Towson defense displays knack for converting turnovers into touchdowns

The Towson football team has scored 46 of 51 touchdowns via its offense and special teams, which means that those units are averaging a healthy 5.1 touchdowns this fall. That also means that the defense has scored five touchdowns.

The Tigers (8-1 overall and 4-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association) demonstrated their proficiency for converting turnovers into touchdowns in last Saturday’s 48-32 victory over Richmond. Sophomore free safety Christian Carpenter returned an interception 34 yards for a score in the second quarter. Senior outside linebacker Telvion Clark sacked and stripped Spiders junior quarterback Michael Strauss and returned the fumble 32 yards for a touchdown in the fourth period.

“We score a lot of points on offense and the fact that not only do we play good defense, but we score points on defense, that’s scary to know if you make a mistake offensively, not only does it cost you a down, but it also costs you points,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said Monday during a conference call arranged by the league. “From my perspective, I feel like we’re getting more confident every week in our scheme and how to complete those plays in a big way. I’m not necessarily saying that we’re going to score points on defense, but I know that the ability is there and more importantly, the players know that the ability is there.”

The Tigers – who moved from No. 8 to No. 7 in Monday’s Football Championship Subdivision poll as announced by The Sports Network – are tied for ninth in the country in takeaways with 21. But unlike other programs that are content with seizing an interception or fumble and then falling to the turf to hand the ball back to their offense, Towson is looking to capitalize on those opportunities.

“Everybody practices [under the philosophy of] 11 guys to the ball because your odds of getting a turnover increase that way, but then [it is] all 11 guys to the end zone,” Ambrose said. “We don’t just practice a turnover, we practice how to extend the play. But we’re not the only ones. It’s just that the guys are doing it pretty proficiently at the moment.”

In five CAA games this season, the defense has turned four takeaways into touchdowns, including three in the team’s last two contests against Albany and Richmond. The Tigers’ knack has caught the attention of Delaware coach Dave Brock, whose Blue Hens (6-2, 3-1) will meet Towson this Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson.

“They score enough points offensively that to think they’re going to score some other way is a little bit challenging,” Brock said. “They’re a unique program in that there have been an awful lot of scoring plays in different facets of the game. They’ve had kicks returned, there’s been special teams scoring, defensive scoring.

"They play great football. They’ve got playmakers, and they’re very aggressive and they play with great confidence and swagger. They’re not afraid to try to steal the ball and make a play. So you have to guard against that. On the road, those type of negative-momentum plays are hard to overcome. So we’re going to have to find some momentum plays ourselves in the kicking game, on offense and defense, and that will give us a chance to win.”

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