There’s only one defending conference champion that LSU has on their schedule this season, and it’s not who you might think. It’s the Towson Tigers, an FCS school from the state of Maryland that took home the Colonial Athletic Association title last year with a 9-3 overall record and a 7-1 conference mark.
Now, it’s easy to sit in SEC country and scoff at the CAA, but the mid-Atlantic league was the SEC of the FCS last year. The CAA sent five teams to the 20-team FCS playoffs in 2011 and had six teams ranked in the final top-17. No other league sent more than two teams to the postseason.
Unfortunately, however, the CAA didn’t share the SEC’s success once they got to the second season with a 3-5 mark in last year’s playoffs, including a tough-to-swallow 40-38 Towson loss to Lehigh in the Tigers’ opening postseason game. Therefore, it still is David vs. Goliath in Tiger Stadium September 29 - no matter how much success the visiting Tigers go on to have in their subdivision that actually has a playoff... for now.
After a 20-17 conference-opening win over William and Mary, 2-1 (1-0) Towson may have a chance to repeat as Colonial champions, but they won’t have much of a chance in Death Valley - even if star running back Terrance West gets loose.
As a freshman a year ago, West began the season as a walk-on and didn’t play in Towson’s first game because he was going to get redshirted. However, he got his chance beginning in the Tigers’ second game, and all he did was go on to carry the ball 194 times for 1,294 yards for a whopping 6.67 yards per carry on the season.
If that isn’t impressive enough, he scored 29 rushing touchdowns - most of any player in FCS and behind only Montee Ball’s 33 for the overall Division I lead. West earned a scholarship halfway through the season, and when it was done, he received the Jerry Rice Award handed out annually to the nation’s top freshman in FCS. Not bad for a walk-on who was going to get redshirted.
So far in 2012, West remains a touchdown machine with 246 yards and five scores in three games.
If Towson wants to give itself a slim chance versus LSU, it’ll ride West early and often. If the visiting Tigers instead choose to save him for the meat of their conference schedule in October, he may not see many carries after all.
In any case, Towson would like an efficient game from its reliable quarterback Grant Enders. He completed better than two-thirds of his passes last season for 16 touchdowns, eight interceptions and 2,081 yards. He played a large role in Towson having the eighth-best passing efficiency rating in FCS at 151.48.
Towson returns four of five offensive linemen.
On the other side of the ball, the Tigers return seven starters including their top six tacklers from a year ago and have the fifth-best total defense in FCS through Week Four (252.67 yards/game).
Three of four defensive linemen return as well as all three starting linebackers. Middle linebacker Danzel White made 77 tackles last season despite only playing in nine games. Defensive ends Romale Tucker and Frank Beltre wreaked havoc in opponents’ backfields combining for 21.5 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Beltre is in the KeKe Mingo mold at end, weighing just 225 pounds, but his lightning-quick speed helped him make a team-high 12 tackles for loss in 2011.
Another key contributor on defense is free safety Jordan Dangerfield, who led the Tigers with 93 stops last season and currently leads them in 2012 with 20. He added two interceptions, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries last season. Even though he’s the only starter back in Towson’s secondary, the Tigers rank first in FCS in pass defense (107.00 yards/game). Expect Zach Mettenberger to change that.