Towson's home opener Saturday night gave first-year head coach Rob Ambrose the opportunity to showcase a new era of Tigers football at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Tigers responded before an announced crowd of 7,628 by playing solidly on both sides of the ball and holding off a late rally by Coastal Carolina for a 21-17 victory. Ambrose kept the Chanticleers off balance by alternating Peter Athens and Tommy Chroniger at quarterback, and the two combined for three touchdown passes.
"It was a complete and utter adjustment," Ambrose said about using two quarterbacks. "We knew they were both going to play, and they did. There are no superstars in that locker room. The only way we will win is to play together."
Towson (1-1) ended a six-game losing streak, dating to Oct. 11, 2008. The Tigers also avenged last season's 31-3 loss to Coastal Carolina and avoided their first 0-2 start since 1991.
After Towson watched an 11-point lead shrink to 21-17 late in the fourth quarter, Coastal Carolina's Josh Norman intercepted Athens' pass in the end zone with 3:33 left. The Chanticleers marched to the Tigers' 12-yard line, but backup quarterback Zach MacDowall's pass into the end zone on fourth-and-7 with 1:07 left was incomplete, and the Tigers held on.
MacDowall had replaced starter Jamie Childers, who was knocked out of the game in the second half after taking a hard hit on a scramble into Towson's secondary.
Towson took an early lead by capitalizing on a 12-yard punt by Ben Erdman after a bad snap forced him to scramble before kicking the ball from the end zone. The Tigers took over on Coastal Carolina's 23 and scored eight plays later on a 4-yard touchdown pass from Chroniger to John Godlasky with 5:10 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers struck again with 11:02 left in the half when Athens threw a 4-yard pass to David Newsom, who was cutting across the end zone. The score capped a 12-play, 83-yard drive that took 6:51 off the clock.
Coastal Carolina (1-2), however, settled down and cut the margin to seven at the half on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Childers to David Duran. The Tigers held Coastal Carolina to just 7 rushing yards on 11 carries in the first half.
"We didn't get as many turnovers as we needed last year," Towson cornerback Ollie Thomas said. "This year, everyone is swarming to the ball."
Coastal Carolina cut the score to 14-10 on a 20-yard field goal by Justin Durham.
Towson increased its lead to 21-10 on a 13-yard pass from Athens to Newsom with 11:49 remaining in the game. MacDowall responded on the ensuing drive and threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Whitley to cut the lead to 21-17 with 10:29 left.
Coastal Carolina 0 7 3 7 - 17
Towson 7 7 0 7 - 21
First quarter Tow-Godlasky 4 pass from T.Chroniger (Boyer kick), 5:10. Second quarter Tow-Newsom 4 pass from Athens (Boyer kick), 11:02. CCar-Duran 12 pass from Childers (Durham kick), 7:58. Third quarter CCar-FG Durham 20, 1:36. Fourth quarter Tow-Newsom 13 pass from Athens (Boyer kick), 11:49. CCar-Whitley 6 pass from MacDowall (Durham kick), 10:29. A-7,628.
First downs 19 18
Rushes-Yards 28-94 45-138
Passing 295 177
Cmp.-Att.-Int. 20-34-2 17-25-3
Return Yards 2 66
Punts-Avg. 5-30.4 4-39.0
Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-0
Penalties-Yds. 8-78 12-80
Time of poss. 24:49 35:11
Rushing-Coastal Carolina, Fraser 10-49, O'Neal 13-40, Childers 5-5. Towson, Dameron 21-84, T.Chroniger 12-27, Stefanik 5-18, Booker 3-17, Kinchen 1-(minus 1), Zaccarelli 1-(minus 1), Athens 2-(minus 6). Passing-Coastal Carolina, MacDowall 11-21-1-185, Childers 9-13-1-110. Towson, Athens 13-18-1-132, T.Chroniger 4-7-2-45. Receiving-Coastal Carolina, Duran 6-88, Whitley 4-85, Morgan 2-64, Willis 2-20, Fraser 2-11, Nicholas 1-10, Sullivan 1-10, Presley 1-4, O'Neal 1-3. Towson, Dameron 7-61, Newsom 5-48, Godlasky 2-28, Cegles 2-27, Zaccarelli 1-13.