I want to start with a few words of praise for Ian Dunaway.
Dunaway is more than just a wide receiver par excellence, the main target in Troy's resurgent passing attack. He's also a special teams maven, serving as the team's punter, punt returner, and holder for extra points and field goals. All of those facets of his game came into play tonight against Vandalia; in particular, I was impressed by two very heady plays he made on special teams. The first was an extra point attempt after Troy's second touchdown. The snap was bad, but Dunaway didn't panic, just fielded it, rolled to his right, and flipped it into the endzone for a two-point conversion. Later, when a snap sailed over his head as he stood ready to punt, he ran back to the ball, picked it up, checked to see where the defenders were, and still managed to kick the ball downfield. Other players may have panicked on either or both of those plays, and the consequences could have had serious implications on the game. The fact that Dunaway kept his head and carried the plays out really impressed me.
I was a little nervous about this game going in, having heard and read all week about the size of Vandalia's offensive line and the havoc their halfback had already wreaked so far this season. I felt like Troy was probably better overall, but knowing how they had played the past few weeks, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I knew a slow start, like they had against Fairborn and Springboro, or an inability to put away a team on the ropes, as at Beavercreek, could be disastrous.
I needn't have worried, obviously. The Trojans put together their best performance of the season and had this one well in hand pretty much from beginning to end. Vandalia's halfback did get his yards, but he had to fight much harder for them than he was used to. As for Vandalia's vaunted O-line, they were a non-factor. Troy's smaller players did what they needed to do against them; and when the outcome of the game was no longer in question, Vandalia seemed to give up. That's when it turned into a thrashing in the fourth quarter.
And since it's been a habit this year to rant a little bit in these recaps, here's what I've got this week: A game between a 5-0 team and a 4-1 team deserves a better crowd than this game had. Vandalia, which is only about twelve miles from Troy, barely brought anyone, and the partisan Trojan crowd wasn't terribly impressive either. Sure, it was a little chilly, but it was a clear night until the last two minutes of the game.
I don't know what's happened to Troy crowds in general. It used to be downright hard to get a seat at a home game. Granted, that was when Ryan Brewer was running up and down the field and the Trojans might score 70 points per game, but even before then, when I was in high school, you had to get there early. And again, in those days, the band sat in the stands and not in the endzone, so that contributed. The only thing I can really attribute it to is that we lost some fans in the lean years following Brewer's graduation, and those fans haven't come back.
On a similar note, I don't understand why Troy doesn't make a bigger deal out of Homecoming. It seems like a perfect opportunity to try to get a big crowd by inviting all the alumni back. I know they probably can't give ticket discounts or anything, but they could offer some kind of incentive, or even just promote it in some way. "Hey, come back to Troy, watch a game, see your old friends." I'm friends with Troy Schools on Facebook, and it would be the simplest thing in the world to put up something like that.
Anyway. The crowd shouldn't be an issue next week as the Trojans host their arch rivals, the Piqua Indians, in this year's edition of Ohio's most-played rivalry. Troy leads the all-time series 61-59-6 and looks to extend their current four-game win streak. The Indians are 3-3 this year after suffering a tough loss to Trotwood tonight, so they'll come in looking for a win over the Trojans to make their season. Hopefully the Trojans will come out fired up as well and play just as well as they did against the Aviators tonight.