Towson returns to “The U”
Towson will return to the confines of Johnny Unitas Stadium Saturday to face the New Hampshire Wildcats (1-2, 0-0 Colonial Athletic Association) in its second CAA game of 2013.
At stake for the Tigers (5-0, 1-0 CAA) are the No. 3 Football Championship Subdivision ranking according to Sporting News and a nine-game win streak that extends back to last year. Early in last week’s game at Stony Brook, these accolades were at risk.
However, the Tigers’ run game and defense were strong down the stretch, allowing them to come out with the 35-21 victory. The win was capped by a 43-yard fumble return for a touchdown with less than a minute remaining.
Towson’s defense has made a habit of forcing turnovers, creating 11 of them in five games, good for 19th in the FCS. Despite allowing 21 points to Stony Brook, the defense allowed just 260, dropping its average to an FCS fourth best 273.2 yards per game.
New Hampshire’s offense, however, has turned the ball over just five times in three games this season. Quarterback Andy Vailas has thrown one interception this season, compared to four touchdowns through the air.
Vailas has also rushed for 107 yards this season, second on the team to running back Nico Steriti who has gained 260 yards on the ground. Together, the Wildcats average 236.7 rushing yards per game, which ranks 15th in the FCS.
New Hampshire’s rushing attack will face a Towson rush defense that ranks fourth in the FCS with 71.4 yards allowed per game.
In two games this year, the Tigers allowed less than 20 yards on the ground. However, it allowed 142 yards to Stony Brook in last week’s game, a season high.
If the Wildcats resort to passing in Saturday’s game, Vailas, who has completed just over 63 percent of his pass, may look for receivers Justin Mello and R.J. Harris. Harris leads the team with 14 receptions while Mello leads in receiving yards with 239 on 13 receptions.
However, the Tigers front line will attempt to put pressure on Vailas throughout the game. The line has been successful in getting to quarterback in five games so far, notching 21 sacks on the season.
Comparably, Towson has a passing attack that features multiple wide receivers with receptions. Senior quarterback Peter Athens has connected with senior wide receivers Leon Kinnard and Spencer Wilkins 39 times combined, adding up to 534 yards total.
The Tigers offense has scored over 30 points in every game this season, bringing their average to 40.2 points per game, good for 11th in the FCS.
In contrast, the Wildcats are allowing opponents to score 27 per game this year.
Junior running back Terrance West racked up the yardage in last week’s game, amassing 150 yards on the ground and added a touchdown. Freshman running back Darius Victor also added the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
West and Victor will line up against a Wildcat rush defense that ranks 46th in the FCS with 147.3 rushing yards allowed per game.
An aspect of the game that Head Coach Rob Ambrose has noted that the team needs to improve is the penalty battle. Towson has been penalized 30 times this season, giving them six penalties per game, the same as New Hampshire.
Towson will look to make it 10 straight wins and a 2-0 start to the CAA season in its second home game on Saturday.
Kickoff is set for noon.