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Tom Flacco’s 3 TD passes lead Towson in 42-3 victory over North Carolina Central

If only for a moment, it appeared North Carolina Central had an opening to cut into Towson’s early lead. Up by three touchdowns midway through the second quarter, coach Rob Ambrose elected to try a 54-yard field goal instead of punting and pinning the Eagles deep in their own territory.

Senior kicker Aidan O’Neill’s attempt fell short and North Carolina Central took over at its own 38.

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Ambrose’s gamble didn’t come back to hurt the Tigers, however. On the first play after the miss, redshirt senior linebacker Keon Paye intercepted a pass from freshman quarterback Davius Richard and returned it 38 yards along the sideline to give the Tigers a four-touchdown lead at halftime.

The Tigers relied on a pair of interceptions as well as three passing touchdowns and a rushing score from redshirt senior quarterback Tom Flacco in Saturday’s home opener, a 42-3 victory over the Eagles.

“We had a good idea of what they were going to try to do offensively. We had a good idea of how we were going to defend them,” Ambrose said. “Schematically, we were honed in pretty good. Great focus, great effort and we put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. Makes it a hard day for any offense.”

While Towson (2-0) — which jumped to No. 8 this week in the STATS FCS Poll — needed a fourth quarter comeback to defeat The Citadel, 28-21, in its season opener, it handled North Carolina Central as it heads into conference play next week.

Flacco’s second touchdown pass — a 9-yard score to redshirt sophomore receiver Darian Street — gave him 31 in his brief career at Towson, moving him into a tie for ninth place on the school’s all-time passing touchdowns list. He completed 15 of 22 passes for 228 yards and three touchdowns before redshirt junior Ryan Stover relieved him with 38 seconds left in the third quarter.

“There’s things that you guys might not be able to see," Flacco said. “But as an offense, [we want to] just clean up the operations, clean up a play here and there. Keep stressing the red zone, getting in the end zone. I think this week, we actually got in the end zone and didn’t kick any field goals, which is nice.”

North Carolina Central (0-2) possessed the ball for seven more minutes than Towson, but entered the Tigers’ side of the field on just five of its 13 possessions.

“[Towson] changed up their coverage a little bit, what they were giving us, their looks,” North Carolina Central coach Trei Oliver said. “We kind of got away from our run game a little bit. They have a good front and they did some things and brought some pressure, but I think we kind of got away from our game plan a little bit.”

Towson sacked the quarterback three times, after not recording a sack against The Citadel, and came up with two interceptions that led to touchdowns.

One of the Tigers’ sacks came from defensive end Ronald Johnson, a transfer from Michigan. The redshirt junior arrived at Towson after placing his name in the transfer portal in May. Johnson didn’t play against The Citadel last week but Ambrose said he has been practicing with the team for about a week.

“We’re pretty deep up front now,” Ambrose said. “So a lot of guys are rolling in and he’s one of them. He’s earned the right to play and played pretty well.”

Junior safety Coby Tippett’s first quarter interception — his second in as many games — set up the Tigers’ first score of the game, a 6-yard touchdown run from senior running back Yeedee Thaenrat.

A 33-yard field goal in the fourth quarter saved North Carolina Central from a shutout loss.

“It’s pretty impressive to be ranked in the top 10 this early in the season,” Ambrose said. “They’ve earned that right and we had the following to show. So it’s the start of a good year.”

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TOWSON@MAINE

Saturday, 7 p.m.

Streaming: Flofootball.com

Radio: 1300 AM

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