Towson defense turns in solid effort against LSU
Jordan Dangerfield isn’t the most famous person with his surname to complain about getting no respect. Unlike the late Rodney Dangerfield, he and his Towson University teammates weren’t joking.
None of them liked losing 38-22 to LSU Saturday night in Tiger Stadium. But the team from the Colonial Athletic Association of the Football Championship Subdivision made a statement.
“We’re here to play football,” said Dangerfield, a defensive back who had seven tackles, forced one fumble and recovered another. “We didn’t come to pick up a check. We were coming here to win.”
“I felt like we were viewed as a little high school team that was just coming in here. It was going to be ugly,” said defensive end Frank Beltre. “They looked as us like nobody. They called us Townson, Towson State — they called us everything but what we are, Towson University. That’s why when we came out and punched them in the mouth, they weren’t ready for what we had.”
Third-ranked LSU (5-0) didn’t look ready when it trailed 9-7 late in the first half, and Towson’s 22 points represented eight more than any previous opponent has scored this year.
Still, LSU extended its NCAA-record, nonconference win streak to 41. This time, Tiger Stadium’s intimidation factor had nothing to do with it. Towson coach Rob Ambrose said games last year against Maryland and this year’s 41-21 loss to Kent State helped prepare them.
How loose was Towson? Twice on the team’s first deep penetration of LSU territory, quarterback Grant Enders looked at the crowd and waved his hands, asking for more noise.
“We had an amazing turnout with our fans from Towson who made the long trip over, so I was actually looking up to our little section there — it wasn’t too big, but it was there, and they were loud — so that was for them,” Enders said.
“But when you go back and watch the film, these kids have seen now the other guys are just not that big,” Ambrose said. “He’s a little bit bigger, but he’s not that much bigger. He’s a little bit faster, but he’s not that much faster. And if we play as 11, we play with energy and we’re disciplined and we’re tough, then we have a chance to be successful.
“They say everybody’s got to play until they get punched in the face. We got tired of getting punched in the face. It was our turn.”
Punching above its weight class, Towson (2-2) stood toe to toe with the home team longer than anyone had reason to expect. That was especially true on defense.
Although LSU had 207 of its 396 total yards in the first half, 78 of them came on one play — Russell Shepard’s 78-yard run on the first play of LSU’s second possession. But, for six of LSU’s first seven drives, the Tigers came up empty, and Towson created two turnovers, which led to both of the visitors’ scores in the half.
Strong safety Thomas Bradley dislodged the ball from LSU running back Kenny Hilliard, with Dangerfield recovering at the LSU 38. Towson drove to the LSU 4 but had to settle for D.J. Soven’s 26-yard field goal.
Middle linebacker Monte Gaddis, meanwhile, was living in the LSU backfield, making three tackles for loss, plus a sack of quarterback Zach Mettenberger. Later, as Mettenberger scrambled to his left, he had the ball knocked loose by cornerback Tye Smith, with linebacker Bryton Barr recovering at the LSU 45.
Three plays later, on third-and 9, Enders burst up the middle on a quarterback draw all the way to the LSU 1, with running back Terrance West jumping over the line to give Towson a 9-7 lead with 5:15 left in the second quarter. Soven missed the extra point.
“We’ve been building toward this defensively — to force turnovers, to play as 11, to be disciplined,” Ambrose said. “We’ve been working at it. We’ve got nine guys, we’ve got 10 guys, but tonight we got all 11. I give tremendous credit to the kids and the defensive staff who put the game plan together against one of the best teams in the nation.”
“We knew that was a weakness — they couldn’t pass,” Beltre said. “That’s what we attacked. We stopped their run game, and they couldn’t pass, and it showed. We prepared very well.”
The Towson defense remained stalwart through the third quarter, when the only score was set up when Towson’s Jordan Love dropped Brad Wing’s punt at the Towson 12, with Jarvis Landry recovering at the 8. J.C. Copeland scored three plays later from the 1.
Towson’s offense never got untracked until late. Enders led the visitors 64 yards in 12 plays over 5:57 of the final quarter, with West scoring from a yard out with 8:58 left to play. Enders hit Gerrard Sheppard from 9 yards out to close the scoring with 1:30 remaining.
“There were seven able-bodied offensive linemen we had on this trip without breaking kids’ redshirts,” Ambrose said. “Try going to the casino with those kind of odds.”
“We should have beaten them,” Enders said. “We should have beaten them.”