Villanova is coming off of a disappointing one-point loss to Richmond on Saturday where the 'Cats were plagued by sloppy play and was highlighted by another failure in the kicking game. The Towson Tigers are up next, heading to Villanova Stadium for a night game this weekend. The Tigers have fallen off a bit from the powerhouse team that rode all the way to the national championship game last season, but even in a rebuilding year, they are plenty dangerous.
To help us get caught up-to-date on everything going on at Towson football, we reached out to Matt Hamilton, sports editor of Towson's Towerlight paper.
(1) Has Towson taken a step back in the running game without Terrance West? Commentators have blamed the loss for some of the Tigers' drop-off, but they are still 4th in the CAA in rushing offense.
Well, I'd say any time a player the caliber of Terrance West leaves your program, there will be some type of drop-off. However, I don't think it's as big of a drop-off as many believe. Towson's starting running back, Darius Victor, is one of the strongest backs in the nation. He stands at 5-feet-8, but he will often carry two or three tacklers like it's nothing. I think the drop-off in the running game can mainly been attributed to the offensive line, which lost all five starters from last year's team. The youth on the line, add in a few injuries which I'll get to later, has been evident all season. However. Towson is able to move the ball relatively well with Victor and quarterback Connor Frazier.
(2) Villanova and Towson have had some memorable games in recent years, with the 'Cats upsetting Towson last season, and trading blow-outs in 2010 and 2011. Is this match-up becoming a significant one in the CAA?
I think this Villanova program serves as a model for what Towson wants to become in the CAA. The Wildcats have been one of the most successful teams in the FCS over the past decade, and Towson is just starting to reach the point of consistent success. Towson's upset win over Villanova in 2011 was one of the more exciting wins in this program's history because it represented that it was on its way to becoming competitive. The past few matchups have been competitive and both teams have made runs at the FCS playoffs, so this matchup is definitely gaining some traction.
(3) What do I need to know about Towson's defense? How will the Tigers look to make John Robertson uncomfortable on Saturday? What are their biggest weaknesses?
The one thing you need to know about Towson's defense is that defensive end Ryan Delaire is really, really good. He's a monster on that line and will cause opposing tackles trouble no matter how strong. As for the rest of the defense, it has been relatively strong this season, particular stopping the run. However, if the 62-7 drubbing against Vad Lee and James Madison is any evidence of what Towson can do against dual-threat quarterback like Robertson, it could mean trouble for the Tigers. Towson's pass defense has been its weakest link, but they have a lot of depth and a strong cornerback in Tye Smith. In terms of stopping John Robertson, Rob Ambrose has said it many times: You simply can't. They'll play to contain Robertson as much as possible and force him to throw in positions that make him uncomfortable, which are hard to find.
(4) Towson has been hit by the injury bug this season, how bad are things in the infirmary for the Tigers?
Infirmary is a wonderful word for the group of injured players for Towson. The injured bench at practice is full and they're adding more each week. They have had to move to what I believe is the sixth-string fullback because of the slew of injuries. The offensive line has been impacted the most, which is tough for Ambrose because they are all young and inexperienced. We just found out that another starting tackle, Antonio Harris, is out for this game, adding even more to the revolving door that is the Towson offensive line. Still, Ambrose has been pretty successful in finding players to fill the holes. He's found a few younger players, like offensive lineman Jesus Barrio, who have stepped up to larger roles successfully.
(5) Rob Ambrose said that an upset on Saturday would make a great statement for his team. What does Towson need to do well to win?
Towson needs a few things to go well for it to do well against this Villanova team. The key to this game is containing Robertson and this offense, because if he gets rolling, it could turn out to be like the James Madison game. However, the defense can only do so much. Connor Frazier, who has had two great games in a row, will have to carry the Towson offense to keep up with Villanova. He was 10-for-10 at one point in the Elon game last week, so if he can be anywhere close to that accurate, Towson should be able to move the ball. Victor will have his share of tackle-busting runs, but Frazier needs to complete some passes for Towson to be successful. I spoke with Ambrose today and he said the team has not forgotten last year's homecoming loss, so they'll come in looking to spoil Villanova's playoff hopes.