NEW ORLEANS — Troy coach Neal Brown talked in the days leading up to the Trojans' game against North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl about just how much faith he had in his team's defensive front.
Defensive tackle Jamal Stadom and the Trojans showed that confidence was more than justified on Saturday at the Superdome.
Troy's defense dominated the line of scrimmage and pummeled quarterback Mason Fine in a 50-30 win. The final score didn't come close to explaining how the Trojans defensive front controlled the game.
Troy finished with 6 sacks, 11 tackles for loss, forced four fumbles and recovered three of them. UNT actually finished the game with minus 8 yards rushing once sacks were taken into account.
Those totals would have been even higher if it hadn't have been for some fancy footwork from Fine, who escaped on several occasions to either throw the ball away or pick up the few yards that were available.
"They got us out of rhythm and have a lot of great players on their defensive line," Fine said. "You have to give Troy credit. They did a great job of stopping the run."
UNT was without running back Jeffery Wilson, who was out with a foot injury. Backup Nic Smith also was limited due to a groin strain.
Those injuries didn't help UNT's cause.
Even though that was the case, UNT coach Seth Littrell and his players were quick to give Troy credit rather than blame their struggles on being hampered with injuries at the end of the season.
The Trojans came into the game tied for 12th nationally with an average of three sacks per game. Troy's best defensive players spent a whole lot of time in the backfield and hit Fine over and over.
"Mason took a lot of shots and kept getting up," Littrell said. "That is who he is. He has done everything we have asked and isn't going to quit. If he can go, he is going to play."
Troy's defense set the tone right away. The Trojans already were up 7-0 when UNT came out for its first possession.
Safety Andre Flakes threw running back Andrew Tucker for a 3-yard loss on the Mean Green's second offensive play. Stadom came crashing through UNT's line on the next play, grabbed Fine for Troy's first sack of the night and forced a fumble in the process.
Troy recovered and scored three plays later.
"We kept getting after their quarterback," Stadom said. "I told him after the game that he was tough."
Troy came after Fine from every direction possible. It wasn't just Stadom. Six different players accounted for Troy's six sacks.
Those weapons made Troy one of the top teams in the country when it came to making plays defensively. The Trojans came into the day ranked fifth nationally with an average of 8.4 tackles for loss per game.
That total was the reason Brown was confident his defensive line could give UNT problems in the New Orleans Bowl.
Brown turned out to be right on a day Fine was battered and bruised by the Trojans' defense.