Towson gets off to best start since 2006 with victory over N.C. Central
Towson matched its best start since 2006 and kept an eight-game win streak alive with a 35-17 win over the North Carolina Central Eagles in Durham, N.C. on Saturday.
Looking for an encore performance after tying a school record with five rushing touchdowns last week, junior running back Terrance West fought off a bad start to tally 139 yards rushing and two touchdowns. He moved his touchdown total to 11 on the season.
The Tigers’ defense came out of the gates strong, allowing the Eagles only six yards on their first drive. After a first down, senior linebacker Monte Gaddis sacked Eagles’ quarterback Jordan Reid for a loss of eight yards on third down, forcing them to punt.
The Tigers’ defense put pressure on the Eagles’ offensive line all game, sacking Reid six times. Reid and company were also held to just two yards rushing in the game.
“I would like to say that we put pressure on [Reid] and that’s the reason we were successful,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “But we played really great coverage behind it. The combination of us up front and the back seven created havoc.”
Towson was forced to punt on its first drive, despite an 11-yard first down run by senior quarterback Peter Athens and a completion to senior wide receiver Leon Kinnard for 15 yards. Kinnard caught a game-high seven passes, racking up 102 yards along the way.
After the teams traded punts again, NCCU started at its 49-yard line and got the first scoring chance well into the second quarter. Reid took the offense 30 yards to the Towson 21-yard line, but kicker Oleg Parent missed a 38-yard field goal attempt, keeping the score knotted at 0-0.
Starting on his own 24-yard line with 11:17 left in the first half, West pushed Towson to the NCCU nine-yard line, where Athens found senior tight end James Oboh on a play-action fake for the first touchdown of the game.
The Tigers took the momentum and forced another Eagles punt, but the kick bounced off of senior defensive back Ryan Mays and was recovered by the Eagles.
It took just two plays for NCCU to tie the game up. Reid completed the touchdown catch to wide receiver Marvin Poole for 21 yards after 44 seconds.
The Tigers responded on the next drive.
After two Kinnard catches, Athens completed a 44-yard pass to freshman wide receiver Andre Dessenberg to put the Tigers on the one-yard line.
It was Dessenberg’s first career catch and the longest of the game. West then found the end zone with 47 seconds remaining in the half.
Dessenberg and freshman running back Darius Victor, who made their Towson debuts in the game, each gaining over 50 yards on offense.
“We’re building the team framework for the future, getting these guys incrementally more involved in the offense is going to pay dividends,” Ambrose said. “They have a chance to get experience without all the pressure of the world on them.”
However, 47 seconds proved to be enough time for the NCCU offense to put points on the board before half. Aided by a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Towson, Reid was able to bring his offense to the Towson 15-yard line, where Parent’s field goal made it 14-10 going into halftime.
The Tigers received the ball first to begin the second half and wasted no time getting on the board, as West scored a 22-yard touchdown run to give Towson a 21-10 lead.
“We had made the most mistakes in the first half that we made in our previous three games put together,” Ambrose said. “We could not have drawn up the opening drive any better. We did a really good drive making adjustments on both sides of the ball.”
After a NCCU punt, Towson kept the offensive momentum going with a 12-play, 86-yard drive to pull out in front by 18.
West accumulated 50 yards on the drive, but it was freshman running back Darius Victor who punched the ball in for the touchdown on his third career run. Victor, like West, hails from Northwestern High School in Baltimore.
The Eagles attempted to find a response to the two Tiger scores, but Reid took the offense 34 yards to have a 45-yard field goal try blocked by senior defensive tackle Arnold Farmer.
Reid, a dual-threat quarterback, completed 25 passes for 292 yards in the air, but rushed for -29 yards in the game.
“When you are playing a multi-dimensional quarterback, the goal is to only let him work really well in one aspect of the game,” Ambrose said. “Keeping him in the pocket and not letting him run around and extend plays really kept him from getting into the rhythm.”
NCCU did not quit after going down three scores, putting together an 80-yard drive after a Towson punt and two unsportsmanlike penalties. Reid found wide receiver Thomas Dixon for a 40-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 11 points with 14:52 left in the game.
On the Tigers’ next drive a 43-yard pass from Athens to Kinnard was fumbled and recovered by the Eagles. However after just two plays, Reid’s pass was intercepted by junior defensive back Thomas Bradley.
Darius clinched the game for the Tigers with a touchdown with 1:35 left in the game.
Towson will begin its Colonial Athletic Association schedule when it travels to Long Island, N.Y. to face Stony Brook on Saturday Sept. 28. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m.
“We made a lot of mistakes, giving us the opportunity to get better,” Ambrose said. “Murderer’s row is about to come up, these are some of the most physical teams in the conference. We have a lot to work on.”