Even before Saturday night's pivotal Colonial Athletic Association showdown with No. 7 Towson, Delaware appeared to be fighting an uphill battle.
Not only were the Tigers playing in the friendly confines of Johnny Unitas Stadium, but the No. 21 Blue Hens would also have to pull off the upset without starting junior quarterback Trent Hurley, who was injured in the team's 35-13 rout of Rhode Island a week ago.
But Delaware did the unthinkable, scoring 22 unanswered points in the last 12 minutes of the fourth quarter to stun Towson, 32-31, before an announced 8,741.
Filling in for one of the Football Championship Subdivision's most efficient quarterbacks, senior quarterback Trevor Sasek completed a three-play, 51-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Rob Jones that made the score 31-30 with 19 seconds left in regulation. The Blue Hens converted the two-point conversion when Sasek again connected with Jones.
A 1-yard touchdown run by Delaware redshirt freshman running back Jalen Randolph with 11:26 left in the fourth quarter stopped a 24-point run by Towson, and Sasek connected with senior wide receiver Michael Johnson for an 11-yard scoring strike and 31-24 deficit with 48 seconds left.
Jones recovered an onside kick at the Blue Hens' 49, setting up the game-winning score.
With the loss, the Tigers dropped to 8-2 overall and 4-2 in the conference, two games behind No. 10 Maine (9-1, 6-0) in the race for the league championship.
"It hurts," coach Rob Ambrose said. "But the fashion in which it happens doesn't make it hurt any more or any less. It looks good on paper, it sounds good, it tells for a great story, but in the end, it's wins and losses."
Delaware improved to 7-2 overall and 4-1 in the CAA. Sasek completed 34 of 46 passes for 330 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
"It will probably go down as one of the more exciting wins that we'll have," Delaware coach Dave Brock said. "The players had great resolve. They kept battling. They never let the circumstances dictate how they reacted. They never let the circumstances dictate what their mindset was or how they were going to play."
The Tigers' defeat marred a spectacular evening by junior running back Terrance West (Northwestern), who ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns on 29 carries.
West, who entered the game leading the Football Championship Subdivision in rushing yardage and touchdowns, enjoyed another productive showing against the Blue Hens. He has 474 yards and eight touchdowns on 86 carries in three meetings with Delaware.
For the fifth time in the past six games, Towson's defense allowed the opponent to score first, as the Blue Hens drove 70 yards to set up senior kicker Sean Baner for a 20-yard field goal and early lead.
The Tigers answered with a seven-play, 82-yard series capped by freshman Darius Victor's 22-yard touchdown run off right guard. But Delaware responded with a 66-yard kick return by junior Michael Johnson and a 16-yard scoring strike from Sasek to sophomore Jerel Harrison.
Towson took the lead back when the offense drove 80 yards on eight plays and got a 1-yard touchdown plunge by West with 5:24 left in the half.
The Blue Hens needed just two plays to move from their 29-yard line to the Tigers' 49, but on second-and-5, senior running back Andrew Pierce was popped by senior middle linebacker Monte Gaddis. The hit jarred the ball from Pierce's grasp, and sophomore free safety Christian Carpenter pounced on the fumble at Towson's 39.
The offense took nine plays to go 61 yards, and West rumbled behind senior left guard Anthony Davis for his second touchdown of the game and a 21-10 advantage at halftime.
The Tigers added a 5-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Peter Athens to sophomore fullback Emmanuel Holder in the third quarter and a 25-yard field goal by senior Drew Evangelista in the fourth to extend their lead to 31-10.
Notes: Delaware leads the all-time series with Towson 10-5. The Blue Hens have won four of their previous five visits to Johnny Unitas Stadium. … West eclipsed the 200-yard mark for the third time this season and the fifth time of his career. … Holder has caught three touchdown passes in two meetings against Delaware. … Senior running back Sterlin Phifer was carted off the field after injuring his left knee. Phifer, who logged 42 yards on three carries, was dragged down by Blue Hens senior defensive back Kivar Thurman with 37 seconds left in the third quarter. … Delaware converted all four of its fourth-down opportunities. The team had entered the contest just 2-for-7 on fourth downs. … Pierce's fumble was his first lost fumble in 141 carries.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun