TU braces for NC Central
After following its biggest win in school history with consecutive 49-7 victories, Towson (3-0) will face its next challenge in Durham, N.C. against the North Carolina Central Eagles (2-1) on Saturday.
The Tigers, who are ranked No. 4 in the Sporting News’ weekly poll, bring with them a seven-game win streak and a 131-32 overall point differential. The Tigers will be the highest ranked team to play at N.C. Central, who own an 0-6 record against nationally-ranked Football Championship Subdivision opponents.
Head Coach Rob Ambrose said that the maturity of his team is necessary for games like these, but he thinks his team is ready.
“From what I hear, it is a tough place to play and their fans are behind them 100 percent so it will be a challenge,” Ambrose said. “I’m completely confident that we are going to do the job. There’s a goal and we’re on that path to the goal and North Carolina Central stands in our way.”
Junior running back Terrance West is coming off of a record-setting, five-touchdown performance in his last game against Delaware St. He will be trying to add to his touchdown tally against a N.C. Central defense that allows 189.7 rushing yards per game and has conceded five touchdowns on the ground.
Senior quarterback Peter Athens, who has a 68.7 completion percentage, could be tested against the Eagles defense. Athens has only thrown one interception, but he’ll be lining up against a defense that has intercepted opponents seven times, good for second in the FCS.
N.C. Central is coming off a 40-13 win over Charlotte, in which it recorded five interceptions. Freshman Michael Jones had two in the game, raising his total for the season to three.
The Eagles offense has been relatively balanced, with 114 rushing attempts compared to 98 passing attempts.
“They are very multiple at both sides of the ball. This offense can play with multiple personnel groups and they are much more multiple on defense as well,” Ambrose said.
Towson’s defense has also been strong this season, holding opponents to an average of 269 yards per game which is sixth best in the FCS. Towson’s run defense ranks fifth in the FCS, as well.
The Eagles offense will counter with a rush attack that averages 156.3 yards per game, headed by running back Idreis Augustus, who has 206 yards on the season. Quarterback Jordan Reid is also a running threat, tallying 40 attempts and 143 yards in three games.
“Everybody has a role and an assignment, and if everyone does it the right way every gap and hole it accounted for,” Ambrose said. “When you are playing a dual-threat quarterback, you have to play as 11. Staying disciplined even when you’re tired will be the difference.”
Reid and company will have a tough task in the air against the Tigers’, who have allowed four passing touchdowns on the season and holding opponents to 50.4 completion percentage. Reid has passed for a 55.68 completion percentage this season.
The red zone is a crucial area for both teams’, as both are ranked in the top five in the FCS in red zone defense. Towson leads the nation with two opponent scores in six trips, while North Carolina Central has allowed nine scores in 16 opponent trips.
Ambrose said his team’s strength and agility has been key in stopping opponents in the red zone.
“You can drive 90 yards and not get it in and it’s a good day if you don’t get in,” Ambrose said. “The [focus] is really on the offense, because if you are physical, there’s not a lot of room to throw the ball. We are physical and we can run. Once you get in our red zone, we are going to close the door on you.”
North Carolina Central will be looking for its first win over a ranked opponent in school history, so the capacity at O’Kelly-Riddick Field could verge close to filling its 10,000 seats. However, Ambrose said that his team is ready for challenge.
“I’m completely confident that we are going to do the job. There’s a goal and we’re on that path to the goal and North Carolina Central stands in our way,” Ambrose said. “There was a time that we celebrated wins like Super Bowls because they were few and far between. Now it is something much greater.”