By David Fong
VANDALIA — One of the biggest question marks surrounding the Troy football team in the preseason was its offensive line.
That question mark quickly is becoming an exclamation point.
Troy’s offensive line turned in yet another stellar game Friday against Butler, clearing the way for running back Jaydon Culp-Bishop, who had 23 carries for 229 yards and three touchdowns, surpassing the 1,000-yard mark for the second year in a row in the process.
Through seven games this season, Troy’s offensive line has been a big part of the reason why the Trojans are second in the 20-team Greater Western Ohio Conference in total offense (380.0 yards per game) and third in scoring offense (34.7 points per game).
Culp-Bishop leads the GWOC in rushing with 141 carries for 1,203 yards and 19 touchdowns, while quarterback Brayden Siler is sixth in passing, having completed 74 of 111 passes for 1,111 yards, with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“The biggest thing we’ve seen out of those guys is their consistent improvement weekly,” Troy coach Matt Burgbacher said. “That’s a position where you really don’t want to mess with things too much if you don’t have to. You want them to be able to gel. There’s so much communication that goes on between those guys that people don’t see.
“They have continued to get better and more confident every week. If you are going to have a good football team, you have to have a good offensive line. You can see what a close-knit group of guys they are becoming. We try not to mess too much with that camaraderie.”
Troy’s play along the offensive line is all the more impressive considering it returned just one starter, left tackle Nathan Garber, from last season. Senior right tackle Jesse Westmeyer, senior right guard Marshall Brueckman, center Riley Hubbard and sophomores Jakob Moorman and Ethan Freed — who have been sharing time at left guard of late — all had limited varsity or no varsity playing time at all coming into the season.
“Jesse Westmeyer has been great this year at right tackle,” Burgbacher said. “He came in this year having only played a handful of downs because of injuries the past two years. Marshall Brueckman is a kid who hasn’t gotten but a handful of snaps the past few years. He may be undersized, but he makes up for it in a lot of other ways.
“Riley Hubbard was a junior varsity guard last year who came in and took over the center job. He’s the kind of kid who flies under the radar sometimes because he doesn’t make mistakes. Sometimes we wonder if Riley was there at practice, because we can’t talk to him about any mistakes. At left guard, we’ve got those two young guys who both playing well. Then with Garber, we’ve got a kid who has given us exactly what we thought he would. He’s done a great job for us.”
Troy’s defense spent nearly as much time in the Butler backfield as Aviator quarterback Mason Motter Friday.
The swarming Trojan defense recorded season-highs in both sacks (7.5) and quarterback hurries (seven) against the Aviators. Leading the way was outside linebacker Sam Jackson, who recorded three sacks and three hurries. He also led the team with 13 tackles.
Defensive defensive tackle Garrett Jones finished with 2.5 sacks and nine tackles. Inside linebacker Blake Burton had half a sack, one quarterback hurry, one blocked punt that led to a Trojan touchdown, one forced fumble that led to a second touchdown and 11 tackles. Inside linebacker Shane Shoop had one sack, two hurries and nine tackles. Defensive tackle Austan Good had half a sack and a career-high 10 tackles. Noseguard Adam DeCerbo had half a sack.
“Our defense did a good job of coming after them,” Burgbacher said. “They were aggressive all night.”
Not only is Culp-Bishop now just the ninth back in Troy history to rush for 1,000 yards in multiple seasons — joining Ryan Brewer, Matt Dallman, Bob Ferguson, Gordon Bell, Tommy Vaughn, Larry Giangulio, Deon Metz and Brad Clay — he’s also just the second back to hit the 1,000-mark twice in the same season in which Troy also had a 1,000-yard passer.
In 1959, Vaughn rushed for 1,130 yards and Tommy Myers passed for 1,963 yards. In 1960, Vaughn rushed for 1,117, while Myers passed for 2,009.
This year, Culp-Bishop and Siler already have topped the 1,000-yard mark. Last year, Culp-Bishop rushed for more than 1,500 yards, while Sam Coleman threw for more than 1,000.
Contact David Fong at firstname.lastname@example.org; follow him on Twitter @thefong