Towson faced a formidable enemy in New Hampshire on Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium. In the end, though, it was the enemy they couldn't see that did them in: themselves.
The visiting Wildcats turned two Towson mistakes into touchdowns en route to defeating the Tigers, 21-7, in a windy Colonial Athletic Association game.
In the loss, the Tigers' fifth in a row, Towson (1-6, 0-4) had chances to convert, only to fall short because of penalties or mistakes. Meanwhile, the New Hampshire defense pitched a shutout in the victory. The only score for the Tigers came on a kickoff return.
"Congratulations to [them] on the win," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "They played very, very well, especially on defense. One day we will learn how to stop shooting ourselves in the foot."
Running backs Shane Simpson and Deshaun Wethington combined for 100 yards (53 for Simpson, 47 for Wethington) to provide most of the offense for the Tigers. Wildcats quarterback Trevor Knight completed 14 of 18 passes for 100 yards, and rushed for 80 yards to lead the Wildcats, who remain a half-game out of the CAA lead.
Towson had the first scoring attempt of the game. Quarterback Ellis Knudson drove the Tigers 32 yards on their first possession, and Ambrose elected to let kicker Aidan O'Neill attempt a 50-yard field goal going into the wind. The kick had the distance, but sailed wide right.
The Wildcats took over at the their own 33, and wasted little time getting on the board. New Hampshire (5-3, 4-1) gained 38 yards on three consecutive completions, to set up a first down at the Towson 29-yard line. On the next play, Knight eluded a tackler in the backfield and ran untouched for a 29-yard score with 1:20 left in the first quarter.
"I actually made a bad read on that one," Knight said. "I saw a linebacker coming, and I tried to pump-fake him. He bought it, and I just went for it."
Midway through the second quarter, New Hampshire pinned Towson deep in its own territory, and then took advantage of a mistake by Knudson. On first-and-20 from the Towson 10-yard line, the quarterback threw a sideline pattern that was underthrown and picked off by the Wildcats' Prince Smith, Sr. He returned the ball for a 16-yard touchdown and New Hampshire had a 14-0 lead with 7:21 left in the second quarter.
The lone highlight for the Tigers came on the ensuing kickoff. Simpson, a redshirt freshman, caught the kickoff one yard deep in the end zone and maneuvered through several defenders for a 100-yard return to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 7:06 left in the first half. The return tied a Towson record for the longest kickoff return in school history with a return by David Meggett against Northeastern in 1988.
After the break, Knudson made another crucial mistake. On a second-and-five from his own 43, Knudson dropped back to pass and was sacked by New Hampshire's Ryan Farrell. The ball squirted free and was picked up by the Wildcats' Ryan Sosniak, who ran 39 yards into the end zone to give New Hampshire a 21-7 lead with 12:18 left in the third quarter.
"It's the first touchdown I've ever scored," Sosniak said. "I saw the ball rolling, and I just picked it up and started running. That's something we work on in practice, scoop and score. I'm just glad my teammates helped me out."
For the Tigers, who travel to rival Delaware next Saturday, it's back to the drawing board. Simpson summed up the emotionsmost of the team must have been feeling after the loss.
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"We gave them 14 points," Simpson said. "They didn't earn them. We just gave them to them. We can't keep doing that against good teams and expect to win."