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Both Towson and William & Mary carry winning streaks into Week 12, but continuing them into the final Saturday of the regular season means different things.
Who: No. 20 Towson (6-4, 3-3 CAA) at William & Mary (4-6, 2-4 CAA)
When: Saturday, Nov. 16, 1 p.m. ET
Where: Zable Stadium; Williamsburg, Virginia
Watch: LIVE on FloFootball
For Towson, another win goes a long way toward solidifying the Tigers’ postseason aspirations.
The Tigers rallied from a tough loss to Colonial Athletic Association leader James Madison to beat rival Delaware and Stony Brook in back-to-back weeks. Two more wins should guarantee Towson a berth into the Playoffs, with the prospect of a home game or two at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
“They’ve been making leaps-and-bounds in how much they’re growing,” Tigers coach Rob Ambrose said. “I can say the same thing for William & Mary. You look at a team that’s improving in November…That’s the sign of a good team.”
For William & Mary, continuing the momentum of winning its first two CAA games of 2019 set a building block for a young group returning in 2020.
“There’s a real sense of optimism,” said first-year Tribe coach Mike London. “The best thing about [freshmen], they have the chance to get older and better. You look at our team, our quarterback [Hollis Mathis], Donavyn Lester, Bronson Yoder, Kane Everson: All those guys are young guys [who] are significant in our point production, but also infused with some older guys.”
For the upperclassmen, Saturday’s game is the last at Zable Stadium. Picking up a third straight win would be a great sendoff for the seniors.
Testing Towson's Run Defense
Towson’s defense has flourished generating turnovers, in particular with cornerback Coby Tippett and linebacker Keon Paye picking off five passes each. The Tigers have had their struggles defending the rush, however, allowing more than 166 yards per game at a 4.5-per carry clip.
William & Mary offensive coordinator Brennan Marion introduced an innovative scheme for the Tribe this season, reliant on a varied rushing attack. The Go-Go offense has seen the next-to-last rushing offense in all of FCS a season ago produce better than 200 yards per game in 2019.
The Tribe come into Saturday’s matchup averaging 4.5 yards per carry with 25 rushing touchdowns, and are a game removed from deluging Rhode Island with 462 yards. Yoder and Owen Wright both averaged 10.3 yards per carry and broke the century mark, while Mathis carried for a pair of touchdowns.
William & Mary can attack in a variety of ways, whether it’s with Yoder lining up in the Wildcat, Mathis running zone-read on option looks, or running backs Wright and Lester attacking through the tackles.
Protecting The Quarterback
Towson can attribute much of its 21 forced turnovers to its consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Bryce Carter, Christian Dixon and Robert Heyward combine for 8.5 sacks, but just as critical, Dixon, John Lambert and Malik Tyne have accounted for 20 quarterback hurries.
William & Mary prefers to run, going to the ground 448 times to 223 passes. The opportunity for interceptions is still there, though, particularly if the Tribe are forced to throw with the Tigers getting into the backfield to stop plays from developing.
On the flipside, William & Mary’s defensive front has generated consistent pressure on the season with 22 sacks. Towson’s allowed 29, suggesting that Gavin Johnson and Bill Murray might be able to cause some problems for Tom Flacco.
The William & Mary defense has given up more passing yardage than all but Stony Brook and Villanova among CAA squads this season. However, that’s not necessarily a byproduct of being weak in that phase.
The Tribe have allowed seven yards per attempt, which is tied with Maine for second-best, and just 0.1 behind league-leading James Madison. William & Mary’s given up 20 touchdowns, but generated 10 interceptions.
Towson was having to rely offensively on establishing from the pass previously – and with Flacco throwing to Shane Leatherbury, Darian Street, Chris Clark and recent breakout star Caleb Smith, the Tigers can do that.
But Yeedee Thaenrat and Adrian Feliz-Platt both had outstanding performance against a solid Stony Brook rushing defense. Towson may have to first chip at William & Mary with the running backs before attacking through the air.