Tigers win final game of season on Senior Day
Towson celebrated Senior Day with a 28-17 win against the James Madison Dukes (6-6, 3-5 Colonial Athletic Association) on a chilly Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium. The win is the first over James Madison in since 1992.
Before the game, Towson (10-2, 6-2 CAA) recognized the 17 seniors, many of whom began their careers in Head Coach Rob Ambrose’s first year heading the program.
“These men came here on a dream. They came in believing in something that you cannot see,” Ambrose said. “They’re my family, I love them and I’m proud of them in a way that I cannot express.”
On a day where the Tiger seniors were honored, it was junior running back Terrance West who made headlines. With three rushing touchdowns, West broke his own single-season rushing touchdown record, moving his total to 30 on the year.
“[West] is going to be a high draft pick. He makes a lot of guys miss in the open field,” James Madison Head Coach Mickey Matthews said. “You have to tackle that guy but it’s hard.”
The game opened with the teams trading defensive stops, leading to punts on the first three drives.
The Dukes would draw first blood on the next drive, as Birdsong led a nine-play, 73-yard drive to give his team the lead. On fourth-and-15, Birdsong found wide receiver Anthony Rose for a 29-yard touchdown.
The Tigers have now allowed its opponent to score first in seven of its last eight games. Birdsong ran for 136 yards in the game, more than West’s 100.
Towson got West going on its next drive, as he covered over half the series himself. West caught an eight-yard pass and ran for 23 yards, including a seven-yard touchdown run to tie the game at 7-7.
West recorded 100 yards in the game, his 10th such game this season.
After the teams traded punts, the Tigers won good field position, starting at the Dukes’ 38-yard line. However, Athens was intercepted on second down when his pass floated into double coverage in the Dukes’ end zone.
Athens recovered to go 21-for-30 with 171 yards and one touchdown in the game.
“The things that we talked about in Peter’s past came to haunt him. Turning the ball over in the end zone is something you cannot,” Ambrose said. “He did a lot of good things in the passing game and I’m thoroughly impressed with the way he led even in the hard times.”
Towson made up for the error just three plays later, as junior cornerback Tye Smith jumped in front of a James Madison receiver and intercepted Birdsong’s pass. West amassed 29 of Towson’s 33 yards on the ensuing drive, including a six-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7.
The Dukes made progress on their next drive, entering Tiger territory with less than two minutes remaining in the half. However, on fourth down at the Tiger 39-yard line, the snap sailed over Birdsong’s head and the Tigers recovered the ball at the Dukes’ 45-yard line with 1:35 left in the half.
Towson cashed in on the second James Madison before the first half ended. The drive took 52 seconds and ended when Athens eluded a few James Madison defenders and completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to fellow quarterback Connor Frazier for the touchdown with 43 seconds remaining.
Frazier is the first Tiger quarterback to catch a touchdown pass since Ambrose himself.
“It was surreal. I saw Pete rolling out under pressure and I kept running across the field,” Frazier said. “I turn around and there was no one there.”
The teams traded three-and-outs to begin the second half, but the Dukes won the field position battle early. The Dukes began the fourth drive of the half at the Tigers’ 37-yard line.
James Madison took the quality field position and drove 33 yards on 10 plays, only to be halted on third down at the Towson four-yard line. Kicker Cameron Starke converted on the 21-yard field goal to cut the Towson lead to 21-10.
After a Tiger punt, the Dukes put together another drive that went deep into Tiger territory. However, the Tiger defense forced a 36-yard field goal attempt, which Starke missed wide left.
Towson was forced to punt again on its next possession, and running back Dae-Quan Scott returned the punt 46 yards for the James Madison touchdown. James Madison won the third quarter 10-0 over a Towson team that outscored opponents by 102 point in the third prior to the game.
The Tigers began the fourth quarter with a nine-play, 79-yard drive that included 30 penalty yards. West found the end zone for the third time to make it 28-17 with 11:44 remaining in the game.
After a James Madison punt, Athens fumbled while attempting to run for a first down. James Madison recovered the fumbled and went 42 yards, but Birdsong passed incomplete on fourth down at the Towson 18-yard line to give the home team the ball again.
The Dukes notched another drive deep into the Tiger’s half, but Birdsong was denied again on fourth-and-13 to clinch the victory.
Towson received a seven seed in the Football Championship Subdivision Playoffs and will have a bye-week before hosting the winner of Fordham and Sacred Heart on Dec. 7.
The time for the second-round game is set for 1 p.m.