TOWSON, Md. — Towson coach Rob Ambrose knew what his team was up against, so he rolled the dice early in the Tiger’s game against North Dakota State.

He won one bet and lost the next.

Not that it mattered much. The Bison dominated the Tigers in every aspect and rolled to a 35-7 victory Saturday night at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

On the game's first possession, the Tigers faced fourth down-and-1 from their own 34. Ambrose decided to go for it, sending running back Jerry Howard into the line. Howard barely got the first down, replays might've shown he didn't, and the Tigers kept their drive alive for a few more plays before having to punt.

"It’s my personality, it’s the personality of the team," Ambrose said. "It’s also I know how good their offense is, I know how much ground they can chew up. I know how much time they can take off the clock. For us to win, we have to be more efficient with the ball and that means if you don’t get it on third down find a way to get it on fourth down. Sometimes we did, not enough."

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North Dakota State's Courtney Eubanks upends Towson quarterback Chris Ferguson at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 18. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Courtney Eubanks upends Towson quarterback Chris Ferguson at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 18. David Samson / The Forum


In the second quarter, after Hunter Luepke's touchdown run gave NDSU a 13-0 lead, Towson's Kobe Young returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards to the Bison 12. Three plays netted eight yards for Towson and Ambrose again decided to go for it on a fourth-and-2 from the 4.

This time, the Tigers weren't successful. Bison linebackers Mason Hofstedt and Jackson Hankey met running back Devin Matthews at the line of scrimmage for no gain. The Bison took possession and scored a touchdown seven plays later on quarterback Quincy Patterson's 3-yard TD run.

"Great stop by them," Ambrose said. "That’s me knowing full well who we were going to face. I could have easily kicked the field goal and (taken) the three points, but I knew they were going to score more points. They’re a very, very good offense. ... I’m disappointed we didn’t get it, but we will learn from it."

Towson was 2-for-4 on fourth-down conversions and 2-for-14 on third-down conversions. Bison head coach Matt Entz liked how his defense played on those key downs. The Tigers were a combined 4-for-18 between third- and fourth-down conversions.

"That’s a pretty good number there," Entz said. "That means we are getting off the field, we’re getting the ball back to our offense."

Said Hankey, of the Towson offense: "They had a few new wrinkles early on, otherwise our coaches do a great job of preparing us for football games and we have smart football players. We were pretty clued in to what they were doing."

North Dakota State's defense celebrates their fourth down stop of Towson's Devin Matthews near the goal line at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 18. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's defense celebrates their fourth down stop of Towson's Devin Matthews near the goal line at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland, on Saturday, Sept. 18. David Samson / The Forum


Waege leaves game with injury

Bison standout defensive end Spencer Waege left the game late in the third quarter with an injury to his right leg. The senior from South Shore, S.D., was hurt on a fourth-down play while he was rushing Towson quarterback Chris Ferguson.

Trainers examined Waege's right leg while he was laying on the field. When he was helped off by teammates, Waege didn't put any weight on his right leg.

Waege was a second-team preseason All-American selection by STATS Perform. He was an all-Missouri Valley Football Conference selection in the spring FCS season, making American Football Coaches Association second team All-American.

Waege had a team-high eight tackles for losses in the spring, including 4.5 sacks.

Tigers were potent on KO return

Towson's best offense in the first half was its kickoff return. Kobe Young returned one at the start of the second quarter 87 yards to the Bison 12-yard line. One possession later, D'Ago Hunter returned a kickoff 33 yards.

In both instances, the Bison defense held and in the case after Young's return was an impressive fourth-down stand. Jerry Howard Jr. had two carries for five yards giving the Tigers a third-and-2 at the 4. But running back Devin Matthews was stopped for no gain on the next two carries and the Bison took over.

"We’ve got to get that ball in there," Ferguson said. "It kind of changes the course of the game."

It took NDSU only seven plays to go 96 yards the other way and it was 19-0. The Bison defense also held the Tigers to a three-and-out after Hunter's return gave TU the ball at its 34-yard line.

Bison good on first down

NDSU took a 21-0 halftime lead boosted by good production on first down. The Bison averaged 9.1 yards per play on that down and it started right away.

Patterson hit receiver Christian Watson for eight yards on the first play of the game. Two plays later, Dominic Gonnella ran for another eight yards on first down. The Bison scored the first three times they had the ball with the biggest play on first down a 43-yard run by Gonnella.

That kind of production made third down more attainable; the Bison converted on third down five times in six attempts in the first two quarters, which resulted in a 21-0 NDSU halftime lead.

"We were in a lot of second-and-shorts and third-and-shorts," Entz said. "Only 10 third downs over the course of the game. We were able to minimize the number of money downs or third downs we needed to execute offensively. When you do that, you can keep the ball moving."

Odds and ends

Starting linebacker James Kaczor missed his second straight game with a groin injury he sustained in the spring season. He played in NDSU's opener against Albany. ... Quincy Patterson threw his first interception of the season in the second quarter. ... Bison running back Dom Gonnella left the game temporarily in the second quarter, coming up limping after a tackle. He returned on NDSU's next series.