Towson quarterback Connor Frazier ran for 15 yards on a fake punt, had three touchdown passes and played through some jarring hits against undefeated James Madison on Saturday.
Despite his hard-nosed play, the Tigers still could not keep pace with dynamic Dukes quarterback Vad Lee, who strengthened his case for the Walter Payton Award, given to the most outstanding player in the Football Championship Subdivision. The Georgia Tech transfer threw for a career-high five touchdowns as James Madison, ranked No. 5 in the STATS FCS Top 25, pulled away for a 51-30 victory before an announced 8,224 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
"When you play a team like this, the margin for error is very, very small," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "I thought we did a decent job containing probably what will be the national Player of the Year. We kept him from killing us, but they have too many good players."
Frazier, a redshirt senior, completed 17 of 30 passes for 176 yards, with an interception as time expired. He also ran for a team-high 54 yards on 13 carries. Towson running back Darius Victor was questionable because of a sprained ankle, but managed 44 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries.
The Tigers (2-3, 0-2 Colonial Athletic Association) trailed 24-17 at halftime and forced the Dukes (6-0, 3-0) to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Ryan Maglio on the opening drive of the third quarter. Towson then came up big with a blocked punt that set up a 9-yard touchdown pass from Frazier to Emmanuel Holder. After a second missed extra-point attempt by Sam Hurwitz, Towson trailed 27-23.
From there, though, James Madison dominated, scoring 24 consecutive points.
Dukes freshman Charles Tutt started the run by returning the ensuing kickoff 92 yards for his first touchdown. Touchdown passes from Lee to Brandon Ravenel and Cardon Johnson made it 48-23 early in the fourth quarter.
Towson's touchdown drought ended with Frazier's 11-yard pass to Christian Summers with 4:43 left in the game.
"We just didn't keep our foot on the pedal," Frazier said. "We didn't come out and get first downs. We kind of put our defense in bad positions."
Lee's five touchdown passes tied the James Madison record set by Michael Birdsong against Stony Brook on Nov. 16, 2013, and he finished 22-for-29 for 233 yards. Khalid Abdullah added 26 carries for 149 yards for the Dukes.
After the Tigers' Lyrics Klugh fumbled the game's opening kickoff at the 18-yard line, James Madison needed just three plays to take a 7-0 lead on a 4-yard pass from Lee to Domo Taylor.
The Tigers responded on the ensuing possession with a nine-play, 52-yard scoring drive capped by a 1-yard run by Victor.
Mistakes continued to derail Towson early in the game. After safety Monty Fenner dropped a potential interception that would have ended a Dukes drive in the first quarter, Lee hit Taylor for a 28-yard score on the next play for a 14-6 lead.
Towson settled down and kept some pressure on Lee. Late in the second quarter, Frazier ran 15 yards on a fake punt to extend a drive before pulling the Tigers to within 17-14 with a 9-yard pass to Summers.
"I thought out strategy was good going into the game," Towson linebacker Jordan Mynatt said. "We just lost a little focus. We just have to fight a little bit harder to be successful."
James Madison, however, needed just three plays to go 66 yards, as Lee found Rashard Davis for a 12-yard touchdown. A career-long 41-yard field goal by Hurwitz in the final seconds cut the margin to 24-17 at the break.
"Anytime you go on the road and win, it's always a good feeling," James Madison coach Everett Withers said. "It was a big win against a successful, well-coached football team."
Bowie State 17, Chowan 14: Trevon Bennett completed a 14-yard touchdown pass to Jamal Chappell with three seconds left in the third quarter for a 17-7 lead and the host Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) held on to win.
Bennett, who replaced Matthew Goggans who was ruled ineligible for the rest of the season, finished 21-for-32 for 152 yards. The Hawks fell to 4-2, 2-1.
Delaware Valley 18, Stevenson 15: The host Aggies (5-1, 4-1 Middle Atlantic Conference) went ahead with 43 seconds left in the game to upend the Mustangs (5-1, 4-1).
Tyler Bing capped a five-play, 34-yard drive with an 8-yard touchdown run and Robert Cleveland ran for the 2-point conversion.
Stevenson's first two scores were a 22-yard field goal by Tim Sternfield and an 80-yard interception return by Chris Coffee.
Salisbury 31, Rowan 28: The host Sea Gulls (3-1, 3-0 New Jersey Athletic Conference) scored 22 points in the third quarter and held on to beat the Profs (4-1, 3-1).
Salisbury's Jerome Johnson (10-for-94) and Aaron Moore (10-for-43) each had a rushing touchdown.
Frostburg State 37, William Paterson 19: Connor Cox threw two touchdown passes to Myles Burgess and rushed for one as the host Bobcats (4-1, 3-1 NJAC) won their third straight. The Pioneers fell to 1-4, 0-4. Cox finished 13 of 16 for a 142 yards. Burgess made four catches for 56 yards.
Baltimore Sun staff reports contributed to this article.