No. 5 Towson sets sight on Holy Cross
Last week, Towson shocked the UConn Huskies at Rentschler Field and gave the school its first ever football win over an FBS opponent. The 33-18 win launched the Tigers up to the No. 5 ranking in The Sports Network’s weekly poll.
Looking for an encore performance, Towson will travel to Worcester, Ma. to face the Holy Cross Crusaders on Saturday. The game is the Crusaders’ home opener, coming off a loss to Bryant on Aug. 31.
Towson’s stock may be rising in the field of NCAA football, but Head Coach Rob Ambrose said it is up to his team to focus on every game and avoid a letdown.
“I would hope that in our opinion, this is just another opponent,” Ambrose said. “It has to come from the leadership in the locker room, they have to stay focused on what it is that got us where we are now which is hard work, teamwork, and staying together as a family.”
The Tigers showcased a run-heavy game plan in the game against UConn, rushing 50 times to just 20 pass attempts.
Ambrose said he expects this game plan to feature both the passing game and rushing game equally.
“We’ll mix up the game plan and we will go into the game trying to be even,” Ambrose said. “We will do whatever it takes offensively to put our kids in the best position to win the football game.”
Senior quarterback Peter Athens, who went 13-for-20 for 192 yards in his first start of the season, will face a defense that allowed 323 passing yards against Bryant.
That number was good for 93rd out of 102 FCS teams in pass yards allowed.
Offensively for the Crusaders, the team racked up 229.7 passing yards per game last season. However, their rushing totals were suspect; being outrushed by over 75 yards a game.
Holy Cross’s offensive line was tested against Bryant’s defense, which got to quarterback Steven Edler six times. The offensive line may have been a factor in the lack of rushing totals for the team as well.
The Crusaders’ rushing attack will be lining up against a Tiger defense that held the Huskies to 81 yards rushing with three yards per rush.
The Tigers allowed 1,528 yards on the ground last season, over 1,000 less than they gained in 2012.
In contrast, Towson’s rush offense was very effective in its win over UConn. Junior running back Terrance West highlighted the performance with 156 yards rushing and two touchdowns.
West, the reigning Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Week, totaled 1,046 yards and 14 touchdowns rushing last year.
The Tigers depth at running back was evident in their first game, as senior running back Sterlin Phifer found the end zone twice as well.
“The best running back is a fresh running back,” Ambrose said. “It’s nice when your All-American steps off the field, he’s filled in by a guy who is the same caliber who just doesn’t get as many carries.”
Backed by its offensive line, Towson will face a Holy Cross defensive that includes linebacker Ramon Sandoval, who had seven tackles against Bryant.
Defensive back Sam Jones, who had one sack and three tackles for a loss in the game, could also be troublesome to the Tigers’ offensive line.
However, Ambrose said he is confident that his offensive line can stand their ground and help open the rush attack.
“[The offensive line] is a very mature group; they’ve been to war many times,” Ambrose said. “They did a great job in the UConn game and it is just a question of whether they can maintain the same level of discipline and focus.”
After the first win over an FBS opponent in school history, Towson will set its sights on Holy Cross, hoping for the same combination of offense and defense that defeated UConn.
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is set for 1:00 p.m.