One thing is clear from Towson’s first six games of 2011, these aren’t your grandfather’s Tigers.
The retooled Towson squad (3-0 CAA) is sitting atop the conference at 5-1, fueled by a power running attack that has racked up an average of 226.5 yards per game.
“They’ve got good players, they’ve got good backs,” head coach Jimmye Laycock said. “And they have more than one back, they can play three or four running backs.”
The Tigers’s only loss of the year came at the hands of Maryland, a FBS team. For a team that’s lost to the Tribe (4-3, 2-2 CAA) all seven times the two have met, and which finished the 2010 campaign with a 1-10 overall record — good for last in the conference — this season couldn’t be going better.
“They’ve developed some players,” Laycock said. “They’ve been consistent about the system that they’re running and they’ve been getting better at doing what they’re doing.”
On the other side is a College team looking to build on its dominant home win against New Hampshire, but at the same time simply trying to keep its playoff hopes alive. Currently seventh in the CAA, the College is staring at what could be a single-elimination scenario for the rest of the year.
“In this league and at our level, four losses essentially keeps you out of the playoffs,” senior safety Jake O’Connor said. “We kind of dug ourselves into a hole, but we have to win each game.”
The Tribe is coming off a 24-10 win over New Hampshire, in which senior running back Jonathan Grimes carried the offense and became the school’s all-time leading rusher with 169 yards on 28 carries. Grimes native also caught two key touchdown passes on short throws, racking up 126 receiving yards on three catches.
“We got better,” Laycock said. “We still had an interception, had a fumble. We can’t do those kinds of things but we ran the ball better.”
The College’s quarterback situation is still unclear. Sophomore Mike Graham has been out for two weeks due to an undisclosed illness. In his place was sophomore Brent Caprio, who went 7 of 11 for 167 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Whoever is taking the snaps for the Tribe will face a stingy Towson defense that has held opponents to just 20.2 points per game and an average of 209 yards through the air.
For O’Connor and the defense, though, the focus is on stopping the Tigers’s vaunted rushing attack.
“They’ve always had really fast guys, really athletic guys but they just didn’t get the wins for one reason or another,” O’Connor said. “But this year they’ve put it together. They’ve got a real strong power running game, so that’s something we’re going to have to focus on. One of our goals on defense is to hold teams to 3.2 yards or less per carry. We feel like if we can do that, we can win the game.”