Towson knows that if it cuts down on penalties and reduces its turnovers, it has the potential to be one of the elite teams in the Football Championship Subdivision.
On Saturday night, the Tigers addressed one and kept the other manageable in a 24-19 win over Maine at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Quarterback Grant Enders led Towson with 104 yards rushing, including a 52-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter to ice the victory. Tailback Terrance West (Northwestern) pitched in 96 yards on 18 carries for the Tigers (3-3, 2-1 Colonial Athletic Association), ranked No. 17 in the FCS.
Quarterback Marcus Wasilewski had 60 yards on 10 carries to lead the Black Bears (2-4, 1-2).
Often this year, the Tigers have been their own worst enemy. They have outgained, out-rushed and outpassed opponents, only to find themselves on the wrong end of the score because of turnovers (they had a minus-9 turnover differential entering Saturday night) and penalties. Against the Black Bears, they limited the turnovers to one while still committing nine penalties for 81 yards.
“In two of three of our losses this year, we turned the ball over [a combined] nine times,” Tigers coach Rob Ambrose said. “When you do that, winning becomes even more of a challenge. You have to credit some of our opponents for that because they play hard, too. It's something I stress every day to them — when you give the ball away, you diminish your chances of winning.”
The Towson offense had a productive night, outgaining the Black Bears in yards 508-293.
The Tigers took the lead on their second possession after taking over at their own 24. Enders mixed the pass and the run well to methodically move Towson down the field. After a run by Enders gave the Tigers first-and-goal at the 1, West scored his eighth touchdown of the season to give Towson a 7-0 lead with 5:11 left in the first quarter.
Maine mounted a drive of its own on the next possession but had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Sean Decloux to cut the deficit to 7-3 with 1:48 left in the first quarter.
The Tigers drove deep into Black Bears territory, but then disaster struck. On a first-and-10 at the Maine 13, Enders' pass across the middle was intercepted by Troy Eastman. He cut to the left side of the field and scampered 92 yards untouched to give Maine a 10-7 lead with 14:05 left in the second quarter.
Two possessions later, Towson responded. The Tigers strung together a nine-play, 80-yard drive, anchored by a 33-yard run by West and capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Enders to Erron Banks that gave Towson a 14-10 lead with 1:22 left in the half.
Towson held Maine on the next possession and looked to add to the lead late in the half. Kicker D.J. Soven, however, had his 40-yard field-goal attempt hit the right upright and bounce away with five seconds left before the half.
Soven made up for his miss on the Tigers' second possession of the second half. Towson cobbled together a 12-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 38-yard field goal by Soven with 4:27 left in the third quarter to extend the lead to 17-10.
When Maine got the ball back, it put together a 17-play drive and looked poised to tie the game. However, a missed exchange between Wasilewski and running back David Hood led to a fumble at the Towson 2-yard line, which Towson linebacker Telvion Clark recovered to kill the drive with 10:18 left.
“It worked out well for me,” Clark said. “We had two guys blitzing on that play, and my job was to hang back and keep an eye on everything. I saw that [Wasilewski] didn't have a handle on it, and he bobbled it. I had the best angle to the ball, and I just kind of got lucky.”
Maine held Towson to a three-and-out after that, and the Bears got a 28-yard field goal by Decloux to cut the margin to 17-13 with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter.
Enders scored on Towson's next possession when he ran untouched through the middle of the Maine defense with 3:04 left.
“They're a tough defense,” Enders said of the Black Bears. “I just tried to make a play with my feet.”
Wasilewski scored on a 4-yard run to cut the margin to 24-19 with 38 seconds left, but Towson recovered the ensuing onside kick attempt and ran out the clock.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun