Kentucky native Neal Brown has a taste for the big stage.
The Troy University head football coach, known to most in the Bluegrass as a former University of Kentucky player and assistant coach, led his team into the home of one of college football’s most tradition-rich programs for the second year in a row on Saturday.
And for the second year in a row, Brown’s Trojans left with an upset victory.
Troy, from the Sun Belt Conference, defeated Nebraska, from the Big Ten, 24-19 at Lincoln, Neb., on Saturday. That stunner came a little less than a year after the Trojans knocked off then-No. 22-ranked LSU 24-21 at Baton Rouge, La..
Troy improved to 2-1 on the season. Nebraska fell to 0-2.
Brown, who grew up in Bardstown before moving to Danville, was an all-state wide receiver at Boyle County High School. He played at Kentucky from 1998-2000 and was a two-year letterman, catching 10 passes, including one for a touchdown. He was a member of UK’s Outback Bowl and Music City Bowl teams and was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll before transferring to Massachusetts.
Brown returned to UK in 2013 as Mark Stoops’ first offensive coordinator. He left after two seasons to take the head coaching job at Troy.
Brown is 40-26 in his fourth season at Troy, where his teams have finished 10-3 and 11-2 the past two seasons. In 2016, Troy defeated Ohio in the Dollar General Bowl. Last season, the Trojans topped North Texas in the New Orleans Bowl.
Brown signed a four-year contract extension with Troy after the 2016 season. His athletic director, Jeremy McClain, expressed a clear understanding at the time of what he had in Brown.
“We are trying to keep Brown and his staff here as long as possible,” McClain told the Troy Messenger. “Coach Brown’s leadership has been crucial to turning this thing around.”
In Saturday’s win, B.J. Smith scored on a 26-yard run midway through the fourth quarter and Will Sunderland made an interception in the final three minutes, giving Troy the cushion it needed to beat Nebraska and deny new Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost his first win.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.