In his team's first action since allowing 41 points in its season opener, Towson coach Rob Ambrose on Saturday came up with a rather straight-forward approach to stopping William & Mary.
"If they don't have the ball, then outside of us being stupid they can't score," Ambrose said. "There's a mentality there."
The No. 12 Tigers maintained possession for nearly 36 minutes, running 19 more offensive plays than their opponent in a 20-17 win over the Tribe before an announced 8,309 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Sophomore running back Terrance West (Northwestern) gained 153 yards on 27 carries, and senior quarterback Grant Enders (Old Mill) had 175 yards passing and another 59 rushing, as Towson racked up 422 yards of offense — nearly twice as many as Maryland managed against the Tribe two weeks ago.
"They controlled the football," William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "You look at the number of plays they ran compared to what we had, and the time of possession. … Give them credit. They did a good job with ball control and not giving us any turnovers.
"Towson may have been a little better [than Maryland], to be honest with you."
Towson (1-1, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association), the defending CAA champion, recorded its ninth straight win in a home opener, while avoiding its first 0-2 start since 1991.
The Tribe, meanwhile, fell to 0-3 for the first time since 1999.
Tied at 10, Towson took the lead for good on a 30-yard field goal by D.J. Soven with 3:06 left in the third, then extended it when Enders found receiver Erron Banks at the 3, and the senior dove in for his first career touchdown with 8:15 to play.
William & Mary then made a game of it late, pulling to within a field goal when third-string quarterback Raphael Ortiz — starting because of injuries — found Nolan Kearney from the 2. After stopping Towson, the Tribe then regained possession with 1:34 left.
They briefly appeared to have taken the lead when Ortiz scrambled away from pressure and found receiver Tre McBride alone in the end zone. Referees, however, quickly rules that Ortiz had traveled beyond the line of scrimmage for an illegal forward pass.
"I guess I was over the line," Ortiz said. "I just gave the guy a chance to make the play."
Moments later, Laycock elected to bypass a potential 50-yard field goal into the wind from strong-legged kicker Drake Kuhn, instead going for it on fourth-and-10 from Towson's 33. When Tigers linebacker Telvion Clark stopped receiver Meltoya Jones 7 yards short, the victory was sealed.
"It was ugly. It wasn't nearly as sharp as I know I would like, but 30 years from now nobody's going to know anything about that," Ambrose said. "They'll just know it was a win."
Early, Towson's offense controlled the game, but time and again failed to capitalize.
The Tigers opened the game with an impressive 15-play, seven-minute, 32-second drive, but had to settle for a field goal when Enders' pass came up short on a third down at the 10.
William & Mary then shredded Towson's defense for a touchdown on its opening drive, scoring when Jones ran 16 yards untouched through a gaping hole up the middle.
Trailing for the first time, Towson again put together an effective ball-control drive on its second possession. This time, however, West was stopped short on fourth-and-1 at the 9.
After the first 15:45, the Tigers had possessed the ball 12:25 and run 26 of 33 offensive plays, yet managed just three points.
Towson finally caught a break to tie the game shortly before halftime.
With time winding down, Enders took off on a scramble from the Tribe's 18, and made it to the 2 before being caught by linebacker Luke Rhodes. The ball came loose and rolled into the end zone, where wide receiver Spencer Wilkins fell on it for a touchdown, tying the game at 10 with eight seconds left.