Towson at Maine
12:30 p.m. at Alfond Stadium (televised on WABI/Comcast New England).
Last week: Towson lost to Delaware 35-30; Maine beat Villanova 41-25.
Last meeting: Maine won 28-18 in 2010.
Series: Maine leads 6-3.
By KEVIN NOONAN
Earlier this week, Maine football coach Jack Cosgrove sat down and watched a video tape of his team’s 2010 game against Towson. And what he saw made him smile.
“It’s difficult to imagine that those two teams that played that day would be in the position they’re in today,’’ Cosgrove said.
The two teams that played that day finished with losing records – Maine was 4-7 and Towson was even worse, 1-10. And the Tigers didn’t win a single game in the conference.
Now, almost exactly one year later, the two teams are playing again and this time it’s to take over first place, not stay out of last place. Seventh-ranked Maine (5-0 in the conference, 7-1 overall) will host 12th-ranked Towson (4-1, 6-2) in the biggest game of the CAA season so far.
Both teams are enjoying the ride and the unexpected attention. When somebody mentioned to Towson coach Rob Ambrose that there was a lot of excitement because the conference’s No. 1 team is playing No. 2, Ambrose had to think for a second.
“It was like Halloween, like it was trick or treat,’’ Ambrose said with a laugh. “Was he really talking to me?”
But even though they’ve dramatically turned around their fortunes, both have been building toward this for a while. They had the players and they had the plan and all they needed was time.
“It just doesn’t happen overnight,’’ Cosgrove said.
Maine has 17 fifth-year seniors and one of them is their QB, Warren Smith, who has completed 66 percent of his passes and thrown for 14 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The Black Bears have a solid run game behind senior RB Pushaun Brown and a talented corps of WRs led by Derek Session, Maurice McDonald and Arthur Williams.
“This is what we want, this is what we’ve worked for,’’ Smith said. “This is what it’s all about, to be in this situation and to play in a special game like this. And I’m sure Towson feels the same way.”
Towson lost a heartbreaker to Delaware last week, their first CAA loss, but Ambrose believes that defeat could actually help his team.
“The fact that we lost gives our kids a chance to refocus on what got us here in the first place,’’ he said.
Towson is led by freshman running back Terrance West, who appears to be a shoo-in for CAA rookie of the year honors. Smith has rushed for 772 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per attempt and scored 18 touchdowns on a team that’s scored 34.
Sophomore QB Grant Enders has completed 67.7 percent of his passes and thrown for nine TDs, but he’s also thrown six interceptions and Ambrose said that eliminating those turnovers is the key to beating Maine. Junior WR Tom Ryan and sophomore Leon Kinnard are Enders’ favorite targets and even though FB Tyler Wharton only has 11 receptions, five of them have been for touchdowns.
On defense, the Tigers are led by junior DB Jordan Dangerfield (54 tackles), DE Romale Tucker (51 tackles, 2½ sacks) and Frank Beltre (three sacks).
None of those players has ever played in a college game of this magnitude and both coaches hope their senior leadership helps them deal with the hype and hoopla surrounding this one.
“It’s a big game, but we’re approaching it like we approach every game,’’ Cosgrove said. “We have to make sure we keep doing the things that got us to this point.”
And Ambrose said the intensity level that teams must reach every week in the conference has his players ready for this one.
“This week is no different than any other week,’’ Ambrose said. “Everybody we play is awesome – it’s the CAA.”