By: Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
Photo by Alexis Brown/ The Towerlight
In their first playoff game since 2013, the Tigers hosted the Duquesne Dukes Saturday afternoon at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The No. 16 Tigers (7-5, 5-3 CAA) fell the Dukes (9-3, 5-1 NEC) off the scoreboard in the first quarter, but a 21-point unanswered run was too much to overcome as Towson’s season came to an end in a 31-10 defeat.
Head Coach Rob Ambrose appreciated the fans who came out in the pouring rain to support the team and made sure to acknowledge how much it meant to him and the team.
“I would like to thank the Tiger faithful that sat through that ridiculous weather to watch their football team play,” Ambrose said. “To the band, especially the ones who already graduated and came back since everyone else is at home, that’s Tiger pride.”
Redshirt junior quarterback Tom Flacco got the Tigers on the scoreboard first as he found sophomore wide receiver Jabari Allen for a 34-yard touchdown midway through the first quarter.
On a cold, rainy day Towson put an emphasis on the ground game with 11 rushes in the first quarter alone. The weather affected other facets of the game too as junior kicker Aiden O’Neill missed a 36-yard attempt wide right to keep the score at 7-0 heading into the second quarter.
The Tigers continued to emphasize the running game as redshirt junior running back Shane Simpson ran 21 yards down the left sideline inside Duquesne territory early in the period. Between Simpson and Flacco, the ground game moved Towson from its own two-yard line into Dukes territory. The 17 play, 89-yard drive stalled for Towson and O’Neill hit a 26-yard field goal to give the Tigers a double-digit lead.
Towson’s defense continued to deny the Dukes, forcing another punt on their next drive. On the ensuing drive, Flacco found redshirt sophomore tight end Chris Clark down the sideline for 34 yards to set up first and goal.
In a rare occurrence, Simpson fumbled at the goal line and senior defensive back Brandon Stanback recovered for the Dukes. Simpson subsequently left the game and did not return until the second half.
“There’s a reason why he’s first team all-conference and why guys at the next level are paying attention, but even great guys have mistake moments,” Ambrose said. “There’s no guy who hates mistakes more than him.”
Duquesne nailed a field goal just before halftime to cut the score to 10-3 going into the break.
The Dukes fed junior running back A.J. Hines to open the second half, gaining 25 yards on the first three plays of the period. Senior running back Daquan Worley capped off the drive with a 48-yard touchdown run.
The Tigers failed to respond and Hines punished the home team with a 71-yard touchdown to give the Dukes a 17-10 lead. Duquesne kept its foot on the gas pedal as junior quarterback Daniel Parr found the end zone on a three-yard rush early in the fourth quarter.
Down 24-10 with 12 minutes in the period, the Tigers continued to struggle as Flacco could not escape the pressure from Duquesne’s defensive line. Hines continued to gash the Tigers defense, punching in a three-yard touchdown to seal the win for the Dukes.
“He’s good, he’s very good,” Ambrose said. “In circumstances like this, the team who has a big back comes out on top. There’s a reason he’s a Jerry Rice award winner. He did good in his league, he’d do good in our league. He’d do good in any league he plays in.”
Senior linebacker Diondre Wallace reflected on his disappointing end to his Towson career.
“They executed their game plan, they made their plays and you can’t take that away from them,” Wallace said. “They gave it to us in the second half.”
Ambrose admitted this was a tough way to end the season and it will not be forgotten, but he is proud of how his team performed this year.
“This loss will be with me forever,” Ambrose said. “The season has ended, but these guys made a bit of history and brought back respect for our program on a national level, and for that I’m grateful.”