WORCESTER, Mass. - There are only so many times a team can give away half a football field and get away with it.
Towson found that out the hard way yesterday, losing its first game of the season, 17-14, to Holy Cross before 7,856 at Fitton Field.
Holy Cross started a possession in Towson territory six times, including five in the first half. Towson repeatedly was pinned in its own end, stymied by Holy Cross' stunting five-man defensive front.
"We couldn't get away from our own end zone," said Towson senior defensive end Andrew Hollingsworth. "Holy Cross isn't really a big-play offense. They're just looking for 3, 4 yards a play. But if you start to string a couple of those together, you only have to do it a few times if you're always playing with a short field."
Towson, which was flirting with a national Top 25 ranking, is 3-1 and 2-1 in the Patriot League with tough home games against conference heavyweights Colgate and Lehigh, respectively, the next two Saturdays. Holy Cross is 3-0 and 1-0 in the Patriot. It's the first 3-0 start for Holy Cross since its 11-0 season in 1991.
Towson led 14-10 after a 1-yard touchdown run by Noah Read of Cumberland, Md. (Fort Hill), with 10:31 left in the third quarter. The 30-yard drive was set up when Tre Wills, a freshman from Huntingtown, Md., blocked a Holy Cross punt.
But the lack of offensive execution that killed Towson in the first half resurfaced. The Tigers went three-and-out on consecutive possessions. After the last, Holy Cross started at the Towson 44 and this time did string together some plays. Crusaders quarterback Brian Hall (18-of-32, 165 yards) completed all five of his passes and effectively ran the option to set up Michael Gillis for the winning score on a 1-yard run with 11:39 left in the game.
The Holy Cross defense shut the door the rest of the way, including a crushing stop of Read on a third-and-two play at the Towson 38 with under six minutes to play.
"We practiced against their defensive front all week, but we didn't come to play today," said Read, who accumulated 108 hard-earned yards, his fourth straight 100-yard rushing effort. "The offensive line wasn't really coming off the ball very well."
Towson sophomore quarterback Kris Blake started the game, completing his first three passes but missed 10 straight to end the first half and finished the game 7 of 21 for 59 yards. That limited what Towson could try.
"Depending on how Blake is going at certain times, it makes it difficult to pull that trigger on a certain play," Towson coach Gordy Combs said.
NOTES: Hollingsworth became the Patriot League's all-time sack leader, with 35, after his second sack of the game in the second half. Hollingsworth, the league's preseason Defensive Player of the Year, now has 10 sacks in four games and 13 total tackles for loss.
Holy Cross 2 8 0 7 - 17 Towson 7 0 7 0 - 14
Next for Towson
Site: Minnegan Stadium
When: Saturday, 1 p.m.
Yesterday: Beat Fordham, 21-6