By Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
Photo by Amanda Bosse/The Towerlight
No. 22 Towson needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive, and senior running back Yeedee Thaenrat and redshirt junior wide receiver Caleb Smith did everything they could to ensure it happened. Thaenrat scored three touchdowns and Smith caught nine passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. Smith became the first Tigers (5-4, 2-3 CAA) receiver to record 200 receiving yards since 2016.
Smith’s father Rodney played for Towson, and head coach Rob Ambrose appreciates seeing generations of Tigers.
“As an alum, there is something special about watching one of these guys kids come through the program to the point where he’s excelling against incredibly good competition,” Ambrose said. “This young man to my right has made the most of his opportunities in a way I don’t think any of us could’ve seen coming.”
Towson defeated the Delaware Blue Hens (4-5, 2-3 CAA) 31-24 and overcame a 14-point run by Delaware in the second half. The Tigers led by 10 at halftime, but the Blue Hens used over eight minutes of game time in order to kick a field goal to tie the game.
The Tigers responded and Thaenrat scored his third touchdown with less than five minutes remaining. Delaware had enough time to take a late lead and faced a fourth down at the Towson 16.
Blue Hens junior quarterback Nolan Henderson scrambled close to midfield and was somehow able to pass the line of scrimmage before sliding. He was just short of the first down with less than 90 seconds remaining.
Smith’s impact was apparent early in the game, Flacco connected with Smith for 40 yards to the Blue Hens one-yard line, setting up Thanerat’s first touchdown. Smith went over 100 yards before halftime which was the first time he had a 100-yard game.
“It’s just a credit to him, how strong he is and how athletic he is,” redshirt senior quarterback Tom Flacco said. “I can’t say enough about Caleb. We all know what he’s capable of, and I hope this is a coming-out party for him, and I hope he keeps doing it for the rest of the season.”
Flacco celebrated his 25th birthday by completing 17 of 23 passes for 294 yards and a touchdown to Smith. Flacco saw a mismatch with Smith and knew he had to take advantage of it.
“You can’t leave this guy one-on-one,” Flacco said. “That’s kind of what they were doing. So I was going to keep coming back to him consistently. I didn’t even realize how great of a game he had until I looked at these stats.”
Despite Thaenrat and Smith having strong games, the offense struggled early to hold onto the ball fumbling three times. Smith fumbled in the third quarter and the Blue Hens capitalized with a touchdown.
“You play a game in this league and you turn the ball over three times the odds of you winning it are really small,” Ambrose said. “That’s a credit to our guys, defensively the character, the frustrations of getting past it, being resilient and rallying together I’m really proud of it.”
Late in the second half Thanerat scored his second touchdown, and junior defensive back Coby Tippett intercepted Henderson with under a minute left. Senior kicker Aiden O’Neill tied the CAA record with 59 career field goals to end the first half.
In the second quarter, Thaenrat broke free for a 27-yard gain, but two Towson penalties pushed them back. Smith caught a 32-yard pass to the 15, and later in the drive, Flacco avoided a sack and threw across his body to Smith for a touchdown.
This is Towson’s first conference win since Sept. 14 at Maine.
“Games like these you got a lot of things going through your head,” Ambrose said. “A game you know you gotta win, and it’s Delaware, and it’s November, and we’re beat up.”
Towson travels to Stony Brook to face the Seawolves on Saturday, Nov. 9. Kickoff from Kenneth LaValle Stadium is scheduled for 2 p.m.
“I’m incredibly proud, ridiculously, unbelievably, overflowingly, of the young men in the locker room,” Ambrose said. “They represented the institution the exact right way under duress can’t ask for much more than that.”