Big Brother wasn’t watching, but he sure had to be proud. And that’s saying something considering all Joe Flacco has accomplished throughout his football career.
But on the Main Line Saturday, little brother Tom did something the Baltimore Ravens’ 2012 Super Bowl-winning quarterback never did: He beat Villanova.
The 6-foot-1, 208-pound Voorhees, NJ product put on a performance worthy of the Flacco name, throwing for 320 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 66 more.
Time after time, he came up with clutch plays, as visiting Towson was able to dig itself out of an early 14-point hole with 35 unanswered points, then held on late to stun the 10th ranked Wildcats, 45-35.
In a wild game, where 1018 yards were amassed on offense, 528 by Towson, and big plays seemed to be the norm rather than the exception, Nova’s beleaguered defense simply had no answer for Flacco, who sustained drives all day with 11-of-19 on third and fourth down conversions.
“I tip my hat off to Towson and to Tommy, he extended plays,” said Wildcats’ second-year coach Mark Ferrante, who saw Zach Bednarczyk’s brilliant 26-for-35 for 389 yards and four touchdown effort go to waste.
“The problem is they had 30 more plays than we did and had the ball for 11 more minutes,” he explained. “So we didn’t have enough opportunities. There were big plays on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately, they had more than we did.”
Probably the biggest play came late in the first quarter after an early 14-0 Villanova lead had been cut in half, a questionable roughing the passer penalty negated a third-down sack and gave Towson a fresh set of downs.
Three plays later, Flacco hit Shane Leatherbury on a slant over the middle, who took it 76 yards to the house for the tying score.
However, on the ensuing kickoff, Nova’s Jalen Jackson was blasted by a Towson player and coughed up the football. Before anyone knew it, Troy Vincent Jr.—yes, the son of the former Eagles standout cornerback—scooped it up and romped 14 yards to the end zone, putting the Tigers up 21-14.
“That woke them up and kind of knocked us out for a couple minutes,” conceded Ferrante, whose club surrendered two more second-quarter touchdowns to fall behind 35-14, before finally showing signs of life.
“Then it was a crazy game back and forth a little bit. We got it close, but not close enough.”
Every time the Wildcats seemed poised to turn it around Flacco had other ideas. He kept coming up with key third-down plays, either hitting his receiving or wriggling through Nova’s exasperated defense for enough yards to sustain drives.
That made for a happy homecoming for the youngest of the Flacco family.
“It was awesome,” said Flacco, who started out at Western Michigan, then transferred to Rutgers, before finally landing at Towson. “I grew up right outside of Philly, and Villanova is a school where one of my brothers graduated.”
“I had a lot of people in the stands for me, it was exciting.”
But as far he knew, big brother Joe, who went 0-2 vs. Nova while playing for Delaware over a decade ago, wasn’t among them.
“I’m the youngest of six: five boys, one girl,” said Tom, who’s already thrown for 910 yards and eight touchdowns for the 2-1 Tigers, picked to finish 10th in the CAA this year.
“I don’t talk to Joe much about football, to be honest with you. Ultimately the guy I go to is my dad.”
Whoever’s taught him, apparently he’s learned his lessons well, which made for a frustrating afternoon for the 2-1 Wildcats, who didn’t help themselves by missing a number of tackles.
“He’s elusive,” said Villanova linebacker Jeff Steeb, who was in on nine tackles, to go with a sack and an interception. “Just looking at him, you wouldn’t think it, but he’s able to make guys miss and is a good player.”
In addition to Flacco’s, Steeb continued to speak about Towson’s offense, who consistently found success against their defense.
“Honestly, I think we needed that and I’m glad that it happened this early,” he said. “I think we needed to get humbled a little bit. But they had a good scheme with the tempo, being up on the ball. We weren’t really ready for that.”
“This one certainly stings for the defense.”
But Villanova’s pain turned out to be Towson’s pleasure, as Tom Flacco, Troy Vincent Jr., and the Tigers left town having made one thing perfectly clear: It’s all in the family.