I’ve never been one for the overused sports adage “must-win game,” so I’m not about to use it to describe the Tribe’s home matchup tomorrow against the Towson University Tigers. However, as the team (2-2 on the season) kicks off a string of seven consecutive conference games, they are aware of the importance of this contest.
p. “If we’re going to be successful in our conference, Towson is a team that we have to beat,” senior tight end Drew Atchison said at Tuesday’s press luncheon.
p. The Tigers are also 2-2 this season, having dropped two in a row to stout CAA opponents University of Massachusetts and University of Delaware. On paper, the Tribe has Towson beat, averaging 36 points per game to Towson’s 17 and leading them in virtually every offensive category. The Tribe has also won all four previous meetings between the two squads. Head Coach Jimmye Laycock expressed caution when describing the Tigers, however, citing their improved defensive performance this season and the toughness of Towson quarterback Sean Schaefer.
p. Atchison described how the Tribe stacks up in the CAA, saying, “Our league is pretty tough, through and through. I think there’s not a team in our league that we can’t beat. Every team is going to be a challenge, though, so we need to bring our ‘A’ game every time.”
p. While Towson is certainly a formidable opponent, they pale in comparison to some of the remaining teams on the Tribe’s schedule. In the final four weeks of the season, they host 2nd-ranked Massachusetts, go on the road to play 14th-ranked Hofstra University, welcome back the no. 9 James Madison University Dukes to Zable Stadium and close out the season on the road against no. 25 University of Richmond. In between the Towson game and this stretch are back-to-back road contests against Villanova University (a team just outside the top 25) and the University of Maine. So needless to say, a home win over Towson would be big for the Tribe.
p. The College will once again be without the services of redshirt freshman tailback Courtland Marriner, still nursing a hand injury that has kept him out of the last two games. Filling in for him (as well as junior running back DeBrian Holmes, out for the season with an ankle injury) are senior Tony Viola, whose overtime heroics helped lift the Tribe past Liberty University, and redshirt-freshman Thomas Schonder. It’s important that the Tribe establish some sort of running game to take a little pressure off of junior quarterback Jake Phillips and the rest of the passing attack, a unit that has been outstanding through the first four weeks of play (329.5 passing yards per game).
p. As for the Tribe defense, which has had its fair share of troubles (giving up an FCS record-tying seven touchdowns to Delaware running back Omar Cuff) through the early part of the season, Laycock seems to be encouraged after their performance at Tech.
p. “I was extremely pleased with the overall play of our defense,” Laycock said Tuesday. “I really thought we came out and tackled much better, we handled the running game much better than we had done up to that point, and hopefully we can build on that.”
The Tribe had better hope that they can continue to build on it, as it is clear that their matchups in the coming weeks aren’t going to be getting any easier.
p. __E-mail Jeff Dooley at [email protected]__