Tigers Shot Down By Minutemen, 27-14
Signs of life, early lead stifled by strong UMass offense
The Towson Tigers (1-4, 0-2) scored their first points of the season in the first quarter and held a rare first-half lead against #8 UMass (4-1, 2-0). But the Minutemen bounced back from costly mistakes and held Towson scoreless in the second half, leading to a 27-14 win before 5,560 at Unitas Stadium on Saturday night.
"UMass is a very good football team," said Towson head coach Rob Ambrose. "I am annoyed that we lost. I'm angry that we lost. We lost. They didn't win."
For the first time in the Ambrose era, the Tigers failed to turn the ball over and came away with a +3 turnover ratio for the night. Towson came into the game with a -6 turnover ratio, worst in the CAA.
Ambrose also decided to not only rotate quarterbacks Chris Hart and Bart Blanchard on every other series, but at times, every other play.
"Tonight, while they made a lot of mistakes, neither one of them was mentally tired," Ambrose said. "Neither one of them was physically tired. Therefore, the ball ended up in our hands."
The Tigers pounced on several UMass mistakes early on to take a 14-7 lead.
In the first quarter, after senior Nick Wallace missed a 50-yard field goal attempt, the Minutemen marched right down the field in 12 plays (67-yards) as Jonathan Hernandez rushed in on the left side to give Umass a 7-0 lead with 6:13 left.
On the next Towson drive, they moved to their own 45 and went three-and-out for the second straight series. However, Hart came in to punt the ball and knocked it 48 yards down to the UMass 7-yard line.
Three plays later, on 3rd-and-8 from their own 9, quarterback Kyle Havens was sacked in his own end zone by cornerback Jeremy Gardner. The ball leaked out to the three-yard line where junior defensive tackle scooped up the ball for a three-yard touchdown.
On Towson 's third possession, the team once again would go three-and-out. This time freshman Derek Soven punted from the UMass 48 and Shane Viveiros muffed the punt. It was recovered by freshman Doug Shaw at the UMass 23.
However, Towson couldn't get the ball in from the 1-yard line as sophomore Dominique Booker was stopped by Theo Agnew and Mike Mele for no gain. But once again, the Towson defense would come up with a big play as Hernandez was hit by sophomore Jordan Dangerfield on the ensuing play. Hernandez would fumble at the 5-yard line and sophomore linebacker Trevor Walker pounced on it.
On the next play, Hart found sophomore Alex Blake for a five-yard screen pass and he raced into the end zone to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 13:22 left in the second quarter.
UMass finally stopped turning the ball over and their running game started to click. After another Towson three-and-out, UMass marched down the field to the Towson 16. On 4th-and-two, they decided to kick the field goal and Cory Violette knocked in a 33-yarder with 5:46 left to cut the lead to 14-10.
Havens, along with John Griffin's running and a no-huddle offense, moved it in 11 plays, 97 yards in 2:57 to give them a 17-14 lead that they would never relinquish.
All UMass needed was another long drive and a Griffin 5-yard touchdown run in the second half to put the game away. Towson's offense put just one solid drive together late in the game, as Hart and Blanchard led the Tigers to the Minutemen 5-yard line, but couldn't punch it in with 3:36 left in the game.
Griffin wound up with 117 rushing yards, while Havens threw for 194 yards and one touchdown. But the Minutemen were in for a battle for most of the game.
Booker led the Tigers with 46 yards on 10 carries, as the Tigers ran 38 times for 130 yards. They only threw the ball 22 times as Hart and Blanchard combined for 133 yards.
"We're not Texas Tech. We're not Georgia Tech. We're not at the point where we are dictating," Ambrose said. "We threw a lot at UMass and made them think. They are extremely athletic defensively and we slowed them down a little bit. As a defensive coordinator, that's extremely annoying. But whatever puts us in the best position to be successful on a Saturday, that's what we'll do."
Towson returns to action to face another top ten team in James Madison next Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Johnny Unitas Stadium.