Photos |  Submitted

At first glance it appears Troy University will enjoy quite a “home field” advantage when the Trojans face the University at Buffalo in the Dollar General Bowl on Saturday. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, and the game will be nationally televised on ESPN.

The Bulls’ campus is located more than 1,150 miles from Mobile Bay. This is a greater difference than even previous Mid-American Conference (MAC) representatives Northern Illinois (987 miles) and Toledo (919).

Troy, on the other hand, is just down the road in Alabama’s Pike County. The Trojans are an opponent familiar to University of South Alabama fans, as the teams meet each year for the “Battle of the Belt” football game. With regard to bowl action, Troy has previously played in Mobile twice: losing to Central Michigan 44-41 during double overtime in 2010 and beating Ohio 28-23 in 2016.

“We are excited to be celebrating our 20th year and what better way to do so than by pairing up two standout teams to square off here in Mobile,” Dollar General Bowl President Jerry Silverstein said.

Troy University

The Trojans finished the regular season 9-3 overall (including a win at Nebraska) and 7-1 in Sun Belt Conference action. They are led by Neal Brown, who at 38 is the sixth-youngest head coach in the Football Bowl Subdivision. During his tenure he has directed the Trojans to a Sun Belt championship, two bowl victories, the nation’s best turnaround and the first Top 25 ranking in school and Sun Belt history.

“We are excited about our third straight bowl appearance and returning to the Dollar General Bowl,” Troy Director of Athletics Jeremy McClain said. “The bowl staff and the city of Mobile roll out the welcome mat as well as anyone in the country during bowl season. The Dollar General Bowl is a first-class event for not only our football players and staff but also for the fans, and we anticipate another strong contingent of Troy faithful visiting Mobile … to help cheer on the Trojans to our fourth straight bowl win.”

In 2018, the Trojans finished second in the Sun Belt in scoring and rushing defense, while leading the conference with 17 interceptions for 304 yards. Troy collected the most all-Sun Belt selections with 23, headlined by seven first-team honors.

B.J. Smith leads the conference in rushing with 1,093 yards and 12 touchdowns. Joining him on the first-team unit are wide receiver Damion Willis, offensive lineman Kirk Kelley, defensive lineman Trevon Sanders, linebacker Hunter Reese, defensive back Cedarius Rookard and kick returner Marcus Jones.

University at Buffalo

The Bulls (10-3 overall, 7-1 MAC) will be making their first appearance in the Dollar General Bowl. Lance Leipold, this year’s MAC Coach of the Year, is in his fourth season with Buffalo and has led the program to its first 10-win season and first appearance in the MAC Championship game since 2008. Buffalo is the largest campus in the State University of New York system.

“On behalf of our president, Dr. Satish Tripathi, and the University at Buffalo, we’re very honored and excited to represent the Mid-American Conference in the 20th Dollar General Bowl in Mobile, Alabama,” said Buffalo Athletic Director Mark Alnutt. “It has been a historic season for the University at Buffalo football program and we have an opportunity to continue to build upon this season by playing in a bowl game that is known for providing a first-class experience for its participants.”

Buffalo ranked second in the MAC in total defense and interceptions (14 for 94 yards). Tyree Jackson, who was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, is the first quarterback in school history to earn All-MAC honors, throwing for 2,857 yards and 27 touchdowns.

Running back Jaret Patterson was selected as the MAC Freshman of the Year. He led Buffalo and ranked fifth in the MAC with 874 yards rushing; his 12 touchdowns were tied for third in the league.

Buffalo and Ohio led the way with six first-team MAC selections, while the Bulls had 11 players overall honored by the conference. Named to the first-team for a second year are wide receiver Anthony Johnson and inside linebacker Khalil Hodge. Honored for the initial time are offensive linemen James O’Hagan, tight end Tyler Mabry and defensive lineman Chuck Harris.

Event schedule

The teams arrived on Tuesday. On Wednesday, players and coaches from both teams will visit children and present Christmas gifts to patients at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. A team bowling challenge will follow that night at Eastern Shore Lanes. Chick-Fil-A will host a team luncheon Thursday at the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park.

On Friday, the Mayor’s Luncheon presented by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians will feature former Ole Miss and New Orleans Saints quarterback Archie Manning as the keynote speaker. Last month, the Southeastern Conference named Manning as winner of the Michael L. Slive Distinguished Service Award for his impact on the league. During the banquet, the Dollar General Bowl will present “Champions of Life,” an honor given to individuals who have achieved great success. The luncheon is set for noon at the Mobile Convention Center. Tickets for the event cost $30.

Later that night, the “This is Alabama Street Party” begins at 5 p.m. in Mardi Gras Park. The event will feature a DJ, a visit by Santa Claus, games and other activities.

The Greer’s/This is Alabama Mardi Gras Parade will begin at 6:30 p.m. This is a favorite event for both visitors and locals, who come out to see the college marching bands and cheerleaders join 24 area Carnival associations as their floats take over the streets of downtown Mobile. 

Following the parade, a pep rally for both teams will take place in Mardi Gras Park. Festivities conclude with the Spectronics Fireworks Display.

Dollar General Bowl game and event tickets can be purchased online at DollarGeneralBowl.com/tickets or by calling the Dollar General Bowl office at 251-635-0011. Game tickets cost $45 for sideline seats and $15 for general admission.