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College Football

After struggling Saturday, Towson defense faces tough test vs. West Virginia

With eight starters gone from last year's offense, the defense and its six returning starters was thought to be the strength of Towson's football team this season.

But missed tackles, miscommunication and breakdowns in the secondary all contributed to the Tigers’ 31-27 loss to Central Connecticut State in Saturday night’s season opener. A repeat of those issues would be disastrous Saturday when Towson visits West Virginia, who played well against No. 2 Alabama in an eventual 33-23 loss.

“I saw a lot of moments of some really impressive defense, probably some of the best defense we’ve played here in a long time,” coach Rob Ambrose said Monday during his weekly conference call organized by the Colonial Athletic Association. “But I saw a lot of inconsistency, and we didn’t finish. That’s a problem. We didn’t finish defensively, and that’s something we’ve got to get corrected in a really short order because we just went out of the frying pan and into the fire.”

The Tigers, who fell from No. 13 to No. 22 in Monday’s Football Championship Subdivision poll by The Sports Network, felt the heat in the loss to the Blue Devils, who racked up 465 yards and 20 first downs while holding onto the ball for 33 minutes, 55 seconds.

Central Connecticut State senior running back Rob Hollomon carried the ball 23 times for 161 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a game-high nine passes for 48 yards, earning FCS National Offensive Player of the Week honors from The Sports Network.

Many of Hollomon’s yards were gained after he broke tackles and made Towson players miss, but Ambrose said the missed tackles were problematic for many teams last weekend.

“If you watched a lot of football from Wednesday through Sunday in college football, the one thing you probably saw the most, especially at the lower levels, was inconstant tackling, and that has to do with not having 85 scholarships and people not practicing tackling because you don’t want to get guys hurt,” Ambrose said. “Tackling usually gets better from Week 1 to Week 2 to Week 3 just in practice alone, and you have to balance that out between beating your own guys up versus getting beat up and still being successful. So I expect us to be a much better tackling team on Saturday.”

Central Connecticut State junior quarterback Nick SanGiacomo threw for 273 yards -- the third-highest total of his career -- and two touchdowns. The Mountaineers could feature a pass-oriented attack this weekend after redshirt senior Clint Trickett threw for 365 yards and one touchdown on 29 of 45 passing against Alabama in their opener.

But there may be some good news for the Tigers. Junior free safety Christian Carpenter, an Aberdeen graduate and 2013 All-CAA first-team selection who sat out the season opener because of concussion-related symptoms, is on track to play this Saturday, according to Ambrose.

Carpenter would join senior cornerback Tye Smith and junior strong safety Donnell Lewis as returning starters from last year’s secondary.

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