After weeks of facing nationally ranked opponents, Towson seemingly gained a much-needed reprieve against struggling Rhode Island Saturday.
Once the game began, however, the Tigers wasted little time in handing it right back.
Towson's four lost fumbles led to 17 points, and the Tigers further hurt their cause with 100 yards in penalties in a 30-20 loss before 6,589 on homecoming day at Unitas Stadium.
"Too many mistakes," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "I don't care if you coach midget football or you coach in the NFL -- you cannot turn the ball over four times and win."
The Tigers, who were playing their first unranked opponent in the Football Championship Subdivision in more than a month, held a 10-7 lead before giving up 20 straight points.
Trailing, 27-10, however, Towson rallied with a 28-yard field goal by Nick Wallace and a 34-yard scoring run by quarterback Chris Hart. The Tigers then got the ball back with just over 4 minutes left, but were unable to advance past their own 23 before turning it over on downs.
Rhode Island kicker Louis Feinstein's 21-yard field goal put the game out of reach with 1:05 left.
Hart finished with 100 yard rushing and 188 passing for the Tigers, who suited up without four players -- including starting defensive backs Nick Oates and Corey Ford -- who were suspended for violating team rules.
Towson (1-7 overall, 0-5 Colonial Athletic Association) has lost six straight and is off to its worst start since 1991, when it lost its first eight. The Tigers now must travel to face a pair of top 10 teams -- Delaware and New Hampshire -- in their final three games.
Rhode Island (3-5, 2-3) broke a three-game losing streak to Towson, as well as a three-game losing steak overall.
Towson lost fumbles deep in its own end on each of its first two possessions. The second, on a strip and recovery by defensive tackle Willie McGinnis following a pass from Hart to wide receiver Erron Banks, gave Rhode Island the ball at the Towson 29
Seven plays later, Ayo Isijola scored on a second effort from the 3, giving the Rams a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers then pulled even, when the well-protected Hart found Alex Blake over the top, two steps behind his defender, for a 56-yard touchdown.
After Wallace's 38-yard field goal gave Towson a 10-7, the Tigers gave away another scoring chance when fullback Tyler Wharton fumbled a handoff from quarterback Bart Blanchard, who had just entered the game. Rhode Island linebacker Mannee Williams recovered at the Rams' 25, and 10 plays later, they took a 14-10 lead when Steve Probst found tight end Joe Migliarese a yard deep in the end zone from the 4.
"They were in control of the game and driving for another score, and we just came up with the ball," Rhode Island coach Joe Trainer said. "The momentum of the game really changed at that point.
Ambrose said he inserted Blanchard to spell Hart, who had just run for 17 yards
"When Chris makes long runs ÃƒÆ’Ã‚â€šÃƒâ€šÃ‚â€¦ the next play is usually a disaster," Ambrose said. "He has the skills to play like a very good running back at times, but he cannot recover fast enough."