TU hangs on for tribal win
Fans were on the edge of their seats as William & Mary’s offense took the field with a little over a minute remaining in the game.
Holding on to a three-point lead, the Tigers (1-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) elected to punt, essentially putting the game in the defense’s hands.
Sophomore quarterback Raphael Ortiz, making made his first career start for the Tribe, completed two big passes to keep William & Mary (0-3, 0-1 CAA) alive as time ticked away.
On third down, Ortiz dropped back and was forced out of the pocket by Towson’s penetrating defensive line. Ortiz was scrambling and then saw Tre McBride in the end zone. Ortiz heaved a pass over Towson’s defensive backs and safely into McBride’s hands.
The Tribe thought they had their first win until a yellow flag landed on the turf of Minnegan Field.
Before throwing what would have been the game-winning pass, Ortiz had crossed the line of scrimmage, resulting in a five-yard penalty and a loss of a down.
“I guess I was over the line,” Ortiz said. “We’ll look at the film to see what happened … I honestly didn’t think I was over the line.”
Ortiz completed his next pass on fourth down to running back Meltoya Jones, but Jones was short of the first down marker.
“It was ugly,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “It wasn’t nearly as sharp as I would like. I know the kids feel the same way, but 30 years from now nobody is going to know anything about that. They’re just going to know it was a win. Those are things that have been hard to come by in the last decade or so.”
The Tigers opened the game with a grueling 65-yard drive that resulted in a 27-yard D.J. Soven field goal, giving Towson an early lead.
Sophomore running back Terrance West carried the ball seven times on the 15-play drive and carried the majority of the load at the start of the game. West finished with a game-high 153 yards on the ground on 27 carries, but for the first time since last season’s game against Maryland, he did not score a touchdown.
“He’s a good, hard running back,” William & Mary Head Coach Jimmye Laycock said. “They do a lot of things where they try to get leverage and get a man or half-man up on you blocking, but he runs hard. You better tackle him, you don’t just bring him down with an arm tackle, you better tackle him. We’ve seen him before and we saw him today. He’s a good back.”
After Towson’s field goal, William & Mary took the lead. Jones rushed 16 yards in the Towson end zone. Drake Kuhn’s extra point was good to give the Tribe a 7-3 lead. Kuhn’s field goal at 6:05 of the second quarter increased William & Mary’s lead to 10-3.
The Tigers scored their first touchdown of the game in the final seconds of the first half.
Senior quarterback Grant Enders was scrambling near the goal line and fumbled into the end zone. Players from both teams scrapped and clawed for the ball, but ultimately junior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins emerged from the pile to give the Tigers the score and tie up the game heading into the locker room.
“I was very scared for a quick second, but luckily I saw Spence jump on it right away and I knew I got away with one,” Enders said. “It was just poor ball security, but … I was happy how it turned out.”
The Tigers opened the second half with 10 unanswered points, but with 5:44 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ortiz dumped the ball to Nolan Kearney for a two-yard touchdown pass, cutting the Tigers’ lead to three points.
The Tribe made an effort to steal the game in the final minutes of the fourth quarter, but came up short.