"He didn't get his hands on there," Coastal Carolina head coach David Bennett said of wide receiver Akeem Wesley, the intended target on the Chanticleers final offensive play. "He's I'm sure a little nervous, a redshirt freshman, so what he tried to do, he didn't drop the ball. It hit off his pads."
Ambrose, himself a former Towson wide receiver, sympathized with Wesley.
"That's one that, as a player, I can remember that would haunt me," he said. "It won't be the play itself, it'll be how [Wesley] responds that pretty much determines where they go."
Coastal Carolina fell to 1-2 on the year, while the Tigers improved to 1-1 in 2009. They also snapped a six-game overall losing streak. Towson is 12-1 in its last 13 home openers, but the previous 12 of those games came under Gordy Combs. This was the first home opener for Ambrose, and he acknowledged the importance of the win after the game.
"For the first time in a long time, we believed," he said. "We believed. And I'm going to congratulate the players, the staff, the town, the university, the students, all the fans, all the businesses that helped us out. Because, I told the players, there's a vibe here."
For the first time in more than a year, that vibe included multiple forced turnovers on defense. Towson had only three interceptions all of last season, but picked off two passes Saturday night, including a key grab of a deflected pass by Ollie Thomas in the fourth quarter.
"This year, we're focusing on squeezing the ball, making plays on defense however we can get them," Thomas said.
On the other side of the ball, Towson overcame three turnovers while rotating freshmen Peter Athens and Tommy Chroniger under center. After using Athens almost exclusively last week, Ambrose unveiled the quarterback rotation he'd been promising throughout the preseason. The two freshman alternated series for most of the game, though Ambrose rode Athens's hot hand through most of the second quarter.
"We knew they were both going to play," Ambrose said. "I've been saying that forever, but no one believes me. So they both played."
Athens finished 13-of-18 for 132 yards and two touchdowns. Chroniger hooked up with tight end John Godlasky for the Tigers first points, but finished the game just 4-of-7 for 45 yards. The two quarterbacks combined for three interceptions -- two by Chroniger and a one by Athens late in the fourth quarter that set up the potential go-ahead drive for Coastal Carolina.
Earlier in the quarter, Athens put Towson ahead by 11 points with a perfectly placed pass to David Newsom, who broke free from coverage after a pump fake by Athens caused the defensive back to bite on the route. Newsom himself had already made an adjustment on the play, even before the fake.
"It was supposed to be a double-move, but since they were in press coverage, I had to change the route," he said. "That was part of the play. If it was press coverage, change the route."
After splitting carries two weeks ago against Northwestern -- and early in the game Saturday -- Tremayne Dameron emerged as the Tigers feature back, finishing with 21 rushes for 84 yards. The redshirt freshman also caught seven passes for 61 yards.
"He grew up during the week," Ambrose said. "As young guys tend to do, he got a little complacent in his role. We decided to undo that. We put [Paul] Stefanik in there, we moved [Dominique] Booker and let him carry the ball a little bit. And all of the sudden, Tremayne got smarter, tougher and more consistent."
Ambrose hopes his young team will continue to get smarter as a whole, overcoming some of the mistakes that led to 12 penalties Saturday.
"They're wrapped up in the win, so I didn't say anything about that after the game," Ambrose said, "but you go out to Chicago in a big game like that and walk away with three penalties and now you have 12. That's not us. How do I address it? Not with kid gloves."
The other issue Towson will have to address is its propensity for giving up the big play. Coastal Carolina QB Zach MacDowall, who replaced the injured Jamie Childers midway through the game, completed 11 of his 21 passes for 185 yards, including three completions of more than 20 yards. Childers was 9-of-13 passing for 110 yards, and had an 83-yard run called back due to a holding penalty. After the game, Bennett had high praise for Childers, who earned his first career start, coming back from a bout with meningitis in 2008.
"He's taller than Tim Tebow, he's faster than Tim Tebow, he might have a stronger arm than Tim Tebow," Bennett said, comparing the sophomore to Florida's Heisman Trophy winner. "I thought he'd be a guy like that, but when he got that meningitis, he went into a funk. He's slowly coming out of that."
Next up for Towson is a short road trip to Morgan State. The Tigers have beaten the Bears in each of their last four meetings.
NEXT-LEVEL PASSING ANALYSIS
Overall, Peter Athens and Tommy Chroniger combined to go 17-of-25 for 177 yards, 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. They were best on short passes, completing all 10 of their attempts to targets less than six yards downfield. The deep passing game was ineffective all game, resulting in all 3 Tiger turnovers.
Towson Passing by Down
1st down: 3-of-4, 33 yards
2nd down: 8-of-11, 87 yards, TD, INT
3rd down: 6-of-10, 57 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Towson Passing by Distance
Targets 5 or less yards downfield: 9-of-9, 78 yards, TD
Targets 6-14 yards downfield: 6-of-7, 62 yards, TD
Targets 15+ yards downfield: 2-of-8, 37 yards, TD, 3 INT
No Target: 0-1 (Chroniger hit while throwing)
Towson Passing by Direction
Left: 6-of-9, 75 yards, TD
Middle: 5-of-6, 54 yards, TD
Right: 6-of-10, 48 yards, TD, 3 INT
Postgame News Conference Audio
- Towson - 14:56, 7.2 MB
- Delaware - 5:42, 2.7 MB