TOWSON, Md. - Overcoming an early 3-0 deficit, the Tigers (1-0) put together its best offensive performance in five years as they opened their season with an impressive 42-3 non-conference victory over local rival Morgan State before a crowd of 9,759 at Minnegan Field at Johnny Unitas® Stadium.
Making his first start as a Tiger, sophomore quarterback Grant Enders passed for 197 yards and three touchdowns as the Tigers piled up 534 yards of total offense.
"This was a great way for us to start off the season," said Coach Rob Ambrose, who led the Tigers to their first season-opening victory since 2007. "I am very happy for our players. They deserve all of the accolades tonight."
Junior kick returner Tyrone Hendrix got Morgan State's season off to a great start when he returned the opening kickoff 86 yards to the Towson 14-yard line where Alex Blake pushed him out of bounds. However, the Bears couldn't take advantage of the outstanding field position and Jourdan Brooks was tackled for a six-yard loss on third down to push the ball back to the Tigers' 19-yard line. Sophomore Abraham Mercado gave the Bears an early 3-0 lead when he kicked a 33-yard field goal.
The Tigers responded with an efficient 69-yard, six-play drive for a touchdown as sophomore quarterback Grant Enders led them on a drive that put them ahead to stay. On the drive, Enders completed all three of his pass attempts for 42 yards and completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to senior fullback Tyler Wharton, the first touchdown reception of his career.
With the Tigers clinging to their 7-3 lead in the second quarter, the Bears drove to the Towson 23-yard line where they faced fourth down-and-one. Junior quarterback Donovan Dickerson tried to get the first down on a quarterback sneak but he was stuffed by junior defensive end Romale Tucker and sophomore defensive tackle Arnold Farmer as the Tigers took over on downs.
The Tiger offense responded with another impressive drive. Enders marched the Tigers 77 yards on 13 plays and capped off the drive with a 25-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Gerrard Sheppard, a transfer from the University of Connecticut. That gave the Tigers a 14-3 lead at halftime.
In the third quarter, the Tigers took control of the game. On the opening drive of the third quarter, Enders threw a 12-yard TD pass to Wharton to complete a 74-yard, 10-play drive and give Towson a 21-3. Less than a minute later, junior safety Jordan Dangerfield recovered a fumble at the Tigers' 32-yard line and the offense went back to work.
With 4:51 left in the third quarter, Enders kept the ball himself and ran around the left end for an 18-yard touchdown to cap off a 68-yard drive and give the Tigers a 28-3 advantage.
In the final minute of the third quarter, sophomore Sterlin Phifer gave the Tigers a 35-3 lead when he scored on a two-yard run, completing a 73-yard drive.
In the fourth quarter, reserve quarterback Peter Athens came off the bench and directed an 85-yard, 12-play drive that consumed nearly seven minutes. Athens fired a ten-yard touchdown pass to Spencer Wilkins with 7:39 remaining in the game, giving the Tigers an insurmountable 42-3 lead.
"They made more plays than we did," explained Morgan Coach Donald Hill-Eley. "It was obvious that Coach Ambrose is running their offense now. What they are doing now is totally different from what they did the last few years."
While the Tigers' offense amassed 25 first downs and piled up 534 yards, the Tiger defense turned in a dominant effort. Led by junior linebacker Alexander DiSanzo, the Tigers allowed only 160 yards of offense and six first downs. The defense also forced two turnovers as Dangerfield intercepted a pass and had a fumble recovery. DiSanzo led the defense with seven tackles while junior defensive end Frank Beltre made six tackles, including two for lost yardage. He also had a quarterback sack.
The Tigers rushed for 264 yards against Morgan as junior Tremayne Dameron showed the way with 71 yards on nine carries. Junior Dominique Booker picked up 60 rushing yards and set up one touchdown with a 32-yard run. Phifer ran for 59 yards on 11 carries while Enders had 47 rushing yards and scored one touchdown.
"Our offensive line did a great job tonight," said Ambrose. "They played very well against a very strong Morgan State team. We've got four or five young guys that have been playing together and they're going to keep getting better."
The Tigers, who are 1-0 for the first time since the 2007 season, open their Colonial Athletic Association schedule next Saturday night against Villanova.
Enders, a transfer from Lackawanna Junior College, also ran for a touchdown as the Tigers erupted for 534 yards of offense against the Bears.