Second-half swoon

Towson fades after coming out strong in first two quarters

November 02, 2008|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Things couldn't have gone much better for Towson in the first half yesterday, a period highlighted by an emotional charge just before the break from a desperation pass that turned into a touchdown and a seven-point lead.

But the inspiration didn't carry over, and matters turned worse for the Tigers, who were overwhelmed thereafter in a 34-14 Colonial Athletic Association loss to surging William and Mary at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

The second half - and particularly the third quarter - was a disaster for Towson (3-6, 1-4), which lost at home for only the second time this season.

With only three games remaining, the defeat cost the Tigers a chance at a winning record this season.

When the teams returned to the field after halftime, William and Mary quickly tied the score with an 80-yard touchdown drive before Towson fumbled away the ball on the next snap.

Three plays later, the Tribe (6-2, 4-1) shot ahead on a 17-yard touchdown pass from Jake Phillips to Rob Varno and was never threatened again.

In a nightmarish third quarter, Towson finished with minus-3 offensive yards, lost the fumble, threw an interception, allowed two sacks and punted twice.

Until the outcome had long been decided, the Tigers never moved into the plus column in offensive yardage for the half as William and Mary stampeded to its fourth straight victory and clinched a winning season for the first time since 2004.

"I can't remember the last time we had a bad exchange, even in practice," Towson coach Gordy Combs said of the momentum-changing fumble.

"With our defense, we can't play them on a short field like that. We have a lot of inexperience on defense and have a lot of peaks and valleys."

Yesterday, it was primarily peaks for two quarters.

The Tigers shut down one of the CAA's top attacks after the first Tribe drive, on which Phillips found D.J. McAulay for a 65-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline.

The Tigers went ahead on two surprising scoring plays, including the 44-yard Hail Mary heave from Sean Schaefer to 6-foot-9 Tommy Breaux.

The other came early in the second quarter when Combs chose not to attempt a field goal - Mark Bencivengo had missed a 35-yard try earlier - and Schaefer threw a 27-yard pass to wide-open tight end John Godlasky on fourth-and-one after a play fake.

"We thought we'd use the element of surprise a little bit, deviate from the regular way of doing things," Combs said.

Little else went right for Towson with the ball.

The Tigers converted just two of 14 third-down plays and were forced to punt six times. The league's No. 1 passing offense fell 78 yards short of its previous average.

"They just executed better," Combs said. "They're very improved on defense, and we didn't make the plays."

William and Mary hasn't lost to Towson in six meetings.

"It's a credit to our players," William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. "Things got away from us in the first half, but we didn't lose our heads. It could have been bad."

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