WILLIAMSBURG, Va. — Towson and its unorthodox, risk-taking offensive approach repeatedly gashed William & Mary's usually stout defense and extended the Tigers' remarkable start with a 38-27 win Saturday in front of a Homecoming sellout at Zable Stadium.
No. 15 Towson defeated the No. 14 Tribe (4-4, 2-3 CAA) for the first time in eight tries, scoring more points than William & Mary has allowed an FCS opponent since the end of the 2008 season (48 against James Madison). The Tigers totaled 427 yards, 90 more than the Tribe was giving up heading into Saturday's game.
"We knew exactly what we were getting into," William & Mary safety Brian Thompson said. "We knew they were going to run the power [rushing game]. We practiced well this week. We were ready for anything that they ran. It just didn't turn out the way we wanted it to."
Towson (6-1, 4-0 Colonial Athletic Association) remained tied for first place and moved a step closer to its first playoff berth. The Tigers scored touchdowns on their first four possessions en route to a 28-17 halftime lead, as the Tribe defense often seemed to be out of position or unable to make a play.
"I expected us to have some degree of success versus their defense," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "We do a lot of stuff, but we don't do a lot of stuff. We make it look like we do a lot of stuff. We look like we're hard to defend. Our smoke-and-mirror machine was working quite well in the first half.
"I think that they have really good players, really fast players. We give a whole lot of formations when we change tempos, to make those really fast football players think instead of run. And that gives us a little bit of an advantage."
Freshman Terrance West had 141 of the Tigers' 224 rushing yards, and quarterback Grant Enders was 15-for-21 for 203 yards and two touchdowns.
Ambrose went for it on fourth down three times, converting all three. The first was in his own territory on the Tigers' first touchdown drive. The second was a fake punt on fourth-and-7 near midfield in the third quarter, on what would be their last touchdown drive. The last time was a 4th-and-1 at the Tribe 3-yard line, leading 35-27 late in the game.
The Tigers chewed up another minute off the clock and still kicked a chip-shot field goal for the game's final points.
"For us to be successful, we have to be a little unorthodox at times," Ambrose said. "I told my kids, I'll do anything to help them succeed, and if that's what's going to give us an opportunity to win ball games, that's what we're going to do."
The Tigers' effort spoiled the Tribe's most productive offensive performance of the season. Career rushing leader Jon Grimes (133 rushing yards, 315 all-purpose yards) had another big day, and quarterback Michael Graham, who missed the previous two games with an illness, was 19-for-26 for 227 yards and two touchdowns, with a pair of interceptions.
The Tribe came in viewing its offense, especially the passing game, as a work in progress. But now the defense, so effective most of the season, is in need of repair.
"We know, going into this year and the way we've been playing, we're not really interested getting into shootouts with this year's team," William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "That's not the way I like to go. I've been there, done that sometimes, but not here."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun