Despite a slow start and shaky finish, the Tribe played with a confidence Saturday that has been absent over the past few years, and the team found a way to win against a favored Towson University squad.
p. The College came out of the gate a step behind as the defense allowed the Tigers to move down the field for scores on three of their opening four possessions. The Tribe could not find a rhythm on offense either, as the College’s explosive attack sputtered for just 49 yards in the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, the Tribe found themselves in a 13-0 hole.
p. “At the outset of the game we weren’t playing real sharp,” Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “We had a couple drops and weren’t running the ball as well as we needed to, but we were able to get it going.”
p. Even though the team never really got firing on all cylinders, the Tribe showcased the one element that has been missing over the last couple years: big-play ability. Saturday the College had it in spades. Sophomore David Caldwell’s kickoff return gave the Tribe starting field position at the Towson 15-yard line, while sophomore Sean Lissemore’s interception on the Tribe’s own 11-yard line killed the Tigers’ ensuing drive. Junior Derek Cox recorded two interceptions, while the defense tallied a number of deflected passes and stopped the Tigers on fourth down to secure the victory. Even redshirt freshman punter David Miller got in on the action, vaulting a kick high into the air, allowing it to be downed on the Towson one-yard-line.
p. The offense caught the big-play bug as well. Junior quarterback Jake Phillips found junior wide receiver Elliot Mack for the longest touchdown, 61 yards, of his career, and connected on another touchdown to senior wide receiver Joe Nicholas for 38 yards to give the College a lead heading into halftime. The unit recorded three consecutive scoring drives of five, four, and three plays just before the half.
p. It seemed as if the Tribe, as a collective unit, realized sometime around the three-minute mark of the second quarter that the white and black uniform of the Towson Tigers bore no resemblance whatsoever to the maroon and orange jersey of Virginia Tech.
“Playing Virginia Tech gave the team more confidence,” Cox said. “If you can compete with those guys you can compete with anybody.”
p. Make no mistake, the Tribe did not play a good game statistically or fundamentally. Towson out-gained the College by 138 yards while converting on more third downs and dominating the time of possession, but it wasn’t enough because the Tigers could not match the Tribe’s ability to strike quickly and step up when the situation called for it.
p. That skill has been missing from the College’s teams ever since the playoff run of 2004, but with impressive play over the last month the Tribe has matured and developed into a confident unit that believes it is capable of anything, even recapturing the 2004 team’s swagger.
p. “The last few years we’ve had a really young team, but the experience definitely helps,” Phillips said. “Now we’re getting wins and doing well out there, and that builds our overall team confidence.”
p. With the victory, the Tribe stands at 3-2 on the season, which looks pretty good considering that the team won just three games all of last year. But before you get your hopes up, remember that the three teams the College defeated in 2006, Liberty University, Virginia Military Institute, and Towson, are the same three that the Tribe has beaten this season.
p. The team is still young, and there are a lot of improvements that need to and will happen, but the Tribe is maturing fast and playing with purpose and confidence that not too many people thought would develop this quickly, and the win this week only adds fuel to the fire. If the College can keep it up, expect the team to record one or two more surprise victories before the season closes. The CAA better take notice, because the Tribe has arrived.