The Towson football team’s run to a No. 7 seed and a first-round bye in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision tournament had a lot to do with the play of junior running back Terrance West and his massive offensive line.
But the defense had a hand in the program's success, too.
The Tigers (10-2 overall and 6-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association) have surrendered just 26 points over their past two games – wins against William & Mary and James Madison. That 13.0 average is more than nine points lower than the 22.4 average in the team's first 10 games.
The defense has also lowered its passing yards from 235.8 in the first 10 games to 118.5 in the ]ast two, allowed the Tribe and the Dukes to convert just 28.6 percent (8-of-28) of their third downs compared to 35.0 percent (48-of-137) in the first 10 games, and caused an average of 2.5 turnovers in the past two games compared to 2.1 in the first 10.
“When we talk about playing football here, you want to be a good team in September, a better team in October and you want to be a really, really good team in November, and in the month of November, we have played some of the best defensive football that we’ve played since I’ve been here, and that’s a credit to the kids,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said Monday morning during the CAA's conference. “As you’re going to the next season, it’s 0-0 all over again, and instead of it just being summer camp where we’re starting all over, we’ve got some experience under our belts and some pieces are coming together, and I’m excited about how well we’re playing defensively.”
It’s no coincidence that Towson’s progress began Nov. 2 when Delaware rallied from a 31-17 deficit and scored two touchdowns, one extra point and one two-point conversion in a 29-second span in the final minute of regulation to escape with a 32-31 decision.
“It was really hurtful and it became a turning point in our season,” senior defensive tackle Arnold Farmer said. “We realized that to win games, we have to play great defense and as a team, we had to finish. We started out fast and then we finished strong for the remainder of the season. I love the way our team responded to that loss.”
Added Ambrose: “There was a time in the fourth quarter of the Delaware game where we looked like we lost our identity as a defense completely. It was something I had never seen before, and it took about 48 hours after that to get over the shock, and there has been a transformation.”
The Tigers will get to rest over Thanksgiving break, but the defense might not relax, as the unit will meet either a Fordham offense that ranks 12th in the country in scoring (38.4 points per game) or a Sacred Heart unit that ranks 21st (35.3).
And with the passing offense losing its top two wide receivers in senior Leon Kinnard and junior Spencer Wilkins for the entire postseason, the onus might be on the defense to keep points to a minimum.
“We don’t want them to score at all,” Farmer said. “But we know that if we create turnovers and give the ball back to our offense, we’ll be in great shape.”