Tigers drop first game of season against Central Connecticut
It was a familiar scene: Fans, all dressed in yellow, crowded the stands for Towson football. However, it wasn’t the Football Championship Subdivision championship game and the opponent wasn’t the North Dakota State Bison.
This time it was the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils, a team that finished 4-8 last season. But the game ended the same way, a crushing loss for the Tigers on Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
“Give credit to Central Connecticut,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “They came to play and knock off the supposed big boy and did just that. … I’ve said time and time again to these guys that we are not last year’s team. We need to find who we are and we got a real good dose of what we are and what we aren’t, but we got flashes of what we can be.”
Towson (0-1) led 27-24 with 1:15 left in the fourth quarter. Central Connecticut State (1-0) faced a fourth-and-13 at the Towson 36-yard line, a drive that was helped by a roughing the kicker penalty on the home team.
Quarterback Nick SanGiacomo completed a 34-yard pass to put his team at the two-yard line, where running back Rob Holloman scored the go-ahead touchdown with 31 seconds remaining.
Once the Tigers got the ball back, a pass interference call and a 14-yard completion from senior quarterback Connor Frazier to sophomore wide receiver Arione Scott put the Tigers within striking distance with 12 seconds left. In a last-ditch effort, Frazier sent a pass to the end zone that sophomore Andre Dessenberg caught, but his foot was just inches out of bounds, clinching the 31-27 loss.
Frazier finished 14-for-26 on the night with 125 yards and a touchdown. However, he struggled to find receivers throughout the game.
“We couldn’t get the ball rolling down the field,” Ambrose said. “I personally need to get in the film room more and … know my opponent like the back of my hand. If things aren’t going right I need to lead them and make sure they know it’s alright and we can move the ball.”
After a Tigers punt to start the game, the Blue Devils made progress on their first drive, as quarterback SanGiacomo led a nine-play, 45-yard drive that ended with a missed field goal. SanGiacomo finished with 273 yards passing and two touchdowns, completing 22 of 28 passes.
“Their quarterback is a pretty solid player,” Ambrose said. “He made good decisions and didn’t lose the ball game. He made some pretty heady plays.”
Frazier showed off his athletic ability on the second drive, rushing for 14 yards on two carries. However, he was sacked on third down and the Tigers were forced to punt again. The teams punted away five of the first six drives and the score stood at 0-0 at the end of the first quarter.
Towson began the second quarter with its first scoring drive of the season, kick-started by Frazier’s 21-yard pass to senior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins to put the team in Central Connecticut State territory. Frazier capped the drive with a 24-yard rushing touchdown to give Towson a 7-0 lead.
The Blue Devils needed an answer and found it on the next drive. Holloman gave his team good field position with a 41-yard kickoff return, and SanGiacomo finished the drive with a 38-yard pass to wide receiver Tyrell Holmes to tie the game just 1:24 after the Tigers’ score.
After a slew of punts from both teams, Towson threatened with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. Frazier found senior wide receiver Derrick Joseph for a 12-yard gain that put Towson in Central Connecticut State territory, but a penalty halted the drive and forced the home team to put again.
“They didn’t beat us, we lost,” Ambrose said. “We didn’t get our butts beat, we made too many mistakes to win the football game, and that’s on me.”
The Blue Devils had the edge in rushing yards (75) and passing yards (115) in the first half. SanGiacomo (10-for-13) was also more efficient than Frazier (9-for-15), but the score stood at 7-7 at the end of the period.
Central Connecticut State drew first blood on its second drive of the half. SanGiacomo lead his team on an eight-play, 49-yard drive that ended with a touchdown pass to wide receiver Brandon Holloman to make it 13-7 after a missed extra point.
The Tigers responded with a seven-play, 65-yard drive highlighted by a roughing the kicker call that allowed them to continue. Victor rushed for 46 yards on the drive, including the seven-yard touchdown that gave the Tigers the 14-13 lead.
Central Connecticut State did not waste time regaining the lead, as Holloman began with a 74-yard run that put his team in position score immediately. He finished the series that lasted less than two minutes with a three-yard touchdown. After the two-point conversion, the score stood at 21-14 with 2:25 left in the third quarter.
“The whole goal was to contain [Holloman] because you’re not going to stop him,” Ambrose said. “We did that minus one play. He busted one big one and it hurt.”
After a Towson punt, Central Connecticut State took over in its own territory. On the second play of the drive, SanGiacomo fumbled and Towson senior defensive end Drew Cheripko picked it up to give his team the ball at the 19-yard line.
On the next play, Frazier found sophomore tight end Tanner Vallely for the 19-yard touchdown to tie the game at 21-21.
The Blue Devils continued to attack the Tigers’ secondary on the ensuing drive, as SanGiacomo’s 25-yard pass to receiver Willie Quarles set up a 27-yard field goal from Groth.
The back-and-forth game continued with its third scoring drive in four attempts. After Victor carried the ball into Central Connecticut State territory, Frazier finished the series with a 49-yard run, racing past the secondary for the touchdown to give Towson the 27-24 lead with 8:47 left in the game, the last score before the Blue Devils pulled ahead.
The Tigers will be back on the field on Saturday to face the West Virginia Mountaineers in Morgantown, West Virginia. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m.