Towson likes its chances to move up in Atlantic 10, but climb promises to be tough

Year after going winless in league, Tigers hopeful, but opponents formidable

College Football

August 10, 2005|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

The Towson University Tigers say they are stronger, quicker, deeper and better than they were a year ago. But in the Division I-AA world of Atlantic 10 Conference football, where Towson is trying to find its way as a second-year member of a top-notch league, improvements on paper don't amount to much.

A year after a rough introduction to the Atlantic 10, a year in which the Tigers went 3-8, were the only winless team in conference play and dropped five of their eight league games by an average of 29 points, Towson sees itself making a mark this fall.

For starters, the Tigers played league powerhouses James Madison and Delaware tough in 2004, losing to Division I-AA's last two national champions by a combined 18 points. In addition, Towson now has 40 scholarship players and should reach the NCAA limit of 63 in two years.

"It feels like the talent pool keeps going up," said senior center Konstantinos Kosmakos (Dulaney), one of 10 returning starters on offense.

"The coaches have a good feel of what to expect. We know how much harder we have to work to get over that next hump. The expectations are high to be successful and turn the program around."

"We were at the bottom and we have no place to go but up," added fifth-year senior cornerback Allante Harrison (Woodlawn). "The thing is, we're close."

The Tigers would love to become competitive in the South Division of the A-10 quickly. It will not be easy.

Consider that four of their eight conference opponents - New Hampshire, William and Mary, Delaware and James Madison - are ranked in the Top 10 of the Sports Network preseason I-AA poll.

Towson ranked last in the league last year in scoring (17.7 ppg) and red zone offense, scoring on just 22 of 31 chances.

But the Tigers hope sophomore quarterback Andrew Goldbeck (Calvert Hall), along with 5-foot-8, 210-pound sophomore tailback Nick Williams (Calvert Hall) and an offensive line that has 85 starts behind it and features four seniors, can turn things around.

Goldbeck, after struggling early last season, finished with two 300-yard passing games. He could be pushed by second-year freshman Sean Schaefer, who had an outstanding spring season.

Defensively, the Tigers wore down in 2004 from a lack of size and depth and surrendered 27.8 points per game, 11th in the 12-team A-10. They lost three starters up front, then junior rover back Tony Lumpkin suffered a knee injury last spring. He is out for the season.

That puts more pressure on senior cornerbacks Davon Telp and Harrison to be as good as advertised.

Harrison, one of six returning starters, broke out last year when he tied for third in the nation with seven interceptions. Telp (Chesapeake), who missed last season with injuries he suffered in a car accident, returned two interceptions for touchdowns in 2003.

"The depth factor hurt us [in 2004]. With our experience coming back, we're not that far away," said Gordy Combs, who is entering his 14th year as head coach and might need to produce significant progress to retain his job. His contract was extended to Dec. 31.

"It's put up or shut up," he said.

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