The Dundalk defense bent and bent against visiting Towson on Friday. Then it bent... and bent... some more, just for good measure.
What the Owl defense didn’t do was break.
That resilience, along with a couple of big plays, was enough for Dundalk to rally past Towson 16-8 and lift the Owls (4-3) over .500 for the first time since they won their opening game.
The Generals ran 64 plays to Dundalk’s 32. They out-gained Dundalk on the ground, 229 yards to 66 (and 58 of the Owls’ rushing yards came on one play) and in total yards 249 to 196 (with 142 of the Owls’ yards coming on three plays).
But, after opening the game with a 63-yard drive in 13 plays to take an 8-0 lead, Towson was shut out the rest of the way and only once drove inside the Owl 30-yard line.
The Generals’ offense is geared almost exclusively to running the ball. Three backs are in position to take a direct snap from the center and run up the middle, off-tackle or a sweep.
“You can’t recreate that offense in practice,” Dundalk coach Matt Banta said. “I knew it would take some time for us to get up to speed in stopping it. “I didn’t like that they were more physical. They really flexed their muscles on us in the first half.”
While the Towson offense was grinding away, the Dundalk offense essentially consisted of three plays: a 40-yard touchdown pass from Treshawn Ray to Kobe Anthony on the fourth play of the second quarter that tied the game at 8-0 after Ray’s two-point conversion; Ray’s 58-yard touchdown run in the third quarter for the winning score; and a 44-yard pass to Patrick Ellis in the fourth quarter.
“I hate to be so one-dimensional and just throw the ball, but we had two one-dimensional teams today,” Banta said. “If we want to be a good playoff team, we have to be able to run the ball. Our thinking is, as long as the ball is in [Ray’s] hands, we’ll be okay.”
Banta said the Owls tried some different alignments to slow Towson’s running game, but the ultimate key to stopping the Generals was simply field position
Towson’s drives started on its own 34, 16, 35, 13, 36, 35, 5 and nine-yard lines.The Generals are not a big-play team, and move the ball in chunks of four and five yards.
Without big plays, driving the length of the field meant the Generals had to run many plays. And that created more opportunities for something to go wrong.
Most Towson drives picked up 30-40 yards and a couple of first downs before petering out.
On Towson’s possession after Dundalk tied the score, the Generals drove from their 35 to the Owl 19 in 10 plays. On the 11th play, Towson lost a fumble.
On its first possession of the third quarter, Towson moved from its own 36 to the Owls 28, where it turned the ball over on downs.
Two plays later, Ray broke free up the middle and outran the Towson defense for the game-winning 58-yard touchdown.
The conversion failed, leaving Dundalk’s lead at 14-8. Early in the fourth quarter, the Generals had to punt from their own five-yard line.
The punter stepped on the back line before the kick, committing a safety and giving the Owls two critical points.
Ray completed the 44-yard pass on Dundalk’s subsequent possession to move the ball to the Towson 18-yard line.
A touchdown pass to Dallion Smith was called back for a holding penalty, and the Owls eventually turned the ball over on downs at the Towson nine-yard line with 8:16 remaining.
The Generals picked up three first downs and moved to the Dundalk 46-yard line with a slow, methodical drive, but a four-yard loss on third down led to the Generals turning over the ball at the Owl 44 with 2:50 remaining.
Dundalk, with the help of a 15-yard run by Ray, ran out the rest of the clock.
“We could score quickly, they needed 8-10 plays to score,” Banta said. “If we bent but didn’t break, got them off the field on fourth down, I knew we’d be in a good position.”