piqua gameday. This was probably the first time I've kept a full schedule since I was in high school - for the past several years, I've taken off the whole day or at least the afternoon from work, and when I was in college I certainly wasn't adverse to blowing off classes for the day. Today I didn't do that, and it was the longest day of my life.
Now, in previous seasons, I took time off at least in part so I could get to the stadium early in order to ensure myself a good seat. That was especially important when Piqua played their games at Wertz Stadium in downtown Piqua, where the visitor's stands were small and there was absolutely nowhere to park. Since they've moved into Alexander Stadium, where seats and parking are much more plentiful, it's less of an issue; and with both teams struggling a bit this season, I didn't think getting there early was as much of a priority. I still got there before 6:00 for a 7:30 kickoff, which granted me a prime spot on the 50-yard line with no problem. At any rate, it seemed like everyone else had the same idea I did - it was a late-arriving crowd, but the place was pretty packed by the time kickoff rolled around.
Once the game started, it was good to see the Trojans return to the form they showed in their first three games. I told my friend Amy early on, when the score was tied 7-7, that we were going to win. It was just that kind of game. Piqua was able to keep it close for a while, but from the way the Trojans were playing, I never really felt like the outcome was in doubt. Piqua's defense was loading up to stop the run, and it didn't even matter - Troy's O-line completely dominated them, and Matt Allen ran like a man. He found holes, trucked guys over, dragged them down the field, or simply blew past them. He was phenomenal, rushing for 286 yards and 5 TDs. The Trojans were so good early in the season due in part to their offensive balance, but on this night it wasn't necessary. Tyler Wright and the receivers, and fullback Chris Basil, were good when called upon and did enough with the ball to complement Allen's performance, but the Trojans didn't have to rely on them.
As good as the offense was, the defense was just as good, the 28 points Piqua put on the board notwithstanding. Personally, I thought Piqua's first three TDs should have been called back for penalties (2 holding and 1 offensive pass interference), and their last one was tallied when the game was already decided. The Trojans rendered Piqua's running game virtually nonexistent, and their quarterback was frequently running for his life. Troy also collected three turnovers, which are huge in an emotional game like this one. All in all, I'd say the Trojan defense played as well as they have all season.
There are few things more satisfying than witnessing such a convincing smackdown over one's rivals. And really, what a rivalry this is - after 124 meetings (dating back to 1899), the series record now stands even at 59-59-6. How amazing is that? Also, the win granted the Trojans the first rights to the Traditions Trophy, a traveling trophy instituted for the newly named "Battle of the Miami" just this year. Maybe it's me, but I think this game is better off without stuff like that. A name and a trophy can't possibly add anything to the rivalry that wasn't already there. It's about pride, bragging rights, and guys from two proud, storied programs going at each other for four quarters. And really, that's enough.
So now, hard as it is to believe, 90% of the season is in the books. The Trojans stand at 5-4 with one game left to go. They're out of the playoff race, and they have just an outside shot at sharing the GWOC North title, but the season is a success on some level no matter what else happens by virtue of the win over Piqua. Still, the Trojans take the field next week looking to finish with a winning record. Standing in their way will be the Sidney Yellowjackets (3-6). It'll be senior night at Troy Memorial Stadium, and hopefully the Trojans will be able to maintain their form and send their seniors out with a bang.