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The Towson football team defeated Rhode Island on Saturday to keep its faint playoff hopes alive. Moreover, it won without both its first- and second-string quarterbacks and three of its top receivers, who were among 11 Tigers suspended one game for violating team rules in an off-campus incident Thursday night.

Not among them was Darius Victor, Towson's workhorse running back who rushed for 189 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-21 victory over the hapless Rams at Johnny Unitas Stadium. The win left the Tigers (7-4, 5-3 Colonial Athletic Association) still hoping for an at-large berth in the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, to be determined Sunday. Rhode Island finished 1-10 and 1-7 in the CAA.

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Towson players learned of the suspensions Friday afternoon from coach Rob Ambrose, who called it "one of the most difficult decisions I've ever had to make."

"Disappointing isn't a big enough word," Ambrose said. "I was crushed."

Those suspended include starting quarterback Connor Frazier and his backup, Ellis Knudson; wide receivers Brian Dowling, Christian Summers and Jacquille Veii; and starting right guard Jake Schunke. Frazier, Dowling and Schunke are seniors.

Victor called the incident "shocking," but said players rallied in the aftermath.

"Our attitude is always 'next man up,'" he said. "We treated the suspensions as injuries, and injuries happen all the time. We talked to the guys who got suspended; everyone makes mistakes and we don't love them any less. Our mindset was to make sure that this wouldn't be the last game for those players who weren't here today."

Quarterback chores fell to Heath Dahlgren, a junior from Frederick playing his first career game. He started slow, completing three of his first nine passes with one interception as the teams battled to a 21-21 tie at halftime. But Dahlgren caught fire in the third quarter, throwing for two touchdowns — a 13-yarder to Emmanuel Holder and a 4-yarder to Andre Dessenberg. The latter capped a 17-play, nine-minute drive that seemed to break Rhode Island's back.

"I just wanted to go out there and play for my brothers," Dahlgren said. "Coach Ambrose says, 'It's not how you start, it's how you finish' — and we finished very well."

In the fourth quarter, a booming 46-yard field goal by senior Sam Hurwitz iced the game.

"Sam has grown immensely. Last year he was so slow that I could time him with a sundial," Ambrose said. "Before the kick, I asked him, 'Can you make this? And don't screw with me because this slams the door in their face.'

"Sam said, 'I got it.'"

In retrospect, Ambrose said, "what has happened in the last 72 hours has made us stronger as a team. We scored more points against Rhode Island than anytime in my [career at Towson] Why? Because we're special. Rules are rules and boundaries are boundaries. But, like I told them, we've still got goals and we've still got guys.

"We've got 11 dudes on the same page who are motivated. Adversity is what we eat."

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