Sunday Morning Quarterback: URI Edition
Courtesy: Mat Schlissel, TowsonTigers.com  
Release: 11/11/2012
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Towson's goal this week was to defeat Rhode Island amidst all the distractions. No, not those distractions. It was "Senior Day," which meant this was the final regular season home game for 14 Tigers. Towson came out on top, 41-10, at Unitas Stadium before 7,362 and the seniors were key contributors to the victory.  

"All of us came together," said senior running back Dominique Booker. "There are four of us left that came with the original class with (former head coach) Gordy (Combs). It's a great feeling. It's a blessing to be able to play with these guys."  

"It's definitely a little bit easier to get ready for," said senior wide receiver Tom Ryan. "You can't hide the fact that it is your last one. Everybody bonds together. That's what our seniors needed to jell and put a full game together."  

Booker saved his best for last as he rushed for 181 yards on just seven carries (25.9 ypc). His 83-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half put this game away after Towson had a 20-10 halftime lead. Booker came into the game as the team's third-leading rusher with 193 yards and one touchdown, averaging 4.0 yards per carry.  

"It's our normal play that we love to run," said Booker. "The hole was there. (Junior right tackle) Randall (Harris) came through and I just followed behind him. I was more happy to see a young guy like (redshirt freshman) Clayton (Minott) score a touchdown. I see a lot of myself in him. I'm very happy for him."  

If you want to go out with a bang, you go out like Booker and Ryan. The 6-foot-3 wide receiver from Philadelphia passed Andrae Brown (2003-06) for 14th all-time on the career receptions list with 122. Ryan caught seven passes against the Rams, including a 19-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter and a 38-yard one-handed catch from senior Grant Enders late in the third quarter. 

"It was a naked (bootleg) play," said Ryan. "We've been doing it all year. Usually, we say the backside is dead on it. We ran it a couple of weeks ago and I joked with Grant that he couldn't outthrow me and he definitely can outthrow me. When Grant is rolling out, the defense shifts to the left as we're rolling to the right and I was just wide open from there."

The Tigers started out slow against the 0-9 Rams, falling behind 7-0. However, Towson held URI to three points in the next 55:45. But did Towson need to dominate its opponent or just win the game to impress the FCS playoff selection committee?  

"The name of the game is to win and sadly, if style points actually count, that's a sad state of affairs," said Towson head coach Rob Ambrose. "We're not going to leave our starters in for four quarters to run up the score on somebody. If they want to keep us out (of the playoffs) for being classy, then that's fine by me. We're going to do it the right way and represent the game as best we can."  

Now Towson takes on first-place New Hampshire on the road this Saturday at 12 p.m. The Wildcats are tied with Old Dominion with a 6-1 record, though the Monarchs are ineligible for the championship since they are leaving for Conference USA next season. So with a 6-4 overall record and a 5-2 conference mark, the toughest schedule in school history and no bye since the second week, Towson has one more shot to not only earn an at-large FCS postseason bid but to also win the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship. 

"After the first quarter of the Kent State game, I didn't think one win was a given," said Ambrose. "You cannot do the things you want do without a winning record. We fought a ridiculously hard schedule. While we were playing LSU as tough as everybody said we were, James Madison had two weeks to prepare for us. Whatever we did tonight, New Hampshire is sitting there with two weeks to prepare for us. Overtime games. Cold weather. We'll just represent and try to play as well as we can."  

No week off since Sept. 8? Check. Distractions on and off the field? Check. Elevated expectations for the first time ever? Check. A target on their backs after being picked first in the CAA? Check. Playing with a decimated linebacking corps? Check.  

"Rob has done a better job this year than last year," said Rhode Island head coach Joe Trainer. "With all the adversity, staying the course when expectations are high. The sign of any great team is hitting your stride when it matters the most. What they've done in the second half of the season? Minimizing the distractions."  

*****
Instead of starting with the CAA, let's turn to the two FBS teams Towson has faced. Kent State (9-1, 6-0 MAC) continues its remarkable turnaround season, defeating Miami-Ohio, 48-32, on the road. No. 7 LSU (8-2, 4-2 SEC) defeated  No. 17 Mississippi State, 37-17, bouncing back from last week's lost to No. 1 Alabama (who lost to Texas A&M yesterday).  

Next week's opponent - UNH - had a bye this week. Old Dominion (9-1, 6-1 CAA) defeated William & Mary (2-8, 1-6) at home, 41-31.  

Villanova (7-3, 5-2) helped the Tigers by defeating James Madison (7-3, 5-2), 35-20, from Villanova Stadium. The Wildcats' defense held the Dukes to just 231 total yards and picked off quarterback Justin Thorpe twice.  

Richmond (7-3, 5-2) continued their strong play with a 23-17 win over Delaware at home. The Spiders' defense came up big in this game, picking off Trent Hurley four times.  

Finally, Maine (4-6, 3-4) dominated Georgia State (1-10, 1-7), 51-7, in Orono, Maine. This ended Georgia State's first and only season in the CAA before the Panthers move to FBS and the Sun Belt next season.

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