Troy's new quarterback keeps offense on track

Boca Raton - Troy was expected to struggle on offense this season, since they had to replace quarterback Omar Haugabook, whose running and passing had led the Trojans to the 2006 Sun Belt title and to an 8-4 season in 2007.

But sophomore Jamie Hampton won a three-way battle for the starting job, and Troy's spread offense has not slowed down much without Haugabook.

"He is a very talented quarterback and handles their offense very well," FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger said. "He is a very a accurate lefthander who throws the out to his left really good and throws to his right really good and has demonstrated against some very good competition that he can move the ball."

The Owls (1-4, 0-1 in the Sun Belt) will get to see the difference between Haugabook, who is from Belle Glade, and Hampton Tuesday at Lockhart Stadium, in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN2 beginning at 8 p.m.

"They have great personnel, a good quarterback. They are very explosive and have a lot of talent on offense," said FAU linebacker Frantz Joseph.

"It's the same team as Troy has been, still running the same style of offense. The quarterback does not run as well as Omar does, but he is a capable runner. He has been doing good so far this season," said FAU defensive back Corey Small.

Hampton has completed 63.4 percent of his passes, and is averaging 232.5 yards passing per game, with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions.

Hampton may not be as good a runner as Haugabook, but he is averaging 43.8 yards per game and has two rushing touchdowns, and his offense is averaging 441.4 yards per game in total offense.

Troy (2-2, 1-0) is averaging 32.5 points per game while holding opponents to 25.0.

GAME SIX: Troy owned the Owls until last season, going 4-0 before being upset in the regular season finale.

FAU first played Troy in 2002, the Owls second year of existence when they were a I-AA team. Troy won 21-6. Troy played at Troy again in 2004, the first year of FAU's transition from I-AA to I-A, and they lost 24-6. Troy won again in 2005, FAU's final year of transition up, by a score of 28-14, and then beat FAU in their only appearance at Lockhart 24-17 in 2006.

STATS TELL THE STORY: Owls' quarterback Rusty Smith was hoping he and the Owls would both get out of slumps last Tuesday against Middle Tennessee.

But Smith threw two interceptions and was 16-of-27 for 210 yards and without a passing touchdown for the third straight game.

Smith's statistics reflect his struggles, as he is ranked 102nd in the Football Bowl Subdivision with a quarterback rating of 104.54 and his 48.1 percent completion rate has him at 110th.

"There are a lot of things you can try and put your finger on but you can't really say that. Things obviously going through your mind that you think are the reason," said Smith, who has seven interceptions, and six in the last two games, after throwing nine in 13 games last season.

The 14-13 loss to MTSU means the Owls (1-4, 0-1) will probably need to win their remaining six conference games to repeat as Sun Belt champions, and that means beating Troy on Tuesday.

"We have to forget about the first half of the season and get with the program right now," Smith said.