ORONO, Maine. - In a matchup of two of the top three teams in the Colonial Athletic Association, the No 14 Tigers (7-2, 5-1) ran for a seasonal high 334 yards en route to a 40-30 victory over No. 7 (7-2, 5-1) Maine at Alfond Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers moved into a three-way tie for first place in the CAA with Maine and No. 9 New Hampshire (7-2, 5-1). The loss snapped the Black Bears' six-game winning streak.
The Tigers' running game was led by junior Tremayne Dameron and freshman Terrance West as both of them rushed for more than 100 yards. While Dameron, who has been injured for much of the season, picked up a season high 109 yards on 19 carries, West ran for a career high 183 yards on 21 carries.
West also scored three rushing TD's to increase his NCAA FCS-leading total to 21 touchdowns.
The Tigers, who never trailed, extended their lead to 40-23 with 5:42 left when West capped off a 75-yard, ten-play drive with a four-yard touchdown run. That seemed to put the game out of reach.
With 3:01 left, Arthur Williams caught a three-yard TD pass from quarterback Warren Smith to pull Maine to within 40-30. But, junior Tom Ryan recovered the ensuing on-sides kick and the Tigers ran out the clock for their first win over Maine in the last six meetings.
"This was a tremendous victory for us," said Coach Rob Ambrose. "We stumbled last week against Delaware but we got re-focused this week. The result was a win over a very good football team."
Once again, the Tigers' offensive line came up with a huge effort against a nationally-ranked opponent. Senior tackle Henry Glackin teamed up with sophomores Eric Pike, Charles Johnson, Randall Harris, Anthony Davis and Doug Shaw to enable the Tigers to control the line of scrimmage.
"That's where it all starts," says Ambrose. "Our line coach, John Donatelli and our strength coach, Jeremy Pick, have done an outstanding job working with these guys. They have taken little boys and turned them into grown men."
On their second possession of the game, the Tigers took a lead. They marched 66 yards on ten plays to take a 7-0 lead with 7:24 left in the first quarter. West scored his 19th touchdown of the season on an eight-yard run.
On Maine's next possession, the Black Bears marched 70 yards on nine. On third down-and-long at the Tigers' 15-yard line, Smith scrambled up the middle before diving into the end zone for the game-tying touchdown with 2:08 left in the first quarter.
After moving to the Maine 39-yard line, the Tigers' next drive stalled. Freshman R.J. Peppers placed a perfect punt that rolled dead at the five-yard line. That set up the first break of the game. Tailback David Hood of Maine fumbled at the ten-yard line and linebacker Danzel White recovered on the final play of the first quarter.
Three plays later, West tallied his second touchdown on a two-yard run to give the Tigers a 14-7 advantage with 14:15 left in the first half. That gave the Tigers a lead they never relinquished.
Midway through the second quarter, West broke loose for a 48-yard run to the Maine 19-yard line. Two plays later, Dameron scored on a 19-yard run, giving the Tigers a 20-7 advantage. However, D.J. Soven's extra point attempt was blocked and Trevor Coston picked up the ball and ran 90 yards for a two-point defensive conversion.
After the kickoff, the Black Bears marched into Towson territory when their drive stalled. Junior Brian Harvey's 38-yard field goal attempt was blocked by senior Nick Oates, preserving the Tigers' 20-9 halftime lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Black Bears marched 60 yards in 11 plays. Hood scored on a one-yard run. When Harvey converted the extra point, the Tigers' lead was trimmed to 20-16.
The Tigers responded with a vital 72-yard touchdown drive. On second down-and-one at the Maine 33, quarterback Grant Enders faked to Dameron, who ran to the right. Enders ran to his left and threw back across the field to a wide-open Dameron. He caught the ball and ran for a touchdown that gave the Tigers a 26-16 lead. Soven missed the extra point.
On the final play of the third quarter, linebacker Kenton Powell intercepted a pass and returned it to the Maine 26-yard line. Several plays later, Enders scored on a one-yard run. When Soven converted, the Tigers owned a 33-16 lead.
It didn't take long for Maine to come back. One play after the kickoff, wide receiver Dammar Altman caught a short pass across the middle and broke several tackles to score on a 52-yard touchdown pass. That cut the deficit to 33-23.
Playing against a Maine team that had turned the ball over only nine times in eight games, the Tigers forced three turnovers as White recovered a fumble while linebacker Alexander DiSanzo and Powell intercepted passes.
Junior safety Jordan Dangerfield and White led the Tigers' defense. Each of them made 12 tackles. White also had a sack and recovered a fumble.
The Tigers' win set up a key game next week at Minnegan Field at Johnny Unitas® Stadium. The Tigers host No. 9 New Hampshire (7-2, 5-1), the third team involved in the logjam at the top of the CAA standings.