Aztecs Scouting Report: Towson – The San Diego Union-Tribune

Building San Diego State’s 12-game football schedule is a simple task in theory.

Eight games will be against Mountain West opponents — five from the West Division and three from the Mountain Division — and scheduling is done by the conference office.

That leaves four games remaining for SDSU officials to secure opponents, typically at the front end of the schedule.

Power Five schools — usually from the Pac-12 — are targeted for two of those games, along with one Group of Five and one FCS opponent.

The premise is to challenge — and perhaps surprise — the Power Five schools (which SDSU did the past two weeks in victories over Arizona and Utah), be challenged but win against the Group of Five team (which the Aztecs did against New Mexico State) and throttle the FCS school.

That’s where this week’s game against Towson comes in.


SDSU had a Week 4 opening on its schedule and found an opponent ready, willing and able to fill that slot in the Tigers, who, with all due respect, aren’t exactly on the college football radar.

Towson is an FCS school that plays in the Colonial Athletic Association and is located in Towson, Md., 15 miles north of Baltimore.

The Tigers are to receive a $450,000 guarantee to come play SDSU in Saturday’s game at 12:30 p.m. at Carson’s Dignity Health Sports Park.

An SDSU spokesman said the amount is typical of what the Aztecs would pay for a football guarantee game.

This is the first meeting between the schools.

Oddsmakers have not posted a line on the game.

About the Tigers

Towson first took the football field in 1969, debuting in Division III before moving up to Division II (1979) and then Division I-AA (1987).

Towson head coach Rob Ambrose’s association with the Tigers dates back more than three decades. He came to campus in 1989 as a quarterback and moved to wide receiver before his playing career was cut short by injuries.

Ambrose served as an assistant coach at Towson from 1993-2000, left for UConn, then returned as the Tigers’ head coach in 2009.

He has guided Towson to two CAA championships and six FCS playoff appearances.

Towson did not play in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tigers are off to a 1-2 start this season, with a season-opening win against Morgan State (31-0) followed by losses against New Hampshire (26-14) and North Dakota State (35-7).

A program notable: The Tigers play in Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The NFL Hall of Fame quarterback played for the Baltimore Colts from 1956-72 before closing out his career with the Chargers in 1973.

His connection to Towson was solidified when three of his children attended the school.

According to the Towson website, Unitas served as a community liaison for Tiger Athletics in 2002 during its search for a stadium naming rights partner.

The last pass Unitas ever threw was Sept., 5, 2002, during a ceremony to commemorate Towson’s new stadium. He died suddenly a week later.

After his passing, Unitas’ wife, Sandy, stepped into his community liaison role and pushed to have the stadium named in his honor.

The offense

The Tigers have struggled to establishing themselves offensively while switching between graduate transfer quarterback Chris Ferguson (44-for-75, 463 yards, 2 TD/2 INT) and junior Jeff Miller (14-for-30, 178, TD/3 INT) over the season’s first three games.

Ferguson guided Towson in last week’s loss to North Dakota State, completing 19 of 28 passes for 165 yards. He had trouble leading sustained drives while trying to avoid pressure (he was sacked five times).

North Dakota State scored the game’s first 35 points before Towson running back Jerry Howard Jr. rushed for a 1-yard touchdown with 2:20 to play.

Howard (43 carries, 187 yards, TD) has accounted for nearly 60 percent of the team’s rushing yards. He is a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech, where he was a teammate of SDSU quarterback Lucas Johnson.

Towson is averaging 17.3 points a game, though the Tigers have totaled just three TDs the past two games.

“I wouldn’t say Coach Ambrose is old-school, but he has some tough, hard-nosed principals to his game planning and his personnel as far as really wanting to run the ball and control the clock,” SDSU defensive coordinator Kurt Mattix said. “They have quick passes that is going to try to allow them to get the ball to their athletes in space. …

“They’ve faced two really good teams in New Hampshire and North Dakota State the last two weeks and they’ve done some good stuff throughout those games. The scoreboard might not match the final product, but they’ve done different things … they have some really good speed and some good athletes.”

The defense

Limiting opponents to 20.3 points a game looks good on paper, although the figure is skewed by the season-opening shutout against Morgan State.

The Tigers are allowing 345 yards in total offense a game, with the yardage balanced almost equally between rushing (176.7 ypg) and passing (168.3).

The most notable defender so far has been senior safety S.J. Brown II, who had 16 tackles and the team’s only interception in last week’s loss to North Dakota State.

For the season, Brown leads the Tigers with 29 tackles. Teammate Christian Dixon, a senior linebacker, is second with 19 tackles.

The team’s six sacks have been spread among seven players, led by junior linebacker Ryan Kearney (1 1/2 sacks).