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Indiana Hoosiers open 2010 football season against Towson Tigers.


Towson Tigers
2009 record: 2-9
Location: Towson, Maryland
Series: first meeting 
NCAA Classification: FCS (formerly I-AA)
Conference: Ohio Valley
Rob Ambrose (second season, 2-9)
TV: 7:30, Big Ten Network

After a long offseason, the 2010 Indiana football season begins tonight when the Hoosiers host Towson at Memorial Stadium.  Towson coach Rob Ambrose is in his second season at his alma mater, and went 2-9 in his first season.  Towson is 0-2 all-time against FBS teams.  The Tigers lost to Navy in 2008 (41-13) and lost at Northwestern last season (47-14).  As I noted a few weeks ago when I took an early look at Towson, there were only 17,000 fans in attendance at last year's game in Evanston.  That means that if IU comes close to matching the so-so 36,000 it drew for last year's Thursday opener against Eastern Kentucky, this probably will be the largest crowd the Towson players have seen.  Ambrose, on the other hand, is no stranger to Memorial Stadium.  Before becoming Towson's head coach, Ambrose was a longtime assistant to Randy Edsall at Connecticut, and he was a member of UConn's staff when the Huskies beat IU in 2003 (when IU opened UConn's new stadium) and 2006 (when IU dropped two games while Terry Hoeppner recovered from surgery). 

As I noted earlier, defensive tackle Yaky Ibia, a senior, appears to be the class of the defense.  The Tigers return their leading rusher, Tremayne Dameron, who ran for 566 yards last season, but averaged only 3.3 yards per carry, but the quarterback position appears to be up in the air.  In what must be some sort of a record, Towson started five different players at quarterback last season.  Juco transfer Chris Hart has been named the starter, but there certainly are others who may earn playing time.  Peter Athens started 6 games for Towson last season, but he completed only 52 percent of his passes and threw 12 interceptions to 6 touchdowns.  Brian Potts started one game, but threw 5 INTs and no touchdowns.  Citadel transfer Bart Blanchard led the Southern Conference in passing at one time. 

I simply cannot bring myself to overlook Towson.  IU has played seven games against I-AA/FCS opponents since 2002, and four of the games have been decided by eight or fewer points (including a 2006 loss to Southern Illinois).  Certainly, based on prior records, Towson would seem to have more in common with the Indiana State and Murray State teams that IU has demolished than with the I-AA teams who have competed with IU.  Still, strange things happen in openers, but hopefully the IU offense will blow things open early, even with Tandon Doss on the sideline. 

Here is some pregame coverage:

Hoosiers try to improve rush delivery (The Courier-Journal)
"Indiana University's offensive line was a unit of extremes last season. It did one thing really well and another not so well. On the positive side, IU, which will host Towson at 7:30p.m. Thursday to open the season, allowed 16 sacks — the second-fewest in the Big Ten. On the flip side, the Hoosiers rushed for only 117.1 yards per game — third-worst in the league."

Mentzer knows life in trenches; Dwenger grad and IU lineman thrives on contact (The News-Sentinel - Fort Wayne IN)
Mentzer thrives on contact. He is 6-4 and 305 pounds. He's a big guy you want with you in the trenches. He points to his torn jersey. "It's going to be a little different this year." In other words, he will be the one ripping jerseys. Last year he was a nail to opposing offensive linemen's hammer. He was a redshirt freshman learning the ways of a Big Ten lineman's world, and lessons often brought bruises.

Close didn't count in 2009 (Post-Tribune)
"You can crunch the numbers any way you want, but we were really, really poor on third and short," says Coach Bill Lynch. "You've got to be 90 percent or better there to be a good football team. "It's about developing a mind-set."

Indiana camp strategy targets long haul (Big Ten Blog - ESPN)
"The one element Indiana's coaches decided to scale back, however, was full-blown tackling. Indiana had its share of contact drills, but you didn't see nearly as many players taken to the turf. " There are multiple schools of thought here, and there are successful (and unsuccessful) programs on both sides of the hit/no-hit debate.

IU hanging hopes on a healthy Willis (The Journal Gazette | Fort Wayne, IN)
"Willis had the best season for an IU freshman running back since 2003. Injuries were the only thing that slowed him down. A healthy Willis is essential to a successful season, which begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Towson."

IU focuses on fast start against Towson (The News-Sentinel - Fort Wayne IN)
"Everything favors IU. It has won eight straight home openers and 25 of its last 28. Towson plays in the Colonial Athletic Association in what previously was called Division I-AA. It was 2-9 last year and struggled to score and to stop opponents from scoring."

Pickin' on the Big Ten, Week 1 (NCAAFB FanHouse)
"Training teachers is still at the heart of Towson's mission, but Towson alumni have made their mark in the worlds of business, government and particularly entertainment. Kevin Clash, the voice of the Muppet Elmo, attended Towson, as did Mike Rowe, the host of Dirty Jobs." Elmo's alma mater? Hell, my kids aren't even going to be rooting for IU.

The Towerlight (Hart to start at quarterback)

Football looks to start strong (Indiana Daily Student)
The IU football team will look to extend its streak of six straight opening game wins when it takes on Towson at 7:30 today at Memorial Stadium. IU coach Bill Lynch enters his fourth season having won three previous opening games. In those openers, the Hoosiers have outscored their opponents 105-33.

IU tries to avoid an early stumble (Evansville Courier & Press)
"Like all openers, I don't care if you open with a non-conference team, a traditional rival or someone in the Big Ten, it is always about your own team in that opener," Lynch said. "By week seven and eight, you can scheme this or scheme that, but in an opener, you've got to make sure that you've got the right people playing, that you're prepared, that you don't beat yourself with turnovers or mistakes in substitutions or penalties or kicking game mistakes."

Towson at Indiana (The Journal Gazette | Fort Wayne, IN)
Towson will have to find a way to slow down Indiana’s offense. Northwestern scored 21 points in the first quarter against the Tigers last year on the way to a 47-14 victory.