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Troy pours on 34 points in 4th quarter, blows past ASU for Sun Belt West crown

by Mitchell Gladstone | November 27, 2022 at 2:32 a.m.

JONESBORO -- James Blackman took off on a dead sprint, diagonally crossing the field as he tried to track down Reddy Steward.

As soon as Steward reached the end zone, the Troy cornerback wheeled off toward the Trojans' bench, celebrating his 67-yard interception return touchdown.

Blackman, a few yards behind him, shook his head. The Arkansas State quarterback slumped his shoulders, trudging back to the Red Wolves' bench from the southwest corner of Centennial Bank Stadium.

Steward's pick-six was part of 34 unanswered Troy points, all in the fourth quarter, as the Trojans bulldozed ASU in the final 15 minutes Saturday afternoon, running away with a 48-19 win and clinching the Sun Belt Conference West Division title. Troy ran 51 times for 268 yards -- 110 of them in the fourth quarter -- with tailback Kimani Vidal racking up 208 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.

The Red Wolves led 13-7 at halftime and 19-14 after three quarters, but Vidal found the end zone on the opening play of the fourth and the Trojans never trailed again.

"Our margin of error with our football [team] is very small. That's just where we're at," ASU Coach Butch Jones said. "It's gut-wrenching. ... We've developed a mindset to close games out and [this team] lost four games with a lead at halftime."

For a few minutes, it appeared as if the Red Wolves had yet another answer for Troy (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt). After the Trojans went 94 yards on 10 plays to retake the lead at 14-13 in the third quarter, ASU drove 70 yards in a little more than three minutes, capping the eight-play series with a 1-yard pass from A.J. Mayer to Reed Tyler -- a failed two-point try put the Red Wolves up 19-14.

But a 56-yard pass on the last snap of the third quarter took Troy to the ASU 7-yard line.

And in a matter of six plays from scrimmage and 127 seconds, the Trojans were in full control.

"I knew the coverage they were going to," Blackman said of his momentum-swinging interception. "The cornerback ...didn't get into his zone. He took a couple of steps back like he was going to bail and then just read and broke on the ball.

"It's plays like that that cost you the game."

The Red Wolves' next three drives ended in a punt, turnover on downs and an interception, while Troy poured it on with three more touchdowns -- two of them by Vidal.

As much as the Trojans made Blackman rue his error, ASU (3-9, 1-7) blew several earlier opportunities.

Samy Johnson intercepted Troy quarterback Gunnar Watson on the game's third play, taking it back 69 yards before being hauled down at the Trojans' 2. The Red Wolves went backward on their next three plays, kicking a 20-yard field goal to go up 3-0.

ASU also couldn't score with first and goal from the Troy 4 early in the second quarter, and after a Kivon Bennett strip-sack set up the Red Wolves for a go-ahead touchdown just before halftime, ASU couldn't extend its advantage further despite getting the ball to start the third quarter.

Eight times in 2022 the Red Wolves led in the fourth quarter. They won just three of those games, failing to reach a bowl game for the third time in as many seasons.

"Truth be told, we have too many players playing too many plays," Jones said. "When you play a physical team like Troy who's a championship-caliber team, when you don't have the depth, especially in the lines of scrimmage, it takes a toll on you."

Print Headline: ASU melts down in fourth quarter

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