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College Football

Offensive troubles contribute to Towson football’s 37-14 blowout loss to New Hampshire

The Towson football team’s lack of offensive production in a 65-7 loss at West Virginia on Sept. 17 might have been excused because of the opponent.

But the offense’s lackluster showing in Saturday’s 37-14 setback to New Hampshire before an announced 5,508 at Johnny Unitas Stadium raises more questions than answers.

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The Tigers were shut out in the first half and had only 17 more yards on offense over that stretch than Wildcats junior Dylan Laube’s 92-yard punt return in the first quarter. When graduate student quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome hit graduate student tight end Robert Schwob for a 17-yard touchdown with 11:14 left in the third quarter, it was still a three-score game for New Hampshire, which owned a 24-7 advantage at that point.

“Extremely disappointed,” Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. “Poor discipline, too many distractions during the week, lack of making good on some really good opportunities all piled up. Inept on offense on the first couple drives. I challenged them at halftime. Disappointed that the defense gave up a quick score, but impressed with the offense and how they responded. They gave us a chance, but we were too far behind.”

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Starts have proved troublesome for the Tigers, who fell to 2-2 overall and 0-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association and have lost their last two conference openers. The offense has scored just three points in the first quarters of four games thus far and 13 points in the first halves.

While Towson mounted second-half comebacks to overtake Bucknell and Morgan State in the first two games, the offense has not unearthed similar success in setbacks to West Virginia and now New Hampshire. Even when bequeathed with an opportunity such as regaining possession at the 50 after redshirt senior defensive end Jesus Gibbs stripped sophomore quarterback Max Brosmer and graduate student defensive end Makye Smith recovered the fumble, the offense went four-and-out, and the Wildcats (3-1, 3-0) added a touchdown to pad their lead to 31-7 with 3:10 left in the third quarter.

Towson coach Rob Ambrose talks with quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome during practice at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

Ambrose said he plans to begin treating pregame warmups as an intrasquad scrimmage to try to get the offense kick-started early.

“It’s not good enough, and that’s my fault,” he said. “When you’re putting these guys together and they haven’t played that much football together, then they’re feeling themselves out, and I’ve got to find a way to get them moving faster without fear, with confidence, and just go play and who gives a damn who the other guys are.”

The Wildcats clogged the running lanes to contain the Tigers’ running back duo of junior Devin Matthews (four carries for 41 yards and one touchdown) and redshirt senior D’Ago Hunter (eight for 27). They seemed content with forcing Pigrome to beat them through the air.

Pigrome used his feet at times to pick up first downs, rushing for 29 yards on 14 attempts. But he was under consistent pressure from a New Hampshire front four that did not need to blitz that often. Of the defense’s six sacks, three came from redshirt freshman defensive end Dylan Ruiz, and 1 1/2 came from sophomore defensive end Josiah Silver. Pigrome finished 14-for-28 for 142 yards and a touchdown.

“We knew how explosive Pigrome was, and we’ve struggled containing the quarterback the last few weeks,” Wildcats coach Rick Santos said. “The entire game plan was to work hard on first and second downs to start the run. We knew they were going to run gap schemes and power and be physical. When we got into all these passing situations, we had to put a cage and net around him. So we put in a few different defensive schemes. We were going to show pressure and then bluff out some of the linebackers to really just spy him and try to work to keep him in there and see if he could make consistent throws from the pocket.”

The same could not be said for the New Hampshire offense. Brosmer was surgically efficient in completing 17 of 23 passes for 194 yards and three touchdowns. Laube rushed for 114 yards on 23 carries, and redshirt freshman wide receiver Joey Corcoran caught six passes for 71 yards and one touchdown.

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“They were just very consistent on first and second downs to get them into manageable third downs, and we just couldn’t get off the field,” said Towson graduate student middle linebacker Ryan Kearney, who had a game-high 11 tackles, including six solo stops. “I think they had two drives of over 10 plays, and that’s just unacceptable. We’ve got to get them off the field.”

Special teams play was the opening theme of the game. On the very first play, New Hampshire began with an onside kick that tight end Adam Deese recovered at the Tigers’ 48-yard line.

The Wildcats made their way to Towson’s 4, but could not find the end zone on three consecutive plays. They instead settled for a 25-yard field goal by redshirt freshman kicker Nick Mazzie to take a 3-0 lead with 10:34 left in the first quarter.

On the second-to-last play of the period, Tigers sophomore punter Riley Williams launched a 58-yard punt that drove Dylan Laube back to New Hampshire’s 8. But the junior running back raced through a gap in the middle of the field to return the punt 92 yards for the touchdown and a 10-0 advantage with 35 seconds remaining.

That marked the first time Towson had surrendered a punt return for a score since Sept. 8, 2018, when Greg Dortch, now with the Arizona Cardinals, returned punts of 70 and 60 yards in the second quarter for scores in a 51-20 romp by Wake Forest.

Kearney said everyone shouldered the blame for the punt return.

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“We’re a team,” he said. “A lot of starters on defense are on the punt team. So it doesn’t matter if you’re special teams, offense or defense. If one phase is lacking, the other has to pick it up. The defense didn’t pick it up today. So there’s no blame to be put.”

The Wildcats added to their lead in the second quarter when Brosmer connected with Corcoran on a curl route to the left and the redshirt freshman wide receiver shook off a tackle at the Tigers’ 9 and dove into the end zone to complete a 20-yard touchdown. The play capped a drive of 77 yards in 14 plays that chewed up 8:27 of the clock.

Towson’s most productive offensive effort found the unit marching 62 yards from its own 13 to New Hampshire’s 25. But after using two timeouts in the first quarter, the Tigers could not prevent the clock from running out nor from the Wildcats enjoying a 17-0 advantage at halftime.


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