Troy 31, Middle Tennessee 7
TROY, Ala. (AP)The Troy Trojans made an early statement in the Sun Belt Conference, beating up on a rival that had two notable nonconference upsets.
Levi Brown passed for 191 yards, and Dantavious Parker ran for two touchdowns out of the Wildcat formation to lead the Trojans to a 31-7 victory over Middle Tennessee on Tuesday night.
"Any time we beat Middle Tennessee, it's a big win," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "They are a good team, and they will have something to say about the league championship. It won't be in this game, though."
The Trojans (3-2, 2-0) have won four straight over their league rival, retaining the Palladium Trophy awarded to the winner since 2004.
The Blue Raiders (3-2, 1-1) had looked like potential challengers to the three-time defending league champions after upsets over Memphis and Maryland, but an offense directed by former Troy and Auburn coordinator Tony Franklin couldn't sustain drives.
"I think it's a big one," said Brown, who was 18-of-30 passing and had a 52-yard touchdown throw to Chip Reeves late in the first half. "They were 3-1, with a win over an ACC team and a Conference USA team."
Parker gained 83 yards on six carries off direct snaps.
Middle Tennessee's workhorse quarterback Dwight Dasher got going late, and had 245 yards passing and 53 rushing.
Dasher, who leads the nation in offensive touches, was 6-of-21 passing in the first half. He finished 24 of 44 through the air and had 18 carries.
"We did a good job of getting to him early," Blakeney said. "Dasher is a guy that scares you to death. It was just a great defensive effort."
Troy racked up 455 yards, including 264 on the ground. Maurice Greer, a former University of Colorado signee who overcame testicular cancer, rushed for 80 yards on Troy's final drive. It was halted when the Trojans let the clock run down. He had only 24 yards in the first four games.
Parker put the Trojans up 21-0 with a 1-yard touchdown run off a direct snap to cap the opening drive of the second half. He also raced 46 yards to the Middle Tennessee 2 to set up the score.
Parker scored on a 28-yard scamper on the opening play of the fourth quarter, as he predicted.
"He called it," Brown said. "Before he went in the game he said, 'Levi, you're not even going to have to come back out here this drive. I'm scoring this play.' And he did it."
Middle Tennessee's first big drive ended when Dasher was swarmed for no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 2, stopping the 13-play, 86-yard drive.
The Blue Raiders followed that with Dasher's 35-yard touchdown pass to Tavarres Jefferson late in the third quarter for their only points.
"Our whole offense is about getting into a rhythm," Jefferson said. "All night we couldn't get into a rhythm. The whole thing was frustrating."
The onside kick attempt failed, ending any chance of a comeback. Parker answered a minute later.
Franklin's offense was 4-of-17 on third-down attempts and 0-for-2 on fourth down. Middle Tennessee punted 11 times.
The Trojans took a 14-0 lead into halftime with a big pass and a career milestone.
Brown hit a wide-open Reeves streaking down the left sideline with 20 seconds left in the half to cap an 80-yard drive that began with 2:38 remaining.
"That was huge," Brown said. "It gave us all the momentum going into the half. We had kind of struggled a little bit on offense and that gave us a boost."
Troy freshman Shawn Southward had scored his first career touchdown on a 7-yard run in the first quarter.
Middle Tennessee's best scoring chance of the half ended with a hook-and-ladder on the final play down to the Troy 20.
"If you take all the missed plays in the first half, then there are a lot of yards," Blue Raiders coach Rick Stockstill said. "We just had to make some plays."