Rebuilding Project Ends Towson's Long Drought
By Simon Habtemariam
When hired before the 2009 season, Towson football coach Rob Ambrose proclaimed that if the program was not winning in three years' time, it should begin searching for a new coach. Facing skepticism, apathy and one of the toughest conferences in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, it was a bold statement.
Now in his third season, Ambrose has won five games. Three of them came before the current season. After posting a 2-9 record in 2009 and going 1-10 in 2010, Towson began the 2011 season 2-0. The Tigers opened the season with a convincing 42-3 win against the Morgan State Bears. The following week, they kicked off Colonial Athletic Conference play with a stunning upset against No. 20 Villanova, 31-10.
"I like Towson's team very much," Villanova coach Andy Talley said. "I think three years of rebuilding is finally starting to pay off for them. I think they're ready to compete in the CAA."
Towson's successful opening came with a handful of firsts.
During the Morgan State game, Towson beat the Bears for the first time under Ambrose, put up more than 500 yards on an opponent for the first time since 2006 and sophomore quarterback Grant Enders became the first Tiger since 2006 to be named CAA Player of the Week.
Against Villanova, Towson beat a CAA opponent for the first time since 2009, beat a nationally ranked team for the first time since 2008 and won back-to-back games for the first time since 2007.
While the numbers stemming from these wins are impressive, the real key to Towson's first win streak in four years has been the playing style. The Tigers have physically outmatched both of their opponents, taking to the ground with a committee of running backs in a manner not seen during the program's recent history.
After two games, Ambrose's offense had run the ball more often than any other team in the conference. Ambrose, the former offensive coordinator for the University of Connecticut, had called for 51 more rushing plays than pass attempts. As a result, Towson led the CAA with 487 yards on the ground.
Aside from physically eclipsing both Villanova and Morgan State, Towson was surprisingly efficient. Turnovers plagued the program for years, but the 2011 Towson defense has forced five turnovers, tied for a conference high. Ambrose's offense had only two giveaways during the first two contests.
"I can tell you that I've sat here before when people have asked me what's the difference between wins and losses," Ambrose said. "I can honestly tell you, turnovers make that difference."
Enders, a junior college transfer, is the most efficient passer in the conference after the first two games, completing 75.6 percent of his passes.
Issue 165: September 2011