TOWSON, Md – With four seconds remaining in a tie game, Towson University lined up at Richmond’s 19 yard line to attempt a game-winning field. The Spiders would then use their two remaining timeouts to ice kicker D.J. Soven. Unfazed by the stoppage in time, the sophomore from Weston, FL, split the uprights as time expired to provide the Tigers (4-1, 2-0) a 31-28 victory.
The kicker downplayed the impact of the timeouts, stating that Coach Rob Ambrose had prepared the team for these situations in practice. But how did Ambrose keep Sevon in the right mindset for the winning kick in an actual game?
“I told him jokes,” he said. “I wanted to keep his head not focused on ANYTHING.” The coach’s tactics obviously worked for the young man, who afterwards stated that this was his first game-winner since his JV days.
While Towson’s coach wanted his kicker to approach the final play with a clear mind, the game to that point featured two teams whose coaches clearly had their respective teams completely focused.
Despite a record-setting performance from Richmond’s Aaron Corp, Towson used 239 rushing yards on 40 attempts to remain undefeated in conference play. Freshman running back Terrance West (Baltimore, MD) led the way for Towson with 128 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. Two other Tigers had at least 41 rushing yards.
When asked about the heavy emphasis on the running game (Towson complemented its 40 rushing attempts with only 20 pass attempts), Ambrose had a simple answer. It was done out of “straight necessity” to limit the possessions Corp and the Spiders offense were given in the game. In the end the strategy did work – but just barely.
Corp (Villa Park, CA) completed 30 of his first 32 passes and would set an FCS record for the highest completion percentage among quarterbacks with at least 30 attempts (91.2%). Along with his 31 completions, Corp threw for 353 yards, two touchdowns and a two-point conversion completion. Ten of his completions went to standout receiver Tre Gray, who finished with 141 yards.
In the Spiders’ previous game against James Madison, Corp connected with Gray only four times for 38 yards. When asked about how he was able to consistently get open for his ten receptions against Towson, Gray quickly deferred the credit. “It was the offensive line,” said the senior from Cuero, Texas. “They allowed Corp time (to complete his passes).”
The Spiders (3-3, 0-3) had their share of chances to position themselves better at the end of the game. Their first drive ended with a fumble at Towson’s 30, and they missed a 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter. The Tigers defense came up big when it needed to as well, though.
On its first second-half possession, the Spiders used 16 plays to march the ball to the Towson one yard line. On third and goal, fullback Kendall Gaskins was pushed back five yards to the Towson six by linebacker Kenton Powell. Despite holding the ball for 8:26 on the drive, Richmond was forced to settle for a field goal. Undeterred, Corp led Richmond to touchdown drives on its two possessions in the fourth quarter.
But the Tigers’ use of the rushing game would prove to be the difference, especially in the fourth quarter. Towson entered the game second in the CAA with 225 yards per game on the ground despite having no one in the top ten individually. The team surpassed its average with their 239 yards against Richmond, including 38 by West on the game’s deciding drive. Towson quarterback Grant Enders (Millersville, MD) was efficient and effective if not as spectacular as Corp, completing 15 of 19 passes for 185 yards. No completion was bigger than his 21-yard strike to Leon Kinnard on third-and-twelve during the decisive drive.
Richmond heads into a bye week that could not have come soon enough – Saturday the team started two freshmen and a sophomore on its defensive line due to injuries to upperclassmen. Meanwhile Towson takes its perfect conference record on the road to face another team that is turning some heads – Old Dominion University.
The Monarchs and Tigers were voted to finish tenth and eleventh, respectively, in the CAA’s preseason poll among coaches and SID’s. Through five combined conference games the teams are 4-1, and are shooting down the notion that they will finish as the conference’s two worst teams. If Towson’s performance Saturday is any indication, expect the Tigers to be as focused as possible next week…even if it requires Ambrose to share a joke.