Western Kentucky played keep away, eating up yards mostly a few at a time with the clock dwindling down.
The Hilltoppers couldn't punch it in with a decisive touchdown at the end but they held onto it for nearly 5 minutes in a 31-26 victory over Troy on Thursday night.
Kawaun Jakes threw three touchdown passes, Antonio Andrews rushed for 113 yards and the Hilltoppers (5-1, 2-0 Sun Belt Conference) won their fourth consecutive game since losing at No. 1 Alabama. They have won two straight over the Trojans (3-3, 2-2) after starting 0-8-1 in the series.
Western Kentucky made sure Troy backup quarterback Deon Anthony had scant time to work with.
"We always talk about being a great team and I think that's what great teams do, find a way to win ball games," Hilltoppers coach Willie Taggart said.
Playing the second half without injured starting quarterback Corey Robinson, Troy coach Larry Blakeney had a gamble backfire in the fourth quarter.
The Trojans' Shawn Southward was stopped well short on fourth and 2 from their own 42 with more than 6 minutes to play. Andrews, who has four straight 100-yard efforts, helped Western Kentucky burn the clock down and set up Garrett Schwettman's 26-yard field goal with 1:12 left.
Blakeney said he went for it because of Western Kentucky's ball-hogging capabilities, which were on display at the end.
"If I had to do it over again, I might punt it," he said. "But you're danged if you do, danged if you don't. They're a time-consuming team and you can't let them have too many possessions. We were trying to steal one from them."
Anthony led Troy across midfield before the final drive stalled and the team fell to 0-3 at home.
Robinson didn't return after getting knocked unconscious on the final play of the first half, with the Trojans leading 17-14 after twice going ahead by 10 points. He was taken off the field sitting up in a cart after getting sacked by Bar'ee Boyd and Blakeney said he would stay overnight at Troy Regional Medical Center for observation.
"He got knocked out so we've got to take care of that," the coach said
Jakes, meanwhile, completed 21 of 31 passes for 255 yards in a battle of the Sun Belt's top two scoring defenses. Kadeem Jones ran for a 1-yard touchdown and scored on an 18-yard catch, both in the third quarter, to overcome a fast start by the Trojans.
"It wasn't our best game but we stuck it out," Jakes said. "We had to just stick together and play."
Andrews was the workhorse with 26 rushes, especially at the end.
He ran seven times on the final drive and converted a fourth-and-inches play to help the Hilltoppers play keep-away.
Anthony fired a 22-yarder to Jaquon Robinson to take Troy into Western Kentucky territory on the last drive, then had to run out of bounds and overthrew Chip Reeves on a deep ball before the personal foul call.
His final pass fell incomplete in a crowd of defenders.
The Trojans gained 374 yards, the Hilltoppers 367.
Anthony, who had mostly been used as a runner in the wildcat role, was 9-of-16 passing for 147 yards with a touchdown.
Reeves had three catches for 110 yards, including a 38-yard touchdown from Robinson.
Western Kentucky grabbed its first lead on Jones' short run to cap the opening drive of the second half. Jakes hooked up twice with Willie McNeal for 39 yards to set up the score.
The teams combined for three scores in the final 4:16 of the third.
The Trojans ran it on all but one of the first eight plays with Anthony. Then he lofted a perfect over-the-shoulder pass to Reeves for 45 yards to set up a field goal that cut Western Kentucky's lead to 22-21. Then Jakes and the big fullback Jones rose up to bring in the 18-yarder.
"That was big time, Randy Moss-type there, at 260 pounds," Taggart said. Jones caught another big pass, for 17 yards, on the final drive with the Trojans leaving him uncovered expecting the run.
Eric Thomas bobbled and then caught a 47-yard touchdown from Anthony with 4 seconds left in the quarter. The two-point pass for the tie failed.
Troy scored on an 18-play drive in the second quarter with holder Robinson hitting D.J. Taylor with a 1-yard shovel pass on the Trojans' first fake field goal since 1991.
Western Kentucky answered with a 17-play TD drive.