Towson football welcomes Maine's struggling offense in Saturday's CAA opener

Black Bears rank in bottom fifth of FCS rankings in points, yards and first downs

September 24, 2014|By Edward Lee | The Baltimore Sun

When Towson welcomes Maine to Johnny Unitas Stadium on Saturday night for the Colonial Athletic Association opener for both sides, the matchup will pit two of the three teams in last year’s race for the conference title.

But both programs are shades of what they were in 2013. The Tigers (2-2), who advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision title game, absorbed a stunning 31-27 loss to Central Connecticut State in their season opener and recently won back-to-back games ito climb back to .500.

The Black Bears, who captured the CAA crown a year ago, earned a victory over Norfolk State in their season opener, but have since dropped games to Bryant and Boston College to fall to 1-2.

Maine’s woes have been especially noticeable on offense, where the team had to replace eight starters. After three games, the unit ranks 110th out of 121 FCS offenses in scoring (10.0 average), tied for 112th in first downs (31), and 118th in yards (201.0 average).

Black Bears coach Jack Cosgrove said the coaches have pared down the playbook in an effort to keep it simple for some of the newer faces.

“We’re still a work in progress,” he said Monday during his weekly conference call arranged by the CAA. “I know that the challenge of Boston College raised our level of focus and intensity on offense. The performance was clean, but it wasn’t as productive. I’d like to think that the next step for us is to play a clean game down at Towson and be more productive if we can. Certainly, we’ve got to make those steps. We’ve established who our personnel is going to be on the field. Now we’ve just got to get better at the things we’ve decided are our main offense, our bread-and-butter and grow that. Week to week, we’re going to see signs of development hopefully and improvement and productivity. If we don’t, then certainly that’s going to be disappointing.”

The Black Bears would appear to be a welcomed sight for a Towson defense that ranks 69th in points allowed (27.8 average), tied for 87th in first downs surrendered (82), and 73rd in yards permitted (402.5 average).

But Tigers coach Rob Ambrose pointed out that Maine has encountered some tough defenses that he suggested have factored into the offense’s low numbers.

“Bryant worked itself into the top 25, Norfolk is an extremely good defense, and ask USC how good Boston College’s defense is,” Ambrose said. “So early-season statistics don’t really bear a whole lot of weight. I think it’s the first conference game, and I think they’re a well-coached football team with a lot of really good players, and we’ll have to play our butts off to beat them.”

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