Tigers roll, re­write record book

Right on tar­get, hot Flacco throws 6 touch­down passes

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - SPORTS - By Ed­ward Lee

The Tow­son Univer­sity foot­ball team did not have a bye week, but Satur­day was just as easy and en­joy­able.

The Tigers scored the first 28 points, punched in touch­downs on seven of their nine first-half pos­ses­sions and were barely trou­bled in their 56-7 thrash­ing of vis­it­ing Buck­nell be­fore an an­nounced 6,114 at Johnny Uni­tas Sta­dium in Tow­son.

How un­prob­lem­atic was the game for Tow­son? The de­fense gave up only 18 yards in the first quar­ter, and the Bi­son crossed mid­field only af­ter the Tigers had blud­geoned their way to a 28-0 ad­van­tage.

Red­shirt se­nior quar­ter­back Tom Flacco com­pleted 16 of 22 passes for 203 yards and threw six touch­down passes in the first half, break­ing the school’s pre­vi­ous sin­gle-game record shared by three oth­ers. Five of those passes were caught by red­shirt se­nior wide re­ceiver Shane Leather­bury, who tied a sin­gle-game mark set by An­drae Brown in a 56-41 loss at North­east­ern on Sept. 24, 2005.

And the start­ing and backup run­ning backs both set ca­reer highs in rush­ing yards. First, se­nior Yeedee Thaen­rat gained 105 yards on seven car­ries in the first half en route to 112 yards on eight at­tempts. Then red­shirt sopho­more Adrian Feliz-Platt added 101 yards on 14 car­ries.

Coach Rob Am­brose said that it is “some­what un­com­mon” to play against a non­con­fer­ence op­po­nent in the mid­dle of his team’s Colo­nial Ath­letic As­so­ci­a­tion sched­ule, but he said the play­ers can’t worry about the names of their op­po­nents.

“It’s re­ally not about them,” Am­brose said. “I think our guys are re­ally start­ing to un­der­stand that. It’s not about who shows up and plays on the field. Whether they’re in our con­fer­ence or not, it’s about what we do and how we do it.”

The Tigers, who have lost their last two CAA games af­ter up­end­ing Maine on Sept. 14, can ex­pect a much stiffer test next Satur­day at con­fer­ence ri­val James Madi­son, which is ranked No. 2 and owns a 7-1 over­all record and a 4-0 mark in the CAA.

“It’s go­ing to be a hard game,” said Leather­bury, who caught six passes for 84 yards. “Every­body knows what they’re ca­pa­ble of, but we also know what we’re ca­pa­ble of. We’re not re­ally wor­ried about who they are.

“To­day shows we don’t care who we play against. We’ve just got to play hard. Our op­po­nent doesn’t mat­ter at this point. It’s just you ver­sus you, and you’ve just got to be the best you can be.”

The Tigers es­sen­tially put the game out of reach in the first half, rolling up a 42-7 ad­van­tage at half­time. They scored on their first pos­ses­sion of the game, march­ing 68 yards on nine plays and cap­ping the drive with Flacco find­ing red­shirt se­nior tight end Chris Clark wide open in the mid­dle of the end zone with 11 min­utes left in the first quar­ter.

The Bi­son forced Tow­son to punt on its next series, but then the flood­gates opened. Flacco hit Leather­bury on a 16-yard cross­ing route to the front of the end zone with 1:24 left in the open­ing frame.

Red­shirt ju­nior de­fen­sive end Bryce Carter sacked and stripped Buck­nell ju­nior quar­ter­back Lo­gan Bi­tikofer, and red­shirt se­nior out­side line­backer Ma­lik Tyne pounced on the loose ball at the Bi­son’s 20-yard line. Two plays later, Flacco spot­ted Leather­bury wide open in the left flat for an 8-yard score with 44 sec­onds re­main­ing.

The Tigers’ next pos­ses­sion was aided by a 44-yard run by Thaen­rat to get over the 100-yard mark, and Flacco con­nected with Leather­bury in the back right cor­ner of the end zone on a 7-yard lob with 12:51 left in the sec­ond quar­ter.

Af­ter Buck­nell sopho­more run­ning back Jared Cooper scored on a 3-yard run to trim the deficit to 28-7 with 8:25 re­main­ing, red­shirt sopho­more Adrian Feliz-Platt gal­loped 45 yards to set up a Flacco-to-Leather­bury 2-yard score with 5:44 left. On Tow­son’s next series, Flacco threw a seam pass over the mid­dle to Leather­bury, who out­raced a few de­fend­ers to the end zone to com­plete a 45-yard touch­down.

“I didn’t even know that un­til now,” Flacco said of his sin­gle-game record. “But imag­ine if I had played in the sec­ond half? I think both of us would have had a pretty fun sec­ond half, but I un­der­stand what hap­pened. It was done in the first half, which is pretty cool. I’ll take pride in that.

“But it doesn’t re­ally mat­ter. Like Coach said, we’ve just got to fo­cus on the next game at this point.”

About the only mis­cue in the first half for the Tigers oc­curred on their fi­nal play, when se­nior kicker Ai­dan O’Neill set up to at­tempt a 55-yard field goal. But the field-goal unit was flagged for a de­lay of game. O’Neill’s 60-yard try — which would have eclipsed Sean Lan­deta’s pro­gram­record 57-yard field goal in 1980 — clanked off the cross­bar, and red­shirt sopho­more Shane McDonough got an ear­ful from Am­brose as he walked off the field to­ward the locker room.

ENP PHO­TOG­RA­PHY

Tow­son quar­ter­back Tom Flacco drops back to pass Satur­day dur­ing the Tigers’ game against Buck­nell.

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