Last year, while moving through a distraction-filled 2-9 season, Towson State yielded some record numbers to opposing offenses. A basically young defense, pressed into service by a series of injuries to experienced starters, was picked apart for a school-record 336 points and an average of 450 yards of offense.
"It was humiliating. It got to a point where you didn't want to go out there," said senior James Dutton, who will be starting his third season as an inside linebacker when the Tigers open their season Saturday night at home against first-time opponent Boston University.
The Terriers started last week against William & Mary, losing, 48-22.
"I have no qualms about saying we'll be better on defense than last year," added Dutton, taking time before practice to preview the year.
"We have just about everybody back, and I believe with the experience from last year, we are a smarter group," he said. "Last year, the defensive linemen thought they had to get in the backfield and make every tackle. It's all in knowing the system, and that wasn't what was wanted from them. It was a learning situation.
"Now, I think everybody is aware of what the others have to do. Those linemen have learned they can hold down a play, and they'll get help cleaning up."
Boston University uses a run-and-shoot offense, and Dutton said it can causes defensive problems. "At least it's the first game, so we can prepare for them and then forget it," he said. "When that offense is clicking, there are some pass patterns, for instance, you just can't defense.
"If they throw 45 times a game, the odds are pretty good they are going to get some through. At the same time," he added, "if they throw that many, the odds are pretty good we ought to get some of them, too."
A year ago, Dutton led the team in tackles with 112 and had one interception and a fumble recovery. As a unit, there were 15 fumble recoveries and 16 interceptions.
"It's an offense that revolves around the quarterback," Dutton continued. "If he's on, it's fine; if not, it's not OK. Still, it can lull a defense and suddenly hit for two or three scores. That's something our defense won't have to worry about, though, because we'll be talking it up, making sure of our concentration. We'll keep up the heat."
Dutton is one of five seniors starting on defense, and he will be joined by Jared Freeze and backs Dustin Harper, Mike Locksley and Keith Williams.
"You always have hopes before the season starts," he said, "but this is the last time for the seniors. We're excited, and we'll have everybody pumped up by Saturday."