Hobbs: What is a Towson anyway?

By By Scooter Hobbs / American Press

LSU goes into its final non-conference tune-up against Towson University Saturday night still searching for clues to several

key unanswered questions.

Chief among them, which seems to be on everybody’s mind, would be these: What the heck is a Towson, where is Towson from and what in the world is it doing on LSU’s schedule?

Fortunately, I’ve got answers.

1. It is a full-blown university with a

football team that is ranked No. 12 in the FCS and the reigning

champions of the Colonial

Athletic Association.

2. It is located, oddly enough, in Towson, Md. (just a few short miles north of Baltimore).

3. Because it was there (just a few short miles north of Baltimore) and LSU can schedule anybody it darn well pleases and

you still have to pay full freight for the tickets and parking and concessions.

But being just a few short miles north

of Baltimore does not begin to tell the whole story, or really even

scratch the surface,

of Towson University, which was founded in 1866 (actually right in

Baltimore at that time) as the State Normal School, presumably

the state of Maryland.

It found a leafy section of Towson to

relocate to in 1915 under the name State Teachers College at Towson, and

has been churning

them out a brisk pace ever since, currently with just north of

21,000 students.

They also answer to the name “Tigers,”

which means another confusing nightmare of a week for LSU, which will

have its own

Tigers squaring off against other Tigers in back-to-back games for

the first time in its long and storied history (1,175 games).

(You can call Towson the War Eagles, but only for this week).

As for the football team, even coming

off of back-to-back wins over St. Francis (Pa.) and William & Mary

(one school), the

team’s website literature describes this week’s task as “the

biggest challenge in the 44-year history of the Towson football

program.”

What? Are the NFL replacement refs from the Seahawks-Packers game going to work the affair?

No, although that surely might liven things up.

It turns out that, perhaps more significantly, the LSU trip offers a “rare opportunity for Towson to play a game on natural

grass.”

Sadly, Towson’s Johnny Unitas Stadium has an artificial surface, as do 10 of the other 11 CCA football fields, so this will

be only the fifth time since 2008 that Towson has played on something that LSU’s Les Miles can snack on.

And did I just say “Unitas?”

Wait a minute. No, it turns out Johnny U. never played for or attended Towson U., although he apparently did some fundraising

for the school in his dotage and danged if they didn’t go and name the stadium after him.

Apparently, “Tiger Stadium” was already taken.

How well it has prepared Towson for the rigors of LSU’s Tiger Stadium is debatable.

Assuming the usual 90,000 or so show up Saturday in Baton Rouge, it will far more than double the biggest audience ever to

witness a Towson football game.

The current leader was the 35,573 on hand for Towson’s game at Maryland last year, and this will be only the fourth time ever

that Towson has performed before more than 30,000. The other two were the cauldrons at Navy and at Indiana.

Miles, of course, is not taking this lightly.

“We’re facing a very talented, well-coached Towson team, a team that is used to winning,” Miles said, and we must take his

word for it.

Its “guys that had significant roles on other teams who, for whatever reason, ended up at Towson and they’re playing very

well.”

It is one of those FCS (formerly I-AA)

teams that is a safe haven for transfers, and although Towson never got

in the Honey

Badger rumor sweepstakes, the roster does include former players

from Rutgers, South Carolina, Western Michigan, Georgia,

Boston College, UConn, and — upset alert! Danger, LSU, Danger! —

Stony Brook.

However, you probably know Towson best as the school where All-Pro left tackle Jermon Bushrod hid out until he was drafted

by the Saints in the fourth round in 2007.

Curiously enough, he is the only Towson player the Saints have ever drafted. But Towson is also the alma mater of Joe Vitt,

who will be the Saints’ interim-head coach after his six-game Bountygate suspension is up, assuming there’s anything left

of the Saints by then.

Neither, however, is as revered in Towson lore as former student Kevin Clash, who is best known as the voice of “Elmo” and

of course his subsequent, tell-all autobiography — “My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud.”

Those life’s lessons surely came in handy when Towson got its 15 minutes of fame in its season-opener a few weeks ago at Kent

State.

Maybe you remember it.

Kent State was punting to Towson, which unfortunately mishandled the punt and it was scooped up by a Kent State player.

In the resulting confusion, or maybe it was a foul-up in communications, whatever, the Kent State player took off running

IN THE WRONG DIRECTION!

That’s right. A Kent State player was sprinting at a brisk clip, apparently intent on scoring two points for the Towsons.

Not to be outdone, or perhaps

suspicious that it was sinister ploy, a small (but heady) squadron from

the Towson punt return

team was dispatched after him, furiously trailing him in dogged

pursuit until finally hauling him down before he could help

them by scoring two points for them.

It was so bizarre it would seem to be right in Miles’ wheelhouse, and surely he has some trick play up his sleeve that could

take advantage of something that innovative.

•••

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at shobbs@americanpress.com