Northwestern 47, Towson 17

Rob Ambrose’s debut as Towson’s head coach is in the books. It could have gone better, but it could have gone worse too.

Because I’m in Vermont, at a hotel that doesn’t actually get the Big Ten Network (shocking, right?!), I had to listen to the game on the radio, so I couldn’t tell you how the new uniforms -- or the players wearing them -- actually looked (of course, from photographic evidence, the new black helmets are pretty slick).

That said, the talent gap between the two teams was fairly evident. Northwestern is an FBS bowl team that might not be on the level of Ohio State or Penn State, but is right behind them in the next tier of Big Ten teams. Towson, on the other hand, has struggled to break out of the lower half of the CAA ever since becoming a scholarship program and leaving the Patriot League earlier this decade.

There are positives to take from this game, even though it was a 33-point loss. Peter Athens, the true freshman QB out of Huntington High, managed to complete 60 percent of his passes against a Wildcats defense that held opposing QBs to 58.7% passing last year. Yes, he did have two interceptions, but that’s not entirely surprising for someone making such a huge leap in competition level.

Coach Ambrose has said that the backfield situation will probably be handled “by committee” this season, and that was certainly the case Saturday, with five different players, including Athens, getting carries. B.J. Greening and Tremayne Dameron, both freshman, split the majority of the carries, but neither was able to find much running room against Northwestern’s defense.

On the other side of the ball, Towson struggled mightily on defense. Northwestern used a no-huddle attack to keep the Tigers off balance, exploiting Towson’s youth and inexperience on that side of the ball.

As you can tell, youth and inexperience were a running theme for Towson throughout the game. Towson used nearly as many true freshmen (seven) as seniors (eight). One of those seniors, Brady Smith, was playing his first game at Towson, and his first since 2007. Smith led the Tigers with 11 tackles. Towson’s other high profile defensive transfer, Romale Tucker, didn’t get into the game until late -- he’s still picking up the system after having joined Towson recently -- and had one total tackle.

All in all, it’s hard to say exactly what we learned about this year’s Towson Tigers from this game. The most striking thing had to be just how young Towson is. That may not be a recipe for success this season, but if even half of the freshman and sophomores who played in this game live up to their potential, Towson could have one of the deepest rosters in the CAA in the coming years.

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