WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Sophomore safety Donnell Lewis made 10 tackles and intercepted a pass as he led the No. 10 Tigers (9-2, 5-2) to their 10th consecutive road victory, a 15-9 Colonial Athletic Association win over No. 16 William & Mary (7-4, 4-3) at Zable Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The win enabled the Tigers to improve their chances of earning an NCAA FCS playoff berth as they moved into a tie for second place with New Hampshire. No. 6 Maine clinched the CAA championship with a 41-0 win over Rhode Island on Saturday.
William & Mary came into the game with the top-ranked defense in NCAA FCS, allowing only 12.2 points per game. While the Tribe defense held the Tiger offense to its lowest point total of the season, the Tiger defense did an even better job. The Tigers shut out the Tribe in the second half, stopping the Tribe on downs three times in Towson territory.
Junior Terrance West provided most of the offense for the Tigers. He ran for 157 yards on 30 carries and scored two touchdowns. He also became the first Towson player to rush for more than 4,000 yards in his career. In 32 career games, he has now rushed for 4,105 yards.
With his two touchdowns, West now has an NCAA-leading 28 touchdowns this season and 70 career TD’s.
“I am so proud of this team,” said Coach Rob Ambrose. “To come down here and beat a very tough William & Mary team with their great defense is quite an accomplishment. We usually score a lot more points but the goal is to win the game. That’s what we did.”
The Tribe became the seventh Towson opponent to score first in a game when junior John Carpenter kicked a 43-yard field on the opening possession of the game. William & Mary drove 47 yards on seven plays before the Tiger defense stopped the Tribe. William & Mary had a 3-0 lead with 12:17 left in the first quarter.
On the Tigers’ second possession of the game, the Tigers marched 72 yards in 11 plays to take a lead. West capped off the drove by scoring his 27th touchdown of the season on a one-yard run. West also came up with the biggest play of the drive when he earned a first down on fourth down-and-inches at the Tribe 21-yard line.
William & Mary came right back and drove to the Towson 13-yard line where the drive stalled. Carpenter came in and kicked his second field goal of the game, a 30-yarder, to pull the Tribe to within 7-6 with 10:19 left in the first half.
On the Tigers’ next possession, they drove to the William & Mary 24-yard line where they faced a fourth-and-inches. However, a false start penalty backed them up five yards. Graduate student Drew Evangelista came in to try a 46-yard field goal. But it was short and the Tigers still owned a 7-6 lead.
Once again, the Tribe moved deep into Towson territory. Once again, the Tigers held the Tribe and Carpenter kicked his third field goal of the game. Carpenter’s 31-yard field goal with 30 seconds left in the half gave the Tribe a 9-7 lead at halftime.
It marked a seasonal low for first half points by the Tigers and only the third time that Towson trailed at intermission this season.
On the Tribe’s first series of the second half, they reached the Towson 29-yard line where they had a fourth down-and-three. But quarterback Brent Caprio’s pass to Tre McBride was incomplete and the Tigers took over on downs.
Over the next 4:13, the Tigers drove 71 yards on 10 plays to take a lead. A 13-yard pass play from Peter Athens to Brian Dowling gave Towson a first down at the Tribe’s 14-yard line. But the drive stalled and the Tigers faced fourth-and-nine at the 13-yard line. Evangelista came in to the game to try a 31-yard field goal. However, it was a fake. Holder Connor Frazier, the Tigers’ back-up quarterback, picked up the ball and ran 10 yards for the first down. On the next play, West gave Towson a 13-9 lead with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers elected to try for the two-point conversion and Athens fumbled at one-yard line. Defensive back Jerome Couplin recovered in the end zone and tried to advance with the ball. Left guard Anthony Davis tackled him in the end zone and forced a fumble. Frazier recovered and the Tigers had a two-point conversion and a 15-9 lead.
The Tribe responded with another long drive. William & Mary 31-yard line where they faced a third-and-one. On two straight plays, Mikal Abdul-Saboor was stopped by Monte Gaddis and Telvion Clark and the Tigers took over on downs.
With 8:20 remaining, Lewis stopped a William & Mary drive when he intercepted at the Towson 16-yard line.
From there, the Tigers ran nine consecutive running plays as West picked up 45 yards on five carries. They reached the Tribe 14-yard line. When the Tigers couldn’t get in the end zone, Evangelista came in to try a 25-yard field goal. However, he missed the field goal when his kick hit the left upright and the Tribe was alive.
The Tribe started at the 20-yard line with 2:42 remaining and no time outs. A 23-yard pass completion to Tre McBride got the Tribe moving. William & Mary reached the Towson 43-yard line where the defense made its stand. After three straight incomplete passes, Caprio rolled to his right and fired a long pass down the right sideline towards McBride. At the last instant, Jordan Love got his hand on the pass and McBride couldn’t make the catch. The Tigers took over on downs and ran out the clock.
The Tigers ran for 248 yards against a Tribe defense that was only allowing 101 yards per game. While West posted his ninth 100-yard game with 157 yards, freshman Darius Victor gained 50 yards on nine carries. Athens added 39 yards on 10 attempts.
While Lewis led the Tigers with 10 tackles, Gaddis added nine tackles. Defensive end Ryan Delaire made eight tackles and had two sacks. Love made four tackles and broke up five passes.
The Tigers close out the regular season next Saturday when they host James Madison University at 3:30 p.m.