Not everyone understands why I spend my Fridays in the fall chasing the Troy Trojans up and down the I-75 corridor or wherever else in Ohio the schedule may take them. That was true even when I lived in Troy and most games were just across town or a short drive away; it's more true now that we live in the state capital and every game I attend involves a long and often-maddening slog across I-70 and back into the Miami Valley.
I love the action on the field, of course, but that's only part of the story. More than that, when I watch sports--and this goes for any sport, not just Troy football--I'm interested in the story, the human moments that go along with the game, the season, the moment. The best illustration I can think of for this happened several years ago when I was flipping channels and stopped for a moment on an NCAA women's basketball tournament game between Ohio State and Duke. The game was nearly over, and an Ohio State player was shooting free throws to ice the victory; as she got set, the camera flashed to Duke player Georgia Schweitzer, a senior in her final game that was about to end. She had tears streaming down her face...as she settled into her stance and got ready to play on despite them. That's always stuck with me, and that was in a game I didn't care about between two teams I didn't care about.
All of which brings us back to this year's Troy Trojans, 0-7 coming into this game and, all things considered, no particular incentive to do anything other than mail in the rest of the season. Well, no incentive beyond pride, of course--and, as it turns out, that's something these Trojans have in spades. Sure, one way or another this is going to end up as a losing season, atypical in the rich history of Troy football, but this year's crop of Trojans has played all year with a visible determination to give their opponents everything they have. On this night, that determination paid off.
These Trojans have played their asses off all year and, as I said, came into this game with an 0-7 record to show for it, due largely to a brutal schedule. So while, on an intellectual level, I couldn't agree with senior receiver Billy Smith doing a flip into the endzone after sprinting 85 yards for the Trojans' third touchdown early in the fourth quarter, earning a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct in the process, in practice I couldn't do anything but smile. The kid had pretty much just sealed his team's first win of the season. He wants to show a little joy? I can get behind that.
The Trojans just looked so solid tonight all the way around. The defense...what can I say about them? Lights out. Time after time they had to come up big to keep Sidney off the board, and time after time they did it. Even when the win was well in hand, they kept up their intensity, wanting to ensure not just the win, but the shutout. Seeing the kids celebrate and congratulate each other on the sideline as the clock wound down was another "Georgia Schweitzer moment" that will stick with me for a long time.