The manner in which the No. 7 Towson football team lost, 32-31, to No. 21 Delaware on Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium may dominate conversation in Football Championship Subdivision circles. But the Tigers have only themselves to blame.
With 4:19 left in the third quarter, Towson (8-2, 4-2 Colonial Athletic Association) had a chance to pad a 28-10 advantage, but senior Drew Evangelista’s field-goal attempt from 33 yards banged off the left upright.
On the ensuing possession, Tigers middle linebacker Monte Gaddis pressured Blue Hens senior quarterback Trevor Sasek, who forced a deep pass that junior cornerback Tye Smith intercepted at Towson’s 26-yard line. Smith wove his way 74 yards into the end zone, but the Tigers were flagged for clipping, which nullified the touchdown.
And on Delaware’s penultimate series, Sasek severely underthrew junior wide receiver Michael Johnson on second-and-2 at Towson’s 16, but Smith dropped a sure interception that would have led to the Tigers cementing a 31-17 lead.
Those missed opportunities will haunt Towson, but coach Rob Ambrose declined to put more weight on one play versus another.
“I told the team, ‘You win as a team, you lose as a team,’” he said. “There’s a lot of plays in the game that everybody would like to point out, but it doesn’t matter what the offensive stats or the defensive stats [are]. There were plays that were made and not made on offense, defense and special teams that contributed to this, and in the end, we lost.”
Evangelista’s miss may have played a role in the team’s decision to take a gamble late in the fourth quarter. Leading 31-17, the Tigers faced fourth-and-2 at the Blue Hens’ 19. Instead of kicking a field goal, the offense went for it, but freshman running back Darius Victor was stopped for a loss.
Delaware coach Dave Brock called that fourth-down stop “the catalyst that gave us a chance.”
“Maybe banging one off the upright like you were talking about earlier made him hesitant to kick it again and [Ambrose] felt like, ‘Hey, we’ve got a billion yards rushing. We can get two more,’” Brock said. “I don’t know. You’d have to ask him that, but that’s what really fueled the opportunity to win the game realistically.”
Brock shrugged off the notion that the Blue Hens (7-2, 4-1) were fortunate to be luckier than good.
“When the ball bounces off the upright, so it goes,” he said. “We’ve missed our share. At the end of the day, you make your own breaks, and I think we made a lot of them tonight. I think the players strained and I think they put themselves in a position to be successful, but the most important thing that we’ll take away from this is that they’ll have a crystal-clear understanding that we can beat an excellent, that we can beat a championship-caliber team, because I would tell you this: In my opinion, Towson will be a force to be reckoned with at the end of November. They will be a team that will be standing there in the mix.”