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Attitude, energy good as Mountaineers eye Towson

By Dave Hickman, Staff writer

MORGANTOWN — As it turns out, Dana Holgorsen’s job didn’t become that difficult Sunday after all.

That was the day the West Virginia coach had pointed to more than once during the preseason. It was the day after the Mountaineers were to play Alabama and the fear was that regardless of the outcome, after pointing to one of the best teams in the country all through the preseason, WVU would then have to forget it and move on.

“I was happy with Sunday. I thought the attitude and the energy was good on Sunday,’’ Holgorsen said. “I would anticipate that [today, when practice resumes] will be the same way.’’

West Virginia put up a solid showing against No. 2 Alabama before losing 33-23. Now the attention turns to a Saturday night game against Towson. The two couldn’t be much different — Alabama a national championship contender on the FBS level and Towson rebuilding after a rather surprising run to the FCS title game in 2013.

Saturday’s home opener at Mountaineer Field is scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff and will be televised by Root Sports.

“We didn’t have a bunch of guys that were hanging their heads,’’ Holgorsen said of Sunday’s meetings and light practice. “We didn’t have a bunch of guys that were looking to be patted on the back just because we kept it close against a good team.’’

Towson, meanwhile, lost its opener at home to a middling Central Connecticut State team Saturday when it couldn’t get out of its own way.

The Tigers led 27-24 and had forced a punt with just under three minutes to play. But after inexplicably rushing the punter and drawing a roughing call to give CCSU another chance, the Towson defense then gave up a 34-yard pass on a fourth-and-13 play to lead to the winning touchdown.

Central Connecticut was 4-8 last season and picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Northeast Conference.

“We played hard,’’ said coach sixth-year coach Rob Ambrose. “We didn’t play smart.’’

Towson has been very good of late, going 9-3, 7-4 and 13-3 the past three years. The Tigers went to Hartford and beat down Connecticut 33-18 to start last season, stayed in the FCS Top 10 all year and beat the Nos. 2 and 3 teams on the road in the playoffs before losing to No. 1 North Dakota State in the FCS finals.

But the Tigers also lost 17 seniors from that team, including quarterback Peter Athens and wide receiver Leon Kinnard, both stars. All-American Erik Pike is also gone, along with every other full-time starter on the offensive line. But the biggest blow came when junior running back Terrance West elected to enter the NFL draft. All he’d done before being picked in the third round by the Browns was rush for 2,509 yards and 42 touchdowns last season, almost 5,000 yards and 86 touchdowns in his three years.

Towson does have some returning talent, but its spot in most of the preseason FCS Top 25 rankings was more a product of past than present.

“What we were last year is not what we are this year,’’ Ambrose said Monday.

Towson has played an FBS team every year since 2008 and last year’s win at UConn was its first in that stretch. The Tigers had previously lost to Navy, Northwestern, Indiana, Maryland and Kent State.

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.


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