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Towson triumphs over Delaware in an A-10 shootout, 49-35
(see Reviews of two other games this weekend below)
Newark, DE - The Towson Tigers and Delaware's Fightin' Blue Hens combined for over 1,000 yards on total offense and for 89 pass attempts in a 49-35 triumph for the Tigers in the Atlantic Ten contest at Tubby Raymond Field. Towson QB Sean Schaefer dissected a porous Blue Hen pass defense for 5 TDs, 3 to WR Eric Yancey. With no pass pressure and token pass coverage on almost every and any third down situation, Schaefer was able to connect with wide open receivers to convert first downs or touchdowns. Schaefer (27 for 37, 435 yards, 0 INTs, 5 TDS) consistently found receivers open on sideline patterns for big gains. The TU running game produced 192 yards as well though the passing game was dominant. Delaware QB Joe Flacco, a 6'-6" Pitt transfer, was effective but outpaced by Schaefer despite four TD passes of his own (32 of 51, 2 INTs, 341 yards). CFF Guest Game Analyst Steve Ciesla ( first winner of our Trivia Tailgate Party Package - Play today!) came up with two big tickets at the 38-yard line on the Delaware side at the Delaware Stadium "sell-out". It was the first game of our first Delaware DH as we headed aft3erward to Dover to watch Delaware State host South Carolina State in our nightcap.
Towson started the game with an 80-yard drive for a TD as Schaefer tossed his first TD pass to Demetrius Harrison who made a twisting, turning catch before falling out of bounds in the end zone. PK Ron Halibruner put up the extra point for the early 7-0 lead. UD drove into the stiff wind blowing north to south throughout the game on their first possession. They looked to retaliate immediately as they drove to the Towson four, but a Flacco pass was tipped and intercepted by DT Carlos Allen to get the Tiger offense back in action from their own four. The score remained the same by the end of the period, but Towson had driven to the UD 37 as the first fifteen minutes came to an end. The real action was just beginning.
Forty-two seconds into Q2, Towson capped their 90-yard drive with a 34-yard TD pass over the middle to a wide-open Eric Yancey (9 catches for 140 yards, 3 TDs), as the Tigers adroitly picked up a Hen blitz to take the 14-0 lead. The Hens finally got on track with a long drive of their own starting from the 30. Frosh RB Jared Bradley broke over left tackle and sped 38 yards to put Delaware on the scoreboard. Zach Hobby's PAT cut Towson's lead in half, 14-7. Delaware RB Omar Cuff, the team's leading rusher, was not available to play due to injury. On the Tiger's ensuing drive Schaefer took advantage of a non-existent pass rush and fluffy, cushion-like pass defense. A third and eight completion from the 20 for eighteen yards started to expose Schaefer's strategy for the day. "I hate third and long, " lamented one UD fan nearby. "I'd rather see third and one." The Tigers also benefited on this series with a bad call. Schaefer's backward pass to a RB was definitely a lateral off the back shoulder pad of his intended receiver. UD recovered, but the ref called it an incomplete pass. Head Coach K.C. Keeler fumed on the sideline and ranted at the nearest official for several plays after to vent his frustration, but to no avail. Without TV coverage ( a good thing for those in attendance), there was no chance for a review of any kind ( a bad thing). At the UD 29, Towson didn't convert on a third and one, instead Schaefer scrambled for a first on fourth and two! From 10 yards away, RB Nick Williams (18 rushes for 64 yards) ran a draw thought the middle and bounced through the Delaware defense like a pinball for the third TU TD. The Tigers led, 21-7. Delaware got right back into this game, however, as Flacco led his team 80 yards culminating with a 19-yard TD pass on a slant pattern to TE and fellow Pitt transfer Robbie Agnone, who made a nice overhead snag. Towson still led, 21-14, but not for long. Thirty seconds later, UD forced Towson to punt into the wind. With that and the aid of an incidental face-mask penalty, the Hens had the ball at the Towson 42 with :52 to play in the first half. With :06.6 remaining, Flacco fired a 12-yard TD pass to WR Aaron Love ( 12 for 126 yards) who caught it as it seemed to deflect off a diving defender's foot (again, no replays at Delaware Stadium). The score was knotted at the half, 21-21. Both offenses seemed to be clicking!
Both universities' bands played at the half. Towson's marching unit was very drum corps-like with a great bass sound. It was one of the best 1AA band we've ever heard. We have much more to tell you about in extra points in a later update.
Delaware seemed to get off on the right foot to start the second half, but PK's Zach Hobby's right foot was not into it as the Hens drove to the Tiger ten where he missed wide right. Towson was more up for the task, but we have to question the UD defensive strategy at this point as we saw the DT in four man fronts drop immediately off the line in short zone pass coverage leaving three to rush with eight in coverage. It wasn't working. We wondered why the Delaware Football program lists coach Nick Rapone as "Interim Defensive Coordinator." He's been there a couple of years. How long is "interim" and why? His schemes definitely don't work, but we did find later that there have also been numerous injuries on defense. Schaefer finished this drive with a 7-yard slant pass to Yancey again for another TD to regain the lead, 28-21. Towson forced the Hens to punt again after a questionable incomplete call on a third down pass attempt ( we have to get used to this lack of replay in 1-AA). Taking advantage, the Tigers gave the aforementioned UD fan his wish by getting into a third and one at the home team's 48. The Hens defensive front converged in the middle, and Schaefer connected with WR Demetrius Harrison again on a slant over the middle for the long TD play. He shook off one tackler to go the 48 yards for six. Towson's lead was extended, 35-21. As the third period expired, UD had driven 20 yards to TU's 45. On third and two at the Tiger 23, the Hens worked some of their own third down magic as Flacco passed to Agnone (2 for 36 yards, 2 TDs) over the middle for a TD to close the gap, 35-28. Towson could not take the UD defense seriously. They quickly drove 80 yards once again with Yancey catching his third TD pass from Schaefer for a 20-yard score. The Hens' offense wasn't finished either, even as the "sell-out" crowd started making its way to the exits. A squib kick by Towson gave UD the ball on its 45. At the Towson 12 on fourth and two, Flacco completed a pass to the five from where he would connect to TE Ben Patrick ( 7 catches for 74 yards) to get within a TD, 42-35. With 7:28 remaining, the "braintrust" of CFF discussed the onsides kick strategy. Either UD gets the ball back on offense, or worse, the Tigers get the ball in good field position to score quickly and to give them as little time as possible to score so the Hens can possibly catch a break. The "Swiss-cheese" defense wasn't going to force any turnovers. They only had a chance if TU made a mistake. UD kicked it away - definitely a bad choice as far as we were concerned. The Tigers started from their own 27, and with 2:35 left extended their lead 49-35 as RB Rasheed McClaud (10 runs for 65 yards) ran it in from 12. UD drove to the Towson 31 before Flacco's pass attempt was tipped at the line of scrimmage and was intercepted by DB Drew Mack with a little over a minute to play. HC K.C. Keeler prolonged the Delaware fans' agonies as he used his three remaining time-outs - the third after TU picked up a first down. The wind picked up as time expired, a sign of what the weather would be like throughout the evening, and the teams met a midfield to shake hands. Towson, in only its second season of A-10 play, defeated Delaware for the second year in a row, and now trails in the all-time series only 4-3. We had never see a Delaware team devastated by another 1-AA team as Towson did this day. By now, UD is usually vying for a 1-AA playoff berth, but this year, the Tigers seem to have their eyes on such an invite. UD heads to James Madison next week (we saw the Dukes defeated by the Hens in a cold, driving rain last year, 35-28). Towson goes home to play William & Mary before facing Richmond and JMU to qualify for a possible A-10 play-off invitation. We'll keep an eye out for them, but this victory could be an aberration as the Towson offense may have been a benefactor of a very poor UD defense. We headed down south toward Dover to see our next game, South Carolina State at Delaware State for our first MEAC game. Come back for the update for this game as well as Extra Points as we now head out to the UConn-#12 Rutgers game. Be sure to check back for all the action!
Extra Points: We've seen bus transport shuttles that move fans from the far reaches of parking areas direct to the stadium efficiently and poorly, but we've never seen the likes of farm tractors hauling fans in trailers like those at Delaware Stadium. Unless you are going in on a stretcher, don't bother! Your Aunt Tilly can walk to the game faster.
The starting Center for UD is Soph Jon Herrman, 6-3, 285 lbs out of McKees Rocks, PA and Central Catholic HS in Pittsburgh. His dad, Jeff, was a classmate of ours at Juniata College, where he also played line. We got to catch up with Jeff after the game to talk about some of the good ol' days at JC. He also filled us in on the defensive injury situations on the Delaware defense. We had some good times with Jeff going to school and playing ball. He claims that unlike himself, his son is both a scholar and an athlete! We hope to visit with him again at Delaware games during the next couple of years.
Head Coach K.C. Keller of Delaware still likes checking out those D1A "waiver wires". Unlike D1A schools scouting junior colleges, he seems to scour rosters of the D1 schools' disenchanted players list. It's unusual to see so many names on a college roster followed by the names of schools the players transferred from. He did the same when he was at D3 Rowan. In addition to Flacco and Agone previously mentioned from Pitt, there are players listed from Virginia, Penn State, Penn, Temple, WVU , and Duke. We remember his first QB at UD, Andy Hall, was from Georgia Tech. With the transfer rules now more liberal to start playing, it's beneficial for athletes who can play at this level, but who are wasting their four years away at the next level.
Sitting on the Delaware home side still makes one appreciate the fact that UD Stadium needs another scoreboard in that stadium for the people in the north end zone who have to turn around to look at times, stats, and other information. We sat there last year and it was a pain. In the meantime, it's great that the scoreboard keeps a running tally of both teams' passing, running and total yards during the course of the game, but some people can't see what's only behind them. Also, it would be great to have replays displayed. They had it at Lafayette's refurbed Fischer Field. A scoreboard with replays would be prominent on top of the arena on the south end for everyone to see.
It's not that we can't believe that the game was a sell-out because the Fightin' Blue Hems are a great program with a great following in the state of Delaware, but when you go into the stadium and see all the empty bleachers seats in the south end zone, we wonder why no more tickets are for sale on the day of the game.
We don't often judge uniforms and the Hens are one of our favorites with the Michigan-style helmets, but the Towson uniforms were sharp, even in visitor's white. The light orange helmet with the Tiger logo goes well with black pants and sox. The yellow bands down the jerseys to the pants like Denver Bronco uniforms literally pull the uniforms altogether. We're sure we'd like teh home uniforms in the black jerseys.
The Towson band played the ESPN "Sports Center" several times. We couldn't fathom how any of this would make it to SC as there wasn't a TV Camera in sight.