SMQB: Holy Cross Edition
Courtesy: Mat Schlissel,  
Release: 09/08/2013

Last year, Towson ground it out offensively, chewing up the clock and using its running backs and quarterback - Grant Enders - to move the chains. Enders was adept at running from a spread formation or throwing pinpoint passes to his big wide receivers, tight ends and fullbacks who could drag tacklers for yards after the catch (YAC).

This year, the quarterback - Peter Athens - is more of a pocket passer and the wide receivers are smaller and speedier.

Towson offense in 2013
The offense was still able to generate a combined 72:26 of combined possession time in wins over Connecticut and Holy Cross. While the running game was the focus against the Huskies, rushing 50 times for 201 yards, there was a little more balance against Holy Cross.

On Saturday, the Tigers ran 49 times for 286 yards and threw 24 times for 239 yards. Most of the passes took place in the first three quarters as the Tigers built such a big lead that they decided to take most of the starters out late and utilize the ground game.

Tiger offensive tendencies
It's a little early for a sample size, but this offense appears to be more willing to use the big play than the last two seasons.

Against Holy Cross on Saturday, senior quarterback Peter Athens went deep numerous times, including completing a 33-yard touchdown pass to Leon Kinnard. He also ran a quarterback sneak for 24 yards for a score. A 35-yard pass to junior Spencer Wilkins led to Athens' rushing TD.

Athens was also able to toss it to Wilkins for a 40-yard pass that led to Terrance West's first short touchdown run of the game.

Big plays have not been necessarily a staple of the Towson offense over the last two years unless West was able to take a long one to the house. With defenses concentrating on the All-American running back, Athens will have opportunities to look for Kinnard, Wilkins and junior speedster Derrick Joseph, who can all get deep. That's not to forget junior wide receiver/running back Brian Dowling, who caught a key 45-yard bomb from Athens in the Connecticut game.

The receiving corps
Offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose has a different group of receivers from last year's group, which was led by Tom Ryan, Gerrard Sheppard, Alex Blake and Erron Banks, who have all graduated.

All were over 6-feet tall and around 200 pounds or more. This group doesn't have a player over 6-feet tall out side of true freshman Andre Dessenberg and sophomore Arione Scott (6-2, 170), who have seen limited playing time this year.

It also helps to have a quarterback in Athens with a strong arm and good accuracy on his deep pass. He's been hurt in the past by trusting his arm a little too much and still has to know when to manage the game and when to air it out.

Athens on the ground
But Athens also showed on Saturday he has the capability to take off as a runner (four attempts for 35 yards). He showed some ability to run in his freshman season before tearing his ACL against Delaware in the sixth game. Now that ability is starting to return.

He might not run as much as Enders did, but that option just adds another variety to an offense that can go vertical a little more while still relying on West and senior Sterlin Phifer to control the ground game.

A weakness in the kicking game
One thing Towson does need to shore up is its kicking game. While it's tough to scrutinize that part of the game when you're beating Connecticut by 15 and Holy Cross by 42, the lack of a consistent kicker or punter could end up costing the Tigers in a close game.

On Saturday, senior Drew Evangelista missed a 33-yard field goal, although he did make all seven extra point attempts. That was after senior D.J. Soven missed two extra points last week. And although they punted just once, freshman Jake Ryder's kick traveled just 23 yards. Evangelista and Ryder combined for a 32.5 yards per average per punt against Connecticut with a long of 41.

A look around the CAA
The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) was supposed to be downgraded with the loss of Old Dominion and Georgia State and the additions of Stony Brook and Albany. So far, that doesn't appear to be the case.

Stony Brook won its first CAA game in a rout, dominating Rhode Island, 24-0. The Seawolves held the Rams to just 67 yards rushing and forced three turnovers.

For the second straight week, there were some near-misses against FBS teams. In the opening week, William & Mary and Villanova both had early leads against West Virginia and Boston College respectively before falling in the second half. On Saturday, Richmond opened up a 21-13 halftime lead against Richmond but was shut out in the second half and fell, 23-21.

James Madison opened up with a 13-0 lead over Akron and then wound up losing, 35-33. New Hampshire also had a 13-0 halftime lead before falling at Central Michigan, 24-21.

Maine, now 2-0, became the only CAA team this week to defeat an FBS squad as the Black Bears beat former CAA rival Massachusetts, 24-14.

In other CAA action, Delaware beat Towson's next opponent Delaware State, 42-14, at home to start its season 2-0. Quarterback Trent Hurley threw for 328 yard and four touchdowns, but the Hornets' Cory Murphy added 302 yards passing as he completed 30 of 45 passes.

William & Mary looked strong again, defeating Hampton, 31-7, at home. Villanova fell to Fordham on the road, 27-24, and Albany edged Colgate on the road, 37-34.

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