TOWSON, Md. - So, it comes down to one game. Coming off a 1-10 season, who would have thought that this game would have so much meaning.
The No. 8 Tigers (8-2, 6-1) face the Rhode Island Rams (3-7, 2-5) on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Kingston with a chance to win the CAA Championship for the first time.
If Towson and Maine (8-2, 6-1) both win (Maine faces New Hampshire on the road), they'll end up tied but the Tigers would receive the league's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament because the Tigers won their head-to-head matchup. If Maine wins and the Tigers lose, the Black Bears win the CAA title.
If both teams lose, there will be a four-way tie for first place with UNH and Old Dominion (9-2, 6-2), which ended its season last week. But, Towson still gets the automatic qualifier because they are 3-0 against the other three teams.
Rhode Island has faced the Towson 11 times with the Rams leading the series by a 6-5 margin. Last year, URI spoiled Towson's Homecoming with a 30-20 win, breaking a three-game series losing streak. In 2009, Towson won on the road, 36-28, as freshman quarterback Peter Athens scored a late fourth quarter touchdown on a 35-yard run to ice the victory.
But, throw away the records in this game. Rhode Island has been in just about every game this year; eight of the Rams' ten games have been decided by less than 10 points. Last year, the Rams beat Villanova, No. 8 New Hampshire and Massachusetts at home. This season, they have wins over Delaware and William & Mary at home.
The Rams opened the season with a 21-14 loss at Syracuse. They followed that with another tough road loss at UMass, 36-27. After beating Fordham at home, 21-17, they fell at Brown, 35-21.
Rhode Island is a different team at home than the Rams are on the road. They are 0-6 on the road this season, but are 3-1 at home. Their last game came on the road, a 31-13 loss at No. 19 James Madison. At Meade Stadium, the Rams average 26.5 points per game, but average just 20.0 points per game on the road.
Even though the Rams held JMU to just 12 first downs, the Dukes produced 241 rushing yards. URI averages 161.4 yards per game on the ground and 190.5 yards per game in the air. Defensively, they allow 146.6 yards per game on the ground and 211.6 yards per game in the air.
This hasn't been a good third down team (38%), but the Rams allow just 35% on third downs (49-for-142). The major problem for the Rams this season has been turnovers. Their quarterbacks have thrown 18 interceptions and overall, they have 27 turnovers and have forced just 15 turnovers for a -12 turnover ratio.
Speaking of quarterbacks, URI has rotated two quarterbacks with sophomore Bob Bentsen (6-1, 211) and senior Steve Probst (6-4, 230). Probst is a bruising runner who is second on the team with 366 rushing yards (5.2 yards per carry) and five TDs. As a quarterback, he's been up-and-down with a 53.8% completion rate for 917 yards, eight TDs and 10 interceptions. But, he threw just eight passes last week against the Dukes.
Bentsen has been the more accurate thrower with a 61.6% completion rate, 965 yards, eight TDs and seven interceptions.
At running back, leading rusher Travis Hurd (433 yards, 3 TDs) and third-leading rusher Deontray Johnson (355 yards) were suspended indefinitely before the James Madison game. Their status for this game is unknown as of press time.
If neither plays, the Rams will probably go with junior Billy Morgan (5-9, 175), who had 35 yards against the Dukes and has 72 yards on the season.
The most dangerous player on offense is junior wide receiver Brandon Johnson-Farrell (5-10, 190), a local product from Arundel High School. Johnson-Farrell is second on the team in receiving with 39 receptions for 512 yards (13.1 yards per reception); he also has 46 yards rushing, averages 7.6 yards per punt return and 23.7 yards per kick return.
The leading receiver is senior Anthony Baskerville (5-11, 190), who has 45 receptions for 717 yards and six TDs. Baskerville was an All-CAA third-team selection last season.
Junior TE Joe Migliarese (6-4, 250) is a big target in the passing game (17 catches for 175 yards, 2 TDs) and a solid blocker in the running game.
The O-line is large and experienced with three seniors and two juniors. The Rams have a very good left side with seniors Jason Foster (6-5, 305) and Kyle Bogumil (6-6, 310) both earning third-team All-CAA notice last season.
On defense, the Rams are big up front and are led by senior DT Matt Rae (6-4, 290), who has 46 tackles and 5.5 tackles for loss, and senior Willie McGinnis (6-3, 303), who has 60 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks.
At defensive end, sophomore James Timmins (6-2, 240) has 4.5 sacks and 11 tackles for loss. Junior Manee Williams (6-1, 230) adds four sacks and 10 tackles for loss.
At linebacker, sophomore David Zocco (6-1, 230) leads the team with 87 tackles, adding 12 tackles for loss, two interceptions, one fumble recovery, one pass breakup and four sacks. At middle linebacker, junior Doug Johnson (6-1, 225) lead the team with six sacks and 16 tackles for loss while adding two interceptions and 72 tackles.
Senior WLB Ahkiel White (6-2, 205) adds 48 tackles and two pass breakups.
The defensive backfield is led by senior Darrell Dulany (6-1, 195), who has 64 tackles and three pass breakups. The Rams have two solid senior corners in Stanley Dunbar (5-10, 199), who has 51 tackles, and Evan Shields (6-1, 197), who has 52 tackles.
The game will be broadcast on WNST-AM 1570 and streamed at TowsonTigers.com and WNST.net. Join me for a live blog at TowsonTigers.com at 12:15 p.m.