AD defends Troy's Blakeney after 0-3 start

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Troy Trojans are off to such a rough start that athletic director John Hartwell felt compelled to speak in defense of longtime coach Larry Blakeney this week.

The Trojans are 0-3 for the first time since 1982 and getting ready to face No. 13 Georgia on Saturday. It's a huge step up from Championship Subdivision's Abilene Christian, which rallied from a two-touchdown deficit to beat Troy 38-35 Saturday night. It was that program's first win over an FBS-level team since a victory over UTEP in 1959.

Hartwell spoke out after receiving "a barrage of emails and texts and Twitter messages" from disgruntled fans. He also said he had lengthy discussions with Blakeney on Sunday. The next day he said he had "full confidence" in his coach after Blakeney's weekly news conference.

"Larry didn't all of a sudden forget how to coach overnight," Hartwell said. "I mean, the guy has won a whole bunch of football games, and the guys on his staff have helped him win a bunch of football games. And we've got some very talented young men playing on our football team. Those guys are hurting, too. And it's not a time to say woe is me and I don't have this and I don't have that."

Blakeney is in his 24th season at Troy, where he led the Trojans to at least a share of five consecutive Sun Belt Conference championships. Since the last title in 2010, the Trojans have gone 14-25.

Only Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, in his 28th season, has been at his current program longer.

The Trojans haven't started 0-3 since losing their first seven games in Charlie Bradshaw's final season as coach 32 years ago.

The loss to Abilene Christian was a low point.

"I'm not an excuse guy," said Blakeney, a former Auburn quarterback who is 175-107-1 at Troy. "If you want an excuse, you probably need to go somewhere else. All I know is I'm not happy. The kids are not happy. No one that cares about Troy is happy. That is something we have to deal with and move forward and try to rectify.

"The team we're playing this week is probably not a team you want to think about rectifying."

Blakeney's contract runs through next season. The coach, who turns 67 on Sunday, has presided over Troy's rise from Division II to FCS and finally to college football's highest level in 2001.

His next win will tie him with Auburn's Ralph "Shug" Jordan as the third-winningest coach in state history, behind Tuskegee's Cleve Abbott (203) and Alabama's Paul "Bear" Bryant (223).

A two-time Sun Belt coach of the year, Blakeney's teams have been on the opposite end of the upset specials, with victories over Mississippi State, Missouri and Oklahoma State during his tenure.

Hartwell said it's not a time "to start pointing fingers or to look at external factors."

"What we're doing is working to get better and win on a consistent basis as opposed to being divided and say, 'If you don't do this I'm pulling my support or not buying season tickets or anything like this," said Hartwell, in his third year as Troy's athletic director. "I have full confidence in Larry Blakeney."

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