Tigers look to stomp Spiders on the road in fifth conference game
Looking to start a new winning streak, Towson will travel to Richmond, Va. to face Colonial Athletic Association foe Richmond Saturday, a week after dispatching Albany 44-17.
The Tigers (7-1, 3-1 CAA) got to Albany quarterback Will Fiacchi and his offense early and often, holding the Great Danes to 267 yards total, including just 52 yards in the second half.
Cornerbacks sophomore Donnel Lewis and junior Tye Smith highlighted a defensive performance that allowed Albany 17 points last Saturday. Lewis, the reigning CAA Defensive Player of the Week, returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown and Smith recorderd 11 tackles and a forced fumble.
“I feel like as a whole, our defense played good [against Albany]. We are trying to set the tone from the snap,” Lewis said. “The coaches put us the best position to win, so we’ll come out and try to get turnovers, make plays and get the job done.”
Richmond (2-5, 0-3 CAA) will feature Michael Strauss, a pocket passer similar to Fiacchi, who has thrown for 12 touchdowns an average of 298.7 yards per game this season, good for 10th in the Football Championship Subdivision.
“We did well pressuring [Fiacchi] but this kid is entirely different. We’re talking about a guy who can pass a class versus a guy who can get an ‘A’ in every class,” Ambrose said. “He’s got all the tools and they protect schematic with short passes to get it into the hands of the playmakers fast.”
Strauss leads a passing game that accounts for roughly 74 percent of the team’s total offense. He has thrown to 12 different receivers, with four gaining over 200 yards so far and five scoring multiple touchdowns.
Strauss will be throwing against a Towson defense that has forced nine interceptions this season. Strauss himself has thrown five interceptions on the year.
Richmond may have a pass-heavy offense, but Towson’s offensive statistics suggest a much more even attack. In fact, Towson ranks 19th in the country in rushing with 225 yard per game, compared to Richmond’s 97.4 rushing yards per game, which ranks 109th in the FCS.
The Tiger rushing attack is headed by junior running back Terrance West, who recorded 183 yards on the ground and two touchdowns against Albany. The Tigers will also welcome back senior running back Sterlin Phifer, who missed the last five games due to injury.
Towson has also gotten West involved in the passing game. He caught four passes in last week’s game.
“[Using West is] a by-product of how people are trying to defend us,” he said. “When you throw close to 300 yards a game, [teams] are not necessarily concerned about the run so they get deeper. Because we’ve improved in the pass game, it has affected how defenses play us.”
The Spiders will line up against West with the 19th best rushing defense in the FCS, allowing opponents 123 yards per game on the ground.
If the Tigers are forced to throw, senior quarterback Peter Athens has throw to senior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins 37 times this season. Wilkins has recorded three straight 100-yard games.
However, turnovers have plagued the Towson offense in the last few games. Athens has thrown five interceptions in his last two games and Towson turned the ball over twice in the Albany end zone last week.
Richmond’s pass defense has forced 13 interceptions on the season, good for third place in the FCS. Against Rhode Island last week, Richmond intercepted three passes en route to a 12-10 loss.
“I’m not pleased that we turned it over twice in the end zone. That’s just giving away points,” Ambrose said. “The more experience you have, the less it happens.”
Another point of emphasis according to Ambrose is amount of times his team has been penalized this season. The Tigers have 61 penalties on the season, 15 more than their opponents. The Spiders, conversely, have been flagged 44 times this season.
Towson will look for its fourth CAA win in Richmond, Va. Saturday. Kickoff is set for noon.