Unable to hold late lead vs. Maine, Towson football loses 27-24

Tigers drop Colonial Athletic Association opener

September 27, 2014|By Edward Lee | The Baltimore Sun

No lead is safe for the Towson football team.

For the second time this season, the Tigers could not prevent an opponent from scoring in the final minute of regulation. On Saturday night, Maine drove 72 yards in 12 plays and 1 minute, 47 seconds to escape Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson with a 27-24 win.

An announced crowd of of 6,031 could only watch as the Black Bears — who snapped a two-game losing skid to improve to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Colonial Athletic Assocation — converted three fourth downs, including a 37-yard scoring strike from sophomore quarterback Dan Collins to sophomore wide receiver Jordan Dunn with 52 seconds remaining in regulation.

The Tigers, who dropped their CAA opener and fell to 2-3 overall and 0-1 in the league, could only advance as far as its own 35 before time ran out.

On the game-winning play, Collins said he noticed a gap in Towson's defensive coverage.

“Their safeties were a little wide,” said Collins, who completed 19-of-29 passes for 225 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. “So I knew I could throw it over the middle.”

Added Maine coach Jack Cosgrove: “We felt that there were going to be some looks. Their strength was the front seven.”

The loss was similar to the team's season-opening loss to Central Connecticut State, which marched 80 yards in 11 plays and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run with 36 seconds left in the game.

But Tigers coach Rob Ambrose disputed that connection and declined to pin all of the blame on the defense.

“[I]t's not defense, it's not that play,” he said. “We gave away points in the red zone. We turned the ball over three times tonight. Can't win football games like that.”

The Tigers overcame a 20-10 halftime deficit by leaning on their running game. The offense collected 191 rushing yards in the second half after gaining just 63 in the first two quarters.

Towson rushed for 99 yards in the third period, and its third series was punctuated by a 20-yard keeper by junior quarterback Connor Frazier and a 39-yard scamper by freshman tailback Marquel Dickerson. Three plays later, Frazier connected with redshirt freshman fullback Zack Vogelei for a 1-yard touchdown with 3:01 left in the quarter.

After the Black Bears went three-and-out on their ensuing possession, Towson went 60 yards — 23 on the ground — and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge by sophomore running back Darius Victor with 11:36 remaining in regulation.

But the Tigers squandered opportunities to pad their advantage. After a successful onside kick, the offense drove to the 7-yard line, but Maine sophomore middle linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga sacked and stripped Frazier and junior defensive end Trevor Bates returned the fumble 33 yards.

And then on the next series, Towson advanced to Maine's 28, but junior kicker Sam Hurwitz's 45-yard field-goal attempt strayed wide right. That set up the Black Bears' comeback.

Maine scored on the opening possession of the game, marching 75 yards in nine plays and getting a 1-yard touchdown pass from Collins to Dunn. Junior kicker Sean Decloux's extra-point attempt banged off the right upright.

The Black Bears added 3- and 5-yard touchdown runs from Beckford on two of their final three series of the first half.

After Maine's opening drive, the Tigers actually scored 10 straight points. After Hurwitz converted a 25-yard field goal with 3:49 left in the first quarter, Handy intercepted Collins and returned the interception 16 yards to the Black Bears' 37-yard line.

Five plays later, Victor took a handoff 15 yards up the middle to give Towson a 10-6 advantage with 54 seconds left in the period.

But in the second quarter, the offense gained just 22 yards and three first downs, and the unit missed a chance to put a dent into a 20-10 halftime deficit when Bates beat freshman right tackle Jesus Barrio and stripped Frazier of the football, which was recovered by redshirt freshman outside linebacker Zachary Hume at the Tigers' 45 with seven seconds left in the second quarter.

Victor carried the ball 28 times for 131 yards and two touchdowns, marking the fourth time this season that he has crossed the 100-yard mark. Dickerson added 68 yards on seven rushes, and Frazier gained 55 yards on 15 attempts. Frazier also completed 15 of 28 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

edward.lee@baltsun.com

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