Coach Rob Ambrose won’t abandon Towson’s potent, no-huddle offense any time soon—but, if he does, the 2019 Tigers offer some motivation for one reason.
Ambrose’s initial response when asked about the team’s chemistry with a sustained laugh, then said: “The bad part about not huddling is I would love to be able to have a microphone in a huddle with those guys. It’s a bunch of characters.”
With none of the Tigers mic’d up, secondhand accounts are the most an outside audience can expect.
“There’d have to be a lot of bleeps,” running back Shane Simpson said with a chuckle.
OK, so maybe television censors can breathe easier with the Towson Tigers employing a no-huddle attack. Opposing defenses certainly can’t—especially not with Simpson in the backfield.
And once Simpson and Tigers quarterback Tom Flacco get cooking, it’s those defenses that will probably be doing the cursing. The duo frustrated opponents plenty in 2018, powering an offense that led the Colonial Athletic Association in both scoring offense (34.5 points per game) and yardage (465 per game).
Towson’s offense proved both efficient and fun—a reflection of the stars leading it.
Tom Flacco, notable extender of plays, hits Shane Simpson in the back of the end zone for Towson's second touchdown of the game.— Towson Football (@Towson_FB) November 3, 2018
The Tigers go for two as Knudson catches a floater from Flacco.
Simpson has a TD in every game this season. pic.twitter.com/QPULaeurzj
“They have the most fun, and the reason they get along so well is probably because they both are so competitive,” Ambrose said. “They’ll compete at anything, it really doesn’t matter. It can be tic-tac-toe.”
Indeed, an important addendum Ambrose tacked on when referring to his offense as “a bunch of characters” is that the description applies “right up until they snap the ball, then it’s deadly serious.”
Simpson embodies that in his play. The all-purpose back may be the single-most electrifying performer in the FCS in 2019, but his highlight reel-filling style is the result of a highly focused approached.
In a 2017 Baltimore Sun story, Simpson detailed the list of goals he kept pinned in his room.
“I’ve always been really goal-oriented,” Simpson said. “Even when I was younger, like in my high school days, I would write my goals then do my best to achieve them.”
He’s checked a few milestones off his agenda. He was the Colonial’s Special Teams Player of the Year, and 1-of-2 first team running backs. Simpson was also named first team Associated Press All-America and second team STATS All-America for his all-purpose play.
Simpson rushed for 687 yards and six touchdowns, caught 39 passes for 356 yards with another five scores, returned 16 punts and 37 kickoffs, taking one of the latter back for a touchdown.
The stats detail a point Ambrose made emphatically.
“Shane can do everything. Seriously,” he said, adding for emphasis: “Shane can do everything. He can be a downhill runner, he can go sideline-to-sideline, he can be a receiver if he has to. And he’s a helluva return guy.”
Such a diverse skill set bolsters Simpson’s prospects of becoming the third Towson starting running back this decade to move onto the NFL. Predecessors Terrance West and Darius Victor reached the pros in 2014 and 2016, but both did so with what Ambrose described as much different styles than Simpson.
The NFL game has undergone a dramatic offensive shift in a short time, with more no-huddle and/or spread elements accompanying shotgun and pistol formations. All-purpose backs such as Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey, New Orleans’ Alvin Kamara and Simpson’s childhood friend, New York Giant Saquon Barkley, flourish in this more wide-open game.
But the NFL is a dream for 2020, the slightly distant future. Simpson’s goal sheet in the 2019 football season includes some that are redemptive in nature.
“Goals for this year, I’ve still got a bad taste in my mouth from last year from not getting to play for the CAA Championship,” Simpson said. The Tigers finished 5-3 in the Colonial, with one of the losses coming down to a single score against league champion Maine.
“I want to be All-American again, for all-purpose and running back,” he added. “I also want to put down 1,000 yards [rushing]. I have yet to do that.”
There are other achievements Simpson aims to unlock in 2019—he understandably said he doesn’t “want to put too much out there” before the season even begins—but there is one biggie Ambrose knows well.
“He’s got his individual goals, but in the end, he’s got one, specific goal: We’re going back to the playoffs,” Ambrose said. “We’re going to make a run at this bad boy. He wants to finish this year the way it should be finished. That’s the way he wants to go out.”
There won’t be any mic’d up content coming out of the Tigers’ pursuit to that end, but Simpson and the Towson offense should have plenty to say in the coming campaign all the same.