By PETER SCHLEHR
TOWSON, Md. – Putting this Saturday’s Towson-LSU football game into perspective can be a daunting experience but senior safety Jordan Dangerfield is willing to give it the old college try as he represents the underdog Tigers.
“It’s going to be an awesome atmosphere and an experience we’re all looking forward to but it’s a regular season game,” says the 5-11, 200 pound tri-captain from Royal Palm Beach, Fla., “and they can only play 11 on the field, the same as us.”
The differences between the Towson Tigers and the LSU Tigers, however, are numerous and mostly glaring
The unbeaten 4-0 and No. 3-ranked (FBS) Baton Rouge Tigers are in the hunt for a fourth national championship at college football’s highest level. Currently ranked third to Southeastern Conference rival Alabama and Oregon, the defending SEC champs also have their sights on a 12th conference title. Tiger Stadium, the Death Valley fortress that LSU has called home since 1924, seats over 90,000.
“Yeah,” says Dangerfield, “it’s going to be loud.”
LSU’s 20-game home winning streak is the longest active streak in the nation. It has won 33 straight home games over non-conference opponents. Its coach, Les Miles, sports a perfect 24-0 record against non-conference opponents in Tiger Stadium.
“I’m not sure what it was like to walk into the Coliseum,” ESPN’s Wright Thompson is quoted as saying, “but I bet it was something like this. The best place in the world to watch a sport event.”
The 2-1 and No. 12-ranked (FCS) Towson Tigers from the northern suburbs of Baltimore have never won a national football championship but came close in 1976 when they were beaten 31-28 by St. John’s (Minn.) on a game winning field goal in the Amos Alonzo Stagg bowl for the NCAA Division III title.
Towson, the defending Colonial Athletic Association champion, is after its second CAA title this year. The Tigers play in Johnny Unitas Stadium (11,196) where they have a two-game win streak. Total attendance for the entire seven-game 2011 season was a record 62,645.
So, Jordan, what do you really think?
“It’s a great opportunity for Towson and everyone on the team to shock the college football world and to show what we’re capable of,” says Dangerfield, Towson’s leading tackler with 20 stops thus far. “It’s like Coach Ambrose says, we’re not going down there to lose. The last time we played a FBS team we turned the ball over six times. If we can avoid shooting ourselves in the foot and we play mistake free football and every player gives 110 per cent on every play, then good things could happen.”
There doesn’t seem to be much support for Towson leaving Tiger Stadium with anything but some salvaged equipment.
“LSU gets an easy win next week when they (sic) welcome the Towson Tigers to Death Valley and should have no issues blowing out an FCS foe,” writes Alex Ballantine of the Bleacher Report.
One of the silliest comments to demonstrate just how lightly Towson is being taken comes from a blog by a guy named Tommy Krysan – “Yes, I know Towson is this week, but the LSU scout squad is probably better than the FCS Towson Tigers. Though coach Miles would never say this, the Tigers will include a lot of preparation for Florida (LSU’s next opponent) this week.”
Chris Dufresne of the Los Angeles Times actually strikes a sympathetic chord for Towson, citing how upset LSU has to be after escaping Auburn with a narrow win last Saturday that contributed to its slip in the polls despite its perfect record. “You do not want to be the Towson Tigers heading into Baton Rouge a week after Louisiana State’s Tigers struggled to extract a two-point road win against Auburn’s Tigers.”
Towson coach Rob Ambrose is taking an old fashion approach to all this.
“It’s football. If you’re not lining up to win, don’t show up.”
The Towson Tigers plan to show up in Tiger Stadium as college football fans all over wait to see how one of the FCS’ best teams emerges from a scrap with a FBS heavyweight and national championship contender.
If you harken to Mark Twain’s quip “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” then the gap might not appear so immense.
After all, as the Towson folks say, their Tigers aren’t traveling 1,183 miles to lose. In order to win, LSU is going to have to show up and play the game.
However huge the challenge for Towson this one isn’t a gimme.