In a game of defensive deception, Towson University aced its final nonconference test last night. Now the real work begins.
The Tigers found a new running back and a comfort zone in rush defense with a 10-3 victory over Liberty in front of 4,665 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"There's no such thing as an ugly girl in a beauty contest, and there's no such thing as an ugly win," coach Gordy Combs said after Towson notched its first 3-0 start since 2000.
If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, this was a game defensive purists could love. Towson dared Liberty to throw by putting eight defenders at the line of scrimmage.
Liberty, which had previously played a straight cover-2 zone under new coach Dan Rocco, dropped eight players back behind a three-man rush to contain Sean Schaefer's prolific passing game.
Both defensive strategies worked, but Towson's worked better.
Liberty running back Rashad Jennings, a transfer from Pittsburgh coming off rushing games of 161 and 160 yards, was held to 27 on 18 carries by the swarming Tigers.
Schaefer completed just three passes in a scoreless first half, but finished with 196 passing yards and the game's only touchdown, an 8-yard strike to Demetrius Harrison in the third quarter.
"You have to give a lot of credit to Towson," Rocco said. "They did a good job stopping our run with a lot of penetration, stunts and pressure. I thought sooner or later we'd get a crease and get [a big play]. But that just never happened."
Without production from Jennings, the Flames (2-1) punted on their first nine possessions. When their offense finally found a rhythm in the fourth quarter, Towson forced them to settle for a field goal and then cashed in a game-saving turnover.
The turnover came at the Tigers' 11 with 2:21 to play. On a screen pass to Brandon Turner, Towson safety Jerry Lumpkin knocked the ball loose and defensive end Richard Lee recovered at the 12.
That play allowed a number of other plays to stand out in the victory, the Tigers' 11th straight in nonconference play.
With running back Nick Williams (Calvert Hall) still out and Rasheed McClaude nursing a sore groin, freshman Matt Castor of Linganore High in Frederick County, stepped in and ran for 82 yards. It was his first action after serving a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules.
Harrison's touchdown grab from Schaefer capped a 79-yard drive to open the second half after Combs shuffled his offensive line. Schaefer has thrown at least one touchdown pass in 14 career starts for the Tigers.
The Tigers even had a little luck. Chris DeSautels' 30-yard field goal that accounted for the final margin came only after a 25-yarder was blocked. He got to try again, however, because of a false start against Towson.
Still, it was defense that prevailed for Towson, which opens its Atlantic 10 Football Conference schedule next week at Hofstra (1-1). firstname.lastname@example.org