Second half comeback leads to Towson win
Towson overcame a 14-0 first-quarter deficit to keep its nine-game win streak alive and win its first Colonial Athletic Association game over the Stony Brook Sea Wolves on Saturday in Long Island, N.Y.
Trailing the Sea Wolves (1-3, 1-2 CAA) 21-20 with just over seven minutes remaining, the Tigers (5-0, 1-0 CAA) mounted a 96-yard drive in five minutes to take a 28-21 lead.
Freshman running back Darius Victor capped the drive with a 31-yard touchdown run. Senior quarterback Peter Athens threw to senior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins to convert on the two-point conversion and gave Towson a touchdown lead.
After the Tigers drive, the Sea Wolves had 2:31 to attempt to tie the game. Quarteback Lyle Negron led the Sea Wolves to their 49-yard line, but would get no further.
Negron was sacked on second down, which moved Stony Brook back to its own 43-yard line with less than a minute remaining.
On the next play, junior defensive end Ryan Delaire forced Negron to fumble, and sophomore cornerback Donnell Lewis returned the ball for the game-clinching touchdown. Delaire had three of Towson’s four sacks in the game.
”Coming back from deficits large or small is something we just do,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “Every year, our team needs to find its identity, and you never truly find out who you are or what you are until faced with adversity. Whether it was caused by Stony Brook or us, we handled that adversity really well.”
The Sea Wolves came out of the gates strong, putting together a 13-play, 78-yard drive after receiving the opening kickoff. The run-heavy drive featured three different backs carrying the ball, including running back James Kenner, who finished it with a two-yard touchdown run.
The touchdown was the first rushing score allowed by the Tigers defense this year. The Tigers allowed 142 yards on the ground in the game, including two touchdowns.
Towson was playing catch-up before its offense came on the field and the next drive did not produce a response. On the second offensive play, Athens threw his third interception of the year, giving Stony Brook the ball at the Towson 14-yard line.
“Peter has done a decent job in leading the offense to 30-plus points every week,” Ambrose said. “But part of his job is executing his position efficiently and he knows that he has a lot of work to do.”
The Sea Wolves did not waste time cashing in on the opportunity, scoring on the next play from scrimmage. Running back Jameel Poteat crossed the end line to increase the lead to 14-0 with just over six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Tigers, looking to halt the Sea Wolves momentum, completed a 14-play, 62-yard drive that was aided by Athens’ 49 passing yards. The drive resulted in a 33-yard field attempt by graduate kicker Drew Evangelista, in which he split the uprights to cut the deficit to 14-3.
After Athens threw his second interception, Towson forced a punt and got junior running back Terrance West going on their next drive.
West kept the drive alive with a 36-yard run on third down and finished it with a two-yard touchdown run to make it 14-10 with 7:12 remaining in the first half.
West rushed for 150 yards and one touchdown in the game. The touchdown was his 55th career rushing tally, tied for fourth best in CAA history.
Towson had the momentum, but Stony Brook would take hold of it again before halftime. Stony Brook took the ball 78 yards in 6:26, finishing with a Malcom Eugene touchdown, who caught a pass from Negron to give Stony Brook a 21-10 going into halftime.
After allowing just 212 rushing yards and no rushing touchdowns on the year, the Tigers gave up 96 yards and two touchdowns rushing in the first half.
Towson received the second half kickoff and drove the to the 50-yard line, but could not convert on third down and short. However, the ensuing punt hit off of a Stony Brook player and was recovered by Monte Gaddis at the Stony Brook 25-yard line.
Just two plays later, Athens made the turnover count when his pass found Wilkins for the 18-yard touchdown with 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter.
After the teams traded punts, penalties highlighted the next Towson drive, which ended in a 51-yard field goal by senior kicker D.J. Soven.
Two Stony Brook penalties gave Towson 30 yards, allowing them to reach the home team’s 20-yard line. However, two Towson penalties pushed them back to the 33-yard line, where Soven converted on the kick to cut the deficit to 21-20.
“I think [Soven] and Evangelista played extremely well,” Ambrose said. “I had zero doubt at all that [Soven] was going to make that [field goal]. I knew the kicker that came out for this game was going to be different than what anyone has to date.”
The Sea Wolves looked to be threatening after the Tigers field goal, with Poteat and Kenner sharing the load for 42 yards into Tiger territory. However, Delaire’s sack on third down halted the drive and forced the Sea Wolves to punt.
The Tigers started the next drive on their own four-yard line, but took the lead for good five minutes later.
Stony Brook was held scoreless in the second half, being outscored 25-0 and only amassing 113 yards total in that span.
“[At halftime] we discussed how over the past few years, we haven’t been beaten by anyone but ourselves,” Ambrose said. “As good as our opponents are, the game boils down to what we do or not do. They played their hearts out for 30 minutes and walked away with the win.”
Towson will come back home to host New Hampshire on Saturday, Oct. 5. Kickoff is set for noon.