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On paper, the strength of the remaining schedule for the Troy football teams looks to be paper thin.
Combine the records of the Trojans' final four regular season opponents and you have a record of 11-21. This week’s opponent, Louisiana, is 4-4. The other opponents — Army, Louisiana-Monroe and Arkansas State — are under .500.
Troy head coach Jon Sumrall cringed a little when this was brought up during his weekly media conference call on Monday.
“You don’t have to look very far in college football to see upsets happen,” said Sumrall, whose team visits Louisiana on Saturday. “I tell our team all the time. I’m pretty good about keeping them humble. I remind them, almost daily, that we’re good enough to beat anybody we play. We’re also bad enough to lose to anybody we play. In this game, you have every seven days to be promoted or exposed. There’s no such thing like, ‘We beat this team, so we beat that team,’ in college football. If you think the quantum leap of you can just press the button and move forward to get the reward or prize that you want, you will be sadly mistaken.”
Sumrall, who is in his first season as Troy’s head coach, loves his team. He really does. He’s proud of how far they’ve come as a team and happy they are sitting on top of the Sun Belt West standings. He also sees flaws and shortcomings where others might not.
“I watch us practice every day and we’re not as good as maybe some people want to make you believe,” said Sumrall, whose team is 6-2 overall and 4-1 in Sun Belt play. “I think we’ve got a quality team and I’m excited about the direction our guys are headed. I also think you can get very caught up in the positives and everybody patting you on the back. Look, I love everybody’s support and all that. The same people patting us on the back, telling us how good we’re doing, will be the same people dog-cussing us when we don’t win. For me, I have an extreme desire to keep our guys focused on what we control, what matters, how do we get better every day.”
Sumrall said his focus on Monday was the same as it is during every other practice day during the season.
"I don’t really get caught up in the middle of the year, looking up and going, ‘Hey, where are we projected to go to a bowl game or who has to win or lose to go to the conference [championship game]?’” Sumrall said. “Just do our job, get better today, win today, win tomorrow, just focus on each day, the process of getting better [and] good things happen. Just get better, that’s all that is. If we don’t get better, really fast, we’re going to be disappointed how these last four games go. We’re not good enough, I don’t care who we play, what their record [is], we will get exposed if we don’t get better really quickly. I’ve been pretty on edge and uncomfortable the last two weeks because everybody thinks we’ve done something. We haven’t done anything yet.”
Sumrall points to the offensive output – or lack thereof – during the Battle for the Belt win over South Alabama as a point of emphasis.
“To say I was disappointed in the production in that game would be an understatement,” Sumrall said. “I want to win every game we play and I’ll take a win however we can get it. We were playing a good defense, but if we think scoring 10 or 13 points is going to help us go to where we want to go, then we’re going to be really disappointed. We need to be more productive. We did not play our best football on offense and I think everybody knows it. Coaches and players alike, we’re all ready to respond.”
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