Foster, Eagles face another test with Towson

Sep. 18, 2013 @ 10:30 AM

Talk about timing.

N.C. Central played the first half of Saturday’s game against Charlotte without Tazmon Foster, the team’s leading tackler. The inside linebacker from Henderson had to finish serving his punishment for a hit toward the head in the Eagles’ double-overtime win against St. Augustine’s.

NCCU was in control against Charlotte when Foster entered the game in the third quarter, but he finished with nine tackles to tie for second among the Eagles in their 40-13 win.

“Taz is definitely one of our big playmakers, and he’s a leader,” NCCU outside linebacker Allonte Tuppins said. “He doesn’t say too much, but he’s a leader with his actions, and we feed off of him. So we knew going into the game without him that we would all have to step up and fill that void that we were missing for the first half.”

Foster encouraged his teammates beforehand.

“I just told them to play hard,” Foster said. “It’s not about me. It’s about the team.

“We needed to win to go into Towson, because I heard they’re No. 4 in the nation.”

He heard correctly, and he’ll be back in the lineup Saturday when Towson brings its strong Football Championship Subdivision ranking to NCCU’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium (2 p.m., NCCUEaglePride.com).

Talk about timing.

“We have a big test ahead of us,” NCCU interim coach Dwayne Foster said.

Undefeated Towson mostly has dominated the ball in its three wins with an average possession time 34:52, its ground game punctuated by running back Terrance West, who a week ago scored five touchdowns against Delaware State.

“Offensively, he is certainly the key,” Coach Foster said.

The Tigers are going to try to lull the Eagles to sleep with their running game, then surprise with some play-action passing, he said.

NCCU’s success on defense will start with its guys up front working to get a push against a good-sized Towson offensive line, and the Eagles’ linebackers must take care of their gap responsibilities, Tuppins said.

“Towson hasn’t given up any sacks, so that’s a real test for me right there,” Tuppins said.

NCCU was working on a shutout against Charlotte until the 49ers got on the scoreboard about midway through the fourth quarter.

“I’m not pleased, at all,” Tuppins said. “We have to finish. We’ve got to play all four quarters. I’m pleased with the win, but I’m not pleased with the points that were put on the board, because we had them where we wanted them and we didn’t finish. We have to finish.”

This week, it will be about the Eagles leaving every ounce of energy on the field since they won’t have another game until starting conference play on Oct. 5, leaving plenty of time to recover from the whatever physicality Towson puts on them, Tuppins said.

“We don’t have any excuses,” Tuppins said. “We need to give them everything we’ve got and leave it all on the field.”

But talk about timing: NCCU opened the season against a Duke team that is bigger and stronger than Towson and plays on the higher Football Bowl Subdivision level.  Duke had its way with the Eagles in a 45-0 win, but Tuppins said that game has alleviated the need for NCCU to bother with a feeling-out process against Towson.

“Duke was a good test for us, and it kind of exposed us to what challenges we were going to face,” Tuppins said. “And now the challenge is here, and that’s Towson.”