No. 3 Towson improves to 6-0
Towson erased a 20-3 first quarter deficit with 41 unanswered points en route to a 44-28 victory over the New Hampshire Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 Colonial Athletic Association) Saturday.
The Tigers (6-0, 2-0 CAA) gained a school record 731 yards, including 238 by junior running back Terrance West. West added three touchdowns to his stat line, boosting his total to 15 rushing scores on the year.
Senior quarterback Peter Athens also threw for a career-high 343 yards in the game, adding two touchdowns to his total.
“The game is never won in one quarter or one half, it’s your ability to do it right and stay together that gets you these wins,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said. “I’m just proud that these guys see adversity as something to overcome rather than bring you down.”
Towson began the game with the ball at its own 18-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, West ran two yards and fumbled the ball, which was recovered by New Hampshire.
It didn’t take long for the Wildcats, who started on the Tigers’ 23-yard line, to cash in on the opportunity. On the third play on the drive, running back Nico Steriti rushed nine yards for the touchdown, giving the Wildcats the quickest score of the season against the Tiger defense.
Towson needed to find a response to the New Hampshire score, and its next drive provided one. West broke out for a 37-yard run on the drive, which lead to a 37-yard field goal by graduate kicker D.J. Evangelista.
The Wildcats got the ball after the Tigers field goal and did not waste time getting on the board again. After a 21-yard pass on the first play of the drive, quarterback Andy Vailas took the ball himself, rushing for a 44-yard touchdown. The Wildcats went for the two-point conversion, but failed, making the score 13-3.
Towson took the next drive only 23 yards before West fumbled for the second time in the quarter. New Hampshire recovered and took over at the Towson 43-yard line.
The Wildcats turned the fumble into points in one play, when a trick play saw wide receiver passing to tight end Harold Spears for the 29-yard touchdown. The Tigers found themselves down 20-3, their largest deficit of the season.
Towson attempted to cut the deficit on the next drive, as Athens completed a 60-yard pass to senior wide receiver Spencer Wilkins to start it off. However, Towson turned the ball over on downs after West was stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on fourth down.
A knee injury forced Vailas out of the game during the next two New Hampshire drives. The result was a 31-yard drive ending in a punt.
Both teams traded punts after Vailas left the game, but the Tigers found the end zone for the first time early in the second quarter.
Towson’s scoring drive began on the 50-yard line after the defense forced New Hampshire to punt from its 10-yard line. West did not hesitate to bring Towson within 10 points, rushing for the 50-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive.
West broke out for two rushes over 50 yards in the game, leading to his third 200-yard game of his career, all against the Wildcats.
“They had a pretty good scheme in the first quarter, but my team had my back and the defense shut them down,” West said. “I ran even harder because I knew I let my team down and [the New Hampshire] defense started loosening up.”
The next New Hampshire drive was short, as backup quarterback Sean Goldrich was sacked on third-and-two.
The sack set up a 14-yard punt that gave Towson the ball at the opposition’s 27-yard line. West found the end zone again after a five-play, 27-yard drive that lasted 2:05.
Vailas returned to the game after the Tigers’ touchdown, and it looked as though the Wildcat offense had gained momentum again.
New Hampshire drove 67 yards within the last five minutes of the first half to the Towson 25-yard line. However, Vailas fumbled and Towson senior defense tackle Arnold Farmer recovered the ball with 2:38 remaining in the half.
Athens threw for 52 yards on the seven-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard pass to Wilkins to give the Tigers a 24-20 lead with 44 seconds left in the half. Wilkins caught seven passes for 153 yards in the game.
“I think as an offense, we stayed relaxed,” Athens said. “I don’t think we freaked out and kept to the game plan and we were successful.”
Towson took 14:58 to erase the 17-point deficit, but it wasn’t done scoring in the half. After Vailas completed his second pass of the next drive, running back Chris Setian fumbled the ball, which was recoverd by junior defensive end Ryan Delaire for the second turnover of the quarter.
The Tigers had 15 seconds to try to add to their lead and did so with the help of 12-yard pass from Athens to junior wide receiver Derrick Joseph. The catch led to a 49-yard field goal attempt, which senior kicker D.J. Soven converted as time expired in the half.
Soven has converted on field goals beyond 45 yards in two straight games. At the half, Towson had outgained New Hampshire 353-256 and led by time of possession by just under five minutes.
New Hampshire had lost its momentum going in the break, and it did not recapture it when it came out for the second half. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Vailas’s pass found the hands of sophomore Chris Carpenter for the interception.
Towson began the ensuing drive at the New Hampshire 40-yard line and five plays later, crossed the end zone for another score. West carried the ball for the first four plays, but the drive ended with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Athens to sophomore fullback Emmanuel Holder.
After the Vailas injury, the Tigers outscored the Wildcats 41-8. The Towson offense burst out for 624 yards and five touchdowns during that time.
“Even though it was [20-3], no one made a face or said a word; we didn’t need a pick me up,” senior linebacker Telvion Clark said. “Everyone knew what the situation was and everyone went out and did it.”
Clark recorded 11 tackles and one sack in the game.
West’s 60-yard run on the next drive, following a turnover on downs by New Hampshire, set up graduate kicker Drew Evangelista’s 26-yard field goal to expand the Tigers lead to 17. West would find the end zone for a third time to give the Tigers a 44-20 lead in the third quarter.
Towson will be at home again on Saturday, when it hosts CAA foe Villanova in the homecoming game. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.