Towson's Alexander DiSanzo leaps to try to block the pass… (Lloyd Fox, Baltimore Sun )
Bring on Maryland.
Towson's turnaround season, which began in earnest two weeks ago with the school's first win over a ranked team in four years, continued at Johnny Unitas Stadium Saturday night with a dominating 42-17 victory over Colgate.
It was the third straight one-sided win for the Tigers (3-0) under third-year coach Rob Ambrose, equaling his victory total for the first two seasons and giving Towson its first win in 10 tries over longtime Colgate coach Dick Biddle .
Trailing 3-0 early, the Tigers responded with 35 unanswered points — 21 in the third quarter — to take control of the game.
Freshman tailback Terrence West (Northwestern) scored three touchdowns, rushing for 85 yards on 13 carries. Overall, Towson rushed for 251 yards on 40 carries. The defense had two interceptions — incuding a 79-yard return for a touchdown by safety Nick Oates that was called back by a penalty — and forced a fumble.
"There was no doubt we could do this," said Ambrose, who received his third straight Gatorade bath from his players at the end of the game. "This is where we wanted to be. This is where most of the country would, in fact, like to be."
Ambrose said he couldn't remember a team he was associated with starting the season with three straight victories, and he was well aware of the record Biddle had over Towson coming in. With as much respect he has for Biddle, whose team fell to 1-3 with the defeat, Ambrose knows the equation has changed.
"We're not in the Patriot League anymore, and this is not the same old Towson," said Ambrose, whose team now plays in theColonial Athletic Association.
Asked whether his rebuilding plan is ahead of schedule, Ambrose said, "Tonight was just one brick, but it was a hell of a brick."
It looked early on that the Tigers would fall short of their aspirations. After holding Colgate to a 40-yard field goal on the opening drive — the Raiders got the ball all the way to the Towson 10 before penalties and a botched snap moved them back — a Towson offense averaging more than 36 points over its first two games sputtered at the start.
The first possession ended with a three-and-out, the second with a fumble recovered at Towson's 24. Then, after nearly losing another fumble late in the first quarter, the Tigers began to click offensively. Scoreless after a quarter, the Tigers led 14-3 at halftime and finished the third quarter with a 35-3 lead.
"We came out a little slow," said sophomore quarterback Grant Enders, who ran for one touchdown and threw another, a 49-yard catch-and-run by fullback Tyler Wharton. "Things weren't clicking. Eventually we started moving the ball."
Towson never really stopped, even after Ambrose pulled his starters.
The victory set up an interesting matchup next Saturday in College Park, the first meeting between Towson and Maryland in the 42 years since the Tigers began playing football.
It comes as Towson celebrates its best start since winning its first four games in 2006, and with the Terps coming off one of their worst home losses in recent memory, a 38-7 drubbing by Temple earlier Saturday at Byrd Stadium.
Despite falling short of breaking the attendance record at Unitas Stadium — the announced crowd of 9,919 was the third largest in Towson history — there were more students (a little over 4,000) than ever for a football game.
"This is an experience they need to share, they need to be a part of it," Ambrose said.
In the parking lot behind the stadium, the crowd came early to tailgate and talk about Towson's fast start, which included a 31-10 win over Villanova, then No. 20 in the Football Championship Subdivision, two weeks ago.
Marcus Lee, who graduated in 2009 as the school's all-time leader in receptions, said he didn't envy the current group of Tigers who might get to play on a winning team.
"I'm not jealous, I'm much more excited for the guys, they've worked hard in the off-season to turn the program around," said Lee, who is now a yoga instructor and has a mentoring program for youth in Baltimore. "The alumni are excited to be here supporting them. They have worked extremely hard to get to this point. They deserve every [fan] here."
Lee knows it will take more than a win over Villanova to get the fan base to completely buy into what Ambrose and his team have done so far this season.
"If people see them start to win, more and more people will be attracted to the program," Lee said.
Former Towson cheerleader Nicole Carmon drove down with a group from New Jersey, as has been their tradition for the annual Homecoming game since they graduated in 2008. She remembers many nights at Johnny Unitas Stadium where small crowds came late and left early.
Carmon, who is planning to move back to Baltimore in the near future, said the campus excitement about football "was definitely missing" during her four years, but she saw some improvement by the time she graduated.
Carmon said she was aware of the win over Villanova two weeks ago.
Was she surprised?
"I was," Carmon said.
Maybe not anymore.