Towson wins on final play

Tigers march 67 yards with time running out to upset Richmond

Towson 23 Richmond 21

October 07, 2007|By Todd Karpovich | Todd Karpovich,Special to The Sun

After allowing Richmond's go-ahead touchdown with 29 seconds left yesterday, Towson University refused to quit on the game - and perhaps its season - as quarterback Sean Schaefer completed three passes to march the Tigers to the 14-yard line with four seconds left.

After a timeout, Schaefer lofted the ball to the corner of the end zone and Demetrius Harrison hung on as time expired for a 23-21 victory, setting off a raucous celebration on the Tigers' sideline. The win ended Towson's three-game losing streak in the Colonial Athletic Association, and the team hopes the victory will jump-start the season, which started with a national ranking and expectations for a spot in the postseason.

"When I let the [winning pass] go, it looked like a duck. It was kind of floating high," Schaefer said. "Demetrius got the ball in the corner and he did a great job getting his hands up and dragging his feet. I was just hoping I did not throw it too far out so he would have a chance to catch it inbounds."

Richmond (3-2, 2-1), ranked 15th in the Football Championship Subdivision, entered the game No. 1 in total offense in the CAA with 493.5 yards per game. The Spiders finished yesterday's game with 354 total yards, compared with 330 for Towson (3-3, 1-3).

The Spiders build much of their offense around Tim Hightower, who entered the game as the second-leading rusher in the NCAA with 195.5 yards per game. Hightower finished with 120 yards on 26 carries and gave the Spiders their 21-17 lead on a 14-yard run.

On the winning drive, Schaefer completed 22-yard and 7-yard passes to Harrison after starting at Towson's 33-yard line. Schaefer then found Paul Perry for a 24-yard gain to set up the winning toss to Harrison.

Schaefer completed 29 of 33 passes for 287 yards. He broke a school record by completing 15 straight passes. Yesterday's win was a turnaround from last week's 27-22 loss to William and Mary, when Towson squandered a 13-point lead and lost a chance to win the game when Schaefer missed Harrison in the end zone.

"In the William and Mary game, we had the same scenario, where it was inches away," Harrison said. "Sean said earlier that we did not want have that same taste in our mouth. If that ball was anywhere near me, I was going to come down with it."

Towson had planned to keep Richmond's offense off the field by using short passes and establishing the running game to keep possession of the ball. The plan worked to perfection on the first series, when Towson put together a 15-play, 80-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Nick Williams that chewed 7:43 off the clock. But, by the end of the game, Richmond still held almost a 10-minute advantage in time of possession.

"We were not throwing the ball downfield a lot," coach Gordy Combs said. "What we wanted to do was throw the ball over the middle to take advantage of their young linebackers. This is a steppingstone that puts us back in the hunt."

A depleted offensive line had resulted in 11 sacks coming into yesterday's game. Schaefer also had thrown 11 interceptions, two more than he threw all last year. Towson's offensive line yesterday did a good job protecting Schaefer, who was sacked twice and did not have any turnovers.

The Tigers' defense also played one of its best games by holding Richmond to two field goals in the first half; Towson led 7-6 at halftime.

Towson opened a 14-6 lead on the first drive of the second half when Schaefer found Casey Cegles on 17-yard touchdown pass. The 12-play, 87-yard drive took five minutes off the clock.

The Tigers' defense allowed Richmond into their territory on every one of the Spiders' possessions, but kept the Spiders out of the end zone until 10:48 left in the game on a 4-yard sneak by Eric Ward. Ward then found wide receiver Scott Riddell in the end zone for a two-point conversion that tied the game at 14.

A 38-yard field goal by Mark Bencivengo gave the Tigers a 17-14 lead with 5:29 left in the game, setting the stage for Hightower's run and Schaefer's late-game heroics.

"It was one of those heartbreaking losses," Richmond coach Dave Clawson said. "I'd like to think we'd find a way to win that game, but my hat is off to Towson. They did a great job executing those last four plays."

Richmond 0 6 0 15-21

Towson 7 0 7 9-23

First quarter T-N.Williams 1 run (Bencivengo kick), 2:49.

Second quarter R-FG Howard 28, 13:36. R-FG Howard 20, 7:04.

Third quarter T-Cegles 17 pass from Schaefer (Bencivengo kick), 9:54.

Fourth quarter R-Ward 4 run (Riddell pass from Ward), 10:48. T-FG Bencivengo 38, 5:29. R-Hightower 14 run (Howard kick), :29. T-Harrison 14 pass from Schaefer, :00. A-5,746.

Richmond Towson

First downs 21 19

Rushes-yards 39-166 22-43

Passing 188 287

Comp-Att-Int 23-35-1 29-33-0

Return Yards 28 53

Punts-Avg. 0-0.0 3-36.7

Fumbles-Lost 1-0 1-1

Penalties-Yards 4-37 7-45

Time of Possession 34:33 25:27

Rushing-Richmond, Hightower 26-120, Vaughan 5-28, Ward 8-18. Towson, N.Williams 15-40, Castor 4-7, Schaefer 3-(minus 4). Passing-Richmond, Ward 23-34-1-188, Team 0-1-0-0. Towson, Schaefer 29-33-0-287. Receiving-Richmond, Grayson 6-69, Riddell 4-33, Monteverde 4-24, Hightower 3-18, Mitchell 2-25, Crone 2-8, Prokell 1-6, Vaughan 1-5. Towson, Harrison 10-112, N.Williams 9-50, M.Lee 5-52, Cegles 3-44, Perry 2-29.

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