Tigers make history at UConn
History was made in East Hartford, Conn. on Thursday night, as the underdog Towson Tigers defeated the University of Connecticut Huskies 33-18.
The season-opening win for Towson is the school’s first ever win over an FBS opponent.
“I’m sure when this is all said and done, this will be one of the hallmark wins in the history of the program,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “This just puts us one step closer to our goal.
We found out the hard way a year ago that you need a finite number of wins to get past the political committee to allow you to make the playoffs.”
Propelled by a dominant performance on both sides of the ball, the Tigers were able to take a 13-7 lead in the second quarter and never looked back.
Junior running back Terrance West led the way for the Tigers’ offense, amassing 156 rushing yards on 36 attempts. West also found the end zone twice, including a game-sealing five-yard touchdown run in the game’s final minute.
The Towson defense opened up the game with a few miscommunications in the back end of the secondary, which led to UConn striking first with a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Chandler Whitmer to wide receiver Shakim Phillips.
From that point on, however, the defense as a whole was able to defend the balanced UConn offense with ease, holding Whitmer to just 206 yards on 28 attempts, sacking him five times.
The stifling defensive performance for Towson was guided by senior linebacker Telvion Clark, who led the team with 13 tackles and also added a sack.
“He has always been talented, but he really has not just shown himself to shine on that higher level,” Ambrose said. “But [Thursday] night was a big step-up night for him. He’s really matured. He’s somebody that people are going to pay attention to moving forward.”
On offense, the new-look group – led by senior quarterback Peter Athens – had some uncertainty leading up to the game, but Athens’ poise behind the run-based offense proved to be enough to maintain the lead.
The Tigers’ offense was predicated on runs by West and senior running back Sterlin Phifer, who combined for 44 attempts and 195 yards on the ground.
“None of that is getting done without an offensive line,” Ambrose said. “That speaks well to both of their talents, but also the commitment and experience of the offensive line.”
The efficiency of Towson’s run game allowed Athens to bide time in the pocket on passing downs, completing 13-of-20 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown.
Athens connected with senior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins five times, and senior Leon Kinnard led the Tigers with 61 receiving yards.
Kinnard, like Ambrose, was a past member of the UConn football program.
“He managed the game extremely well,” Ambrose said of Athens. “Helped us convert on third down, keep the ball in our hands and keep our defense off the field.”
An early interception thrown by Athens stalled a possible scoring drive, however he was able to bounce back and play a clean remainder of the game.
“For some guys, without the experience, without the confidence, it would have rattled him, but it didn’t bother him a bit,” Ambrose said.
While the historic win was the end result for the Tigers, struggles on special teams were present throughout the game.
Senior kicker D.J. Soven missed two extra-point attempts.
“I think everybody, myself included, is disappointed in what did and did not happen,” Ambrose said. “We scored enough points on offense that we did not have to be concerned with two missed extra points. Moving forward, we’re going to have to do something, whether those guys are going to get better, or we may have to change up some parts.”
The Tigers return to action on Saturday, Sept. 7 as they travel to Worcester, Mass., to take on Holy Cross.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m.