Thursday, August 11, 2011

Towson Tigers Football Preview

When I moved to Baltimore almost a full decade ago, the sole reason I knew of Towson University was because it had helped save the Colonial Athletic Association.  Richmond departed in a sleezy manner and the conference was able to get Towson, Hofstra, Delaware and Drexel to join, saving the conference from disintegrating. 

I've gotten to know Towson better over the years.  There's a Bill Bateman's on campus; outside of Buffalo Wild Wings and Hooters, Bateman's has the best buffalo wings of any chain restaurant.  The best first date I ever had took place in Towson.  The Towson Town Fair is quite the experience.  But most importantly, Recher Theatre is where I first saw Nuno Bettencourt in person.  Nuno was only my musical Yoda growing up.  Suffice it to say, Towson has become an important part of my life.

Nuno Bettencourt, circa 2004, on tour with his band Dramagods.
So it's with a bit of sadness that Towson University's athletics have not excelled since joining the CAA.  I want to see the local CAA team perform well, just not at the expense of ODU, and it simply hasn't happened.  The men's basketball team and football team went winless in conference play in the collective 2010-2011 seasons.  If you pay close enough attention, though, you'll see that pieces are in place for good things to happen going forward.  So today, we'll take a look at the 2011 Towson Tigers football team.

Football History
Towson University was founded in 1866 and began football in 1968.  Over the course of its history the Tigers program has compiled a record of 223-218-4, which isn't bad considering their recent history.  Eight Tigers have gone on to play in the NFL, including Sean Landeta and Dave Meggett.  Towson's home field is Johnny Unitas Stadium, which was built in 1978 and was recently rennovated.

I've lived in Baltimore for almost a decade now, and I've never heard one negative word uttered about Johnny Unitas.
2010 Highlights
Towson defeated Coastal Carolina 47-45 in five overtimes.  I don't mean to be flippant but that's their lone highlight, as they lost their other ten games.  The offense had two All-CAA Second Team players in FB Tyler Wharton and WR Hakeem Moore.  Moore was briefly in Ravens' camp this season but has already been released.  Linebacker Yaki Ibia also made the All-CAA Second Team.  No Tigers were in the top ten of rushing yards, receptions or passing efficiency.  Let's move on.

A picture of Baltimore native Stacy Keibler should make Tigers fans forget the 2010 season.

History with Old Dominion
2011 will be the first meeting between Towson and Old Dominion on the football field.  The Monarchs selected the October 15th date in Norfolk as its Homecoming game, so that gives you an indication of the administration's chances against the Tigers compared to its other CAA home opponents.

2011 Outlook
I expect the Tigers to win at least three games this season.  There have been a few articles already published by others that are worth reading.  They provide great detail behind this simple truth - the program is turning around for the better.  It won't happen over night, but it IS happening. 

Tigers head coach Rob Ambrose took over the program a couple years ago and had to clean house.  Winning is a mindset, and Ambrose is in the process of turning over the roster composition into the type of team he wants.  On the Tigers' official website there's an interesting read about where he is with this team.  Mat Schlissel, now a contributor on their official site, documented in great detail the offense, defense and special teams on the CAAZone.  Lastly, The Baltimore Sun put out an article at the time of the CAA Media Day.  Whether the players believe what they're saying or not, it's good to see how they're handling themselves in the preseason.

Coach Ambrose is rebuilding the program for the long-haul. (Photo credited to

But you're not reading this blog to get links to stories by other people.  (...right?)  Towson loses their two quarterbacks who started for them last year.  Redshirt sophomore Peter Athens got significant playing time two years ago as a freshman but sat out last year with an ACL tear.  He'll be competing with Baltimore native/UConn transfer Leon Kinnard for playing time.  The running back situation is more wide open as there is no established featured back; the team has transfers from both Boston College and Colorado at that position.  The best news is that four starters are returning to the offensive line.

On defense there are seven starters returning, led up front by rising senior DT's Marcus Valentine and Rob Osborne and preseason All-CAA DE Frank Beltre.  They'll need more production out of the DT's and DE's as the team had a collective 14 sacks of their opponents last year; will another offseason of better conditioning and coaching be enough?

The links I provided above show more detail than I want to divulge in my own blog for preview purposes.  But the reader should be aware that generally the players Ambrose has brought to the program are going to turn things around.  It's more about attitude with the kids than it is talent.  In 2009 the team won more games than in 2010, but they also gave up way too often.  In 2010, the team seemed to be focused on the process of competing every play regardless of the score.  That will pay dividends in 2011 and beyond.  I expect Towson to open up the season with wins over Morgan State and Colgate, and get at least one conference win.

Tigers fans almost broke the single season attendance record despite their team's 1-10 record.  (Photo credited to

Many fans of CAA football see Towson as the most likely first victim of the Monarchs.  I tend to agree with this.  I don't see the Tigers coming into S.B. Ballard Stadium on Homecoming weekend and beating Thomas DeMarco et al, unless I see significant improvement from Towson the first half of this season.  The CAA coaches and SID's even voted Old Dominon tenth ahead of Towson (eleventh) in the preseason poll.  At this point it's a matter of "I'll believe it when I see it."  I am high on Towson heading into 2012, but from what I see of both teams, the Monarchs are better.  And if Towson does win, I'll just head over to Bateman's to drown my sorrows in beer and wings.

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