September 20, 2013 11:36:57 AM
STARKVILLE -- What a difference a year makes.
Last year, Troy was a double-digit underdog that scared Mississippi State in a second-half run before falling 30-24. At 6:30 p.m. Saturday (Fox Sports South), Troy won't be the plucky underdog looking for attention. The Trojans know they have it.
"We're not breaking any records here winning games (against Bowl Championship Series schools), but we have been competitive in a lot of those games," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said. "And we've won a few of them."
Troy (1-2) will have many of its key offensive players for MSU, including senior quarterback Corey Robinson, the NCAA's active leader in passing yards (11,128) and completions (971). Before arriving at Troy, the 6-foot-1 quarterback set a national high school record with 91 touchdown passes at Lone Oak High School in Paducah, Ky.
"Corey is a very smart football player," Blakeney said. "He is much better than he was as a youngster. He's always been able to throw it, but he has a lot more knowledge. In the quarterback position, you get a lot more criticism and a lot more praise either way."
Robinson moved into second place in career passing touchdowns with 68, trailing Florida Atlantic's Rusty Smith (76). Robinson also is used to having success against MSU. He was 32 of 46 for 343 yards last year while attacking Johnthan Banks and Darius Slay, who went on to be NFL second-round drafts, in the secondary. Robinson's second-half success was a part of Troy's 572 total yards, the third-most given up by a MSU defense under coach Dan Mullen.
"You want to try to get pressure on him," Mullen said. "He gets rid of it quick and he knows exactly where he's going with the ball. If you want to spread him out all over the place, they're going to run the ball. They were able to do that last year when we wanted to start defending the pass."
The speed and tempo of Troy's offense caused problems for MSU last year, but defensive coordinator Geoff Collins' defensive held that the same philosophy in check for three quarters last week at Auburn. The defense had success thanks in part to three sacks and four tackles for loss.
"Last year, that wasn't a fun feeling for us," Collins said. "The kids remember that, and we don't have to sell them on what this Troy football team can do."
In a 34-31 overtime win over in-state rival Alabama-Birmingham two weeks ago, Robinson set a Football Bowl Subdivision record for completion percentage in a game after going 30 of 32 for 319 yards and one touchdown. His completion percentage of 93.8 broke Steve Sarkisian's record of 91.2 percent set in 1995 at BYU.
"(Mississippi State) knows we have some players, and if we take care of ourselves, we'll be fine Saturday," Robinson said. "As long as we take care of the football, we know we can compete."
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.