Watson, Troy win Sun Belt title over Coastal Carolina, 45-26
TROY, Ala. (AP) — Gunnar Watson passed for 318 yards and three long touchdowns to lead Troy to a 45-26 victory over Coastal Carolina in the Sun Belt Conference championship game on Saturday.
The Trojans (11-2) raced ahead 31-0 in the first half en route to their Sun Belt-record seventh league title and 10th consecutive win under first-year coach Jon Sumrall. It was Troy’s first league title since 2017 and fans celebrated by storming the field and bringing down a goal post.
By the time three-time Sun Belt player of the year Grayson McCall got the offense going for Coastal Carolina (9-3), it was all but over. McCall started at quarterback after missing the past two games with a foot injury.
Watson completed 12 of 17 passes, including touchdowns of 67 yards and 36 yards to Rajae’ Johnson and a 65-yarder to Deshon Stoudemire. Watson was hit as he was throwing the 67-yarder with Johnson stretching out to grab it.
Johnson then snagged the ball one-handed to answer the Chanticleers’ second touchdown. DK Billingsley ran for three touchdowns, including a 33-yarder, for the Trojans.
Troy rebounded from a 1-2 start to the season, including losing to Appalachian State on a Hail Mary.
McCall overcame a rough start to complete 29 of 41 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns with a late interception. He also ran for an 8-yard touchdown.
McCall led touchdown drives heading into and coming out of halftime after his team started out getting outgained 316-22.
The momentum didn’t last.
T.J. Jackson then had a strip sack and fumble recovery inside Coastal Carolina’s 10 to set up a touchdown.
The stats evened out but the score never got too uncomfortable for Troy. Coastal Carolina actually ended with a 432-411 edge in total yards.
Coastal Carolina has lost two straight lopsided games, including a 47-7 defeat to James Madison. Coach Jamey Chadwell is reportedly a candidate to replace Hugh Freeze at Liberty.
Coastal Carolina: McCall and the offense took too long to get going for the Chanticleers to have a chance, but the defense struggled to bring down both Troy’s running backs and receivers in the first half. Still, the Chanticleers have won 31 games over the last three seasons.
Troy: Might have earned its second Top 25 ranking and first since 2016. The Trojans have their longest win streak since winning 11 in a row in 1995. Their six Sun Belt titles had been tied with Arkansas State.
The fumble recovery set up a drive that didn’t go far but took nearly four minutes. Troy finally scored after the eight-play, 7-yard drive was kept alive by a personal foul on a field goal.
Both teams await their bowl destinations.