By: Jordan Cope, Sports Editor
The return of redshirt sophomore quarterback Morgan Mahalak and a strong performance from redshirt freshman running back Shane Simpson lifted Towson to its first Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) win of the season and brought an end to the team’s six-game losing streak.
“I’m extremely proud of my guys,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “In the world we live in, the world would have told them that it is okay to lay down, it’s okay to quit, it’s okay to give in. They had to fight through the negativity that is presented to them daily, make them question the game they love and the people that they love while they do it. I can’t love them enough.”
The Tigers (2-7, 1-5 CAA) wasted no time getting on the board. On their first drive of the game, the Tigers took a 3-0 lead over the Phoenix (2-7, 1-5 CAA) on a career-long 47-yard field goal from freshman kicker Aidan O’Neill.
On its second drive of the game, Towson broke its nine-quarter scoring drought without an offensive touchdown when Mahalak found senior wide receiver Christian Summers for a 24-yard touchdown pass over the middle of the field.
“A big part of going out there was knowing that I was 100 percent,” Mahalak said. “There was nothing to really worry about, just getting the opportunity to play again was really exciting. The team did a great job and it was just a great team victory.”
In the second quarter, Elon started with the ball and drove into Towson territory. However, Towson’s defense made a stand on fourth and seven thanks to a sack by sophomore cornerback Lyrics Klugh.
Despite good field position set up by the turnover on downs, the Tigers were forced to punt the ball back to the Phoenix.
On Elon’s next drive, the team drove 14 plays for 58 yards but had to settle for a field goal after an offensive pass interference created a third and 20 that the team could not convert.
O’Neill put Towson on the scoreboard one more time before the end of the first half in large part due to a 29-yard punt return by Simpson that put the team in field goal range.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Elon was just two yards away from scoring a touchdown. However, a fumble by freshman running back De’Sean McNair was recovered by Tigers redshirt junior defensive end D’Sean Cummings to keep the Phoenix out of the end zone.
“We had a lot of defensive players just crowding the ball,” Cummings said. “You see the ball pop out and you see the ball get the ball. That’s what our defensive staff teaches us and that’s what we do day in and day out.”
Late in the third quarter, Elon took advantage of a Mahalak interception. Elon drove 37 yards to get into field goal range to pull within one touchdown of Towson.
“I was a little rusty out there today,” Mahalak said. “But the victory is huge for our team and and it’s been a while so it felt pretty good to get back out there.”
In the fourth quarter, Mahalak redeemed himself when he threw for his second touchdown of the game. The 26-yard pass to senior wide receiver Andre Dessenberg gave the Tigers a 20-6 lead with 10:01 left in the game.
The Tigers extended their lead to 23-6 late in the fourth quarter when O’Neill converted on his third field goal of the afternoon. The scoring drive was setup by an interception from redshirt senior outside linebacker Jordan Mynatt that put Towson at the Elon 16 yard line.
Towson put Elon away with 3:59 left in the game, when Elon sophomore quarterback Daniel Thompson threw his second interception of the game. Towson’s offense went on to milk the clock and secure the 23-6 victory.
Mahalak finished the game 12-24 with one two touchdowns and one interception while Simpson rushed for 187 yards.
“With Vito being out, he has been helping me out a lot lately,” Simpson said. “Then I had Grayson with me so it wasn’t really that big of a deal.”
Towson will look to earn its third win of the season and pick up its second straight CAA win next week when the team hosts William & Mary at Johnny Unitas Stadium on senior day. Kickoff is set for noon.