DURHAM, N.H. – When Coach Rob Ambrose and the Tigers (6-4, 5-2) travel to the University of New Hampshire (8-2, 6-2) on Saturday, November 17 for a 12 noon matchup against the Wildcats, the Tigers will be trying to create chaos at the top of the Colonial Athletic Association standings.
Meanwhile, UNH will be trying to wrap up the CAA championship. A win over Towson would enable seventh-ranked Wildcats to win the CAA title for the first time since 2005. UNH is also seeking its ninth consecutive NCAA FCS playoff appearance.
Heading into the final games of the regular season, there is a possibility that six teams could tie for the CAA championship. According to the CAA, there are 19 possibilities of how the teams could finish. Riding a three-game winning streak, the Tigers hold the key for nearly every other team.
The game will be televised back to the Baltimore area on Comcast Sports Mid-Atlantic with Joe Beninati and Andrew Gresh calling the action. The game will also be aired on the Tigers’ web site, www.TowsonTigers.com with Spiro Morekas and Ron Meehan handling the broadcast. The Tigers’ internet broadcast also features a one-hour pre-game show.
The stakes are very high for the Tigers this weekend. Although the Tigers may not win the CAA title, they could improve their hopes for earning a second consecutive bid to the NCAA FCS playoffs. Last season, Towson won the CAA championship outright and earned the automatic berth to the NCAA FCS playoffs.
Towson enters the final game of the regular season tied for third place in the CAA with Villanova (7-3, 5-2), Richmond (7-3, 5-2) and James Madison (7-3, 5-2). Old Dominion (9-1, 6-1) and New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1) are tied for first place but ODU isn’t eligible to win the CAA title because Old Dominion is moving up to NCAA BCS classification next year.
The Tigers, who have won six of their last seven CAA road games, are seeking their first-ever win at New Hampshire. The teams are meeting for the ninth time in a series that UNH leads by a 7-1 margin. Towson beat the Wildcats for the first time last season.
“Sean McDonnell has built an awesome program,” says Ambrose. “I’m sure they will be all jacked up because of Senior Day. There’s a lot on the line for both teams. They want to win the CAA and it’s do-or-die for us. In order to win, we can’t give up any big plays. Every offensive opportunity will be precious in this game.”
Depending on other results, New Hampshire could lose to Towson and still win the CAA championship. If UNH and Towson are both 6-2 with other teams, the CAA will resort to its elaborate tie-breaking decision to determine the CAA champion. Towson’s best hope of earning the title would be if the Tigers are tied with only UNH and Villanova.
Coach Ambrose feels that a win over New Hampshire should earn the Tigers a berth in the NCAA FCS playoffs. He says, “If we win on Saturday, I definitely think we are worthy of a bid. When you look at our schedule and who we played and when we played them, we deserve a bid. We played at Kent State and they are going to a bowl game and we played at LSU and they were fourth in the nation. Those two teams are BCS programs and each of them has one loss. Plus, we played at James Madison when they were fifth in the nation and coming off a bye week. Even then, we led until there were two minutes left. If we win on Saturday, we will have a four-game winning streak and we ought to go to the playoffs. But all we can do is take care of ourselves and see what happens.”
When the Tigers visit UNH, they will bring the top defense in the CAA to Cowell Stadium. Towson is allowing 310.0 yards of total offense per game. The Tiger defense will be trying to slow down a UNH offense that is second in the CAA, averaging 483.5 total yards and 36.7 points per game.
Senior quarterback Grant Enders directs the Tiger offense. He is ranked second in the CAA in total offense, averaging 266.3 yards per game. He has completed 188 of 289 passes for 2,087 yards and 17 touchdowns with only eight interceptions. He has also rushed for 576 yards on 94 carries, an average of 6.1 yards per game.
A two-year starter at quarterback, Enders has rushed for 963 yards in his career as a Tiger. He needs only 37 yards to become the 23rd player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards. He would also be the first quarterback to reach that level.
Sophomore quarterback Andy Valias of UNH has completed 119 of 199 passes for 1,473 yards and 17 touchdowns. He has only thrown three interceptions. Sophomore R.J. Harris of UNH leads the CAA in receiving. He has caught 71 passes for 961 yards and eight touchdowns.
Sophomore Terrance West leads the Tigers’ rushing game. He has rushed for 810 yards on 176 carries this season. Last year, he picked up a career high 261 yards and scored four touchdowns in Towson’s 56-42 win over the Wildcats.
Senior linebacker Matt Evans leads the Wildcats’ defense. The winner of the Buck Buchannan Award as the top defensive player in NCAA FCS last season, Evans has made 103 tackles in 10 games, a mark that leads the CAA.
The Tiger defense also leads the CAA in sacks. Towson has 29 sacks in 10 games while six players have at least three sacks. Junior linebacker Monte Gaddis leads the Tigers with five sacks. He is also second in the CAA in sacks. Gaddis, who did not play against Rhode Island last week, leads Towson with 70 tackles in nine games.
The Tigers will be facing New Hampshire without their defensive leader, senior safety Jordan Dangerfield. A two-year co-captain, Dangerfield has been suspended for one game by the CAA because he had two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in Towson’s 41-10 win over Rhode Island. A Pre-Season All-American, Dangerfield has made 69 tackles this season and has broken up six passes.
If the Tigers beat UNH, they will gather in their locker room to watch the NCAA FCS Selection Show on ESPNU on Sunday, November 18 at 1:30 p.m.
TIGER TALES: In their first 10 games of the season, the Tigers have controlled the time of possession eight times ... While averaging 33:29 in time of possession, Towson ranks sixth in NCAA FCS in time of possession.