NEWARK, Del. - In a wild back-and-forth contest with more twists and turns than a Stephen King murder-mystery, the No. 19 Tigers (5-4, 4-2) came from behind to edge No. 23 Delaware (5-4, 2-4) by 34-27 in overtime at a windy, chilly Tubby Raymond Field at Delaware Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
A three-yard touchdown run by sophomore Terrance West in overtime gave Towson a 34-27 lead. Then, junior cornerback Jordan Love settled the issue when he intercepted a pass on the Blue Hens’ possession, ending the game.
With the win, the Tigers ended a five-game losing streak to Delaware and won their sixth CAA road game in their last seven outings.
“I’ve always said ‘it’s not the way you start a game but how you finish it,’ exclaimed Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “When the game went into overtime, we were ready for it. We just keep playing until they tell us we can’t. Once again, we played an exciting game.”
After Towson opened the second half with a touchdown drive that lasted 8:42, the Tigers owned a 20-10 advantage.
At that point, the Blue Hens resorted to a no-huddle offense. When sophomore quarterback Trent Hurley threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Michael Johnson with 3:24 left in the third quarter, the Tigers’ lead was cut to 20-17.
After forcing a Tiger punt, the Blue Hens used their no-huddle offense to march 63 yards in only eight plays. When junior Julian Laing capped off the drive with a four-yard touchdown run, Delaware owned a 24-20 lead with 14:21 left in regulation. It was the Blue Hens’ only lead of the game.
For the second straight possession, the Blue Hens’ defense forced a three-and-out. Sophomore R.J. Peppers came up with a 61-yard punt, giving Delaware the ball at its 16-yard line with 12:45 left in regulation.
Once again, the Blue Hens moved the ball very efficiently. Facing third-and-one at the Towson 19-yard line, Laing was thrown for a one-yard loss by senior defensive end Frank Beltre. On fourth-and-two, UD Coach K.C. Keeler elected to try for a field goal from the usually-reliable Sean Baner. However, Baner missed a 37-yard field goal and the Tigers took over at their own 20-yard line with 7:21 remaining.
Led by senior quarterback Grant Enders, the Tigers’ offense came to life. Facing a fourth-and-seven at the Towson 49-yard line, Enders completed an eight-yard pass to senior Tom Ryan for a first down. On the next play, West ran for 24 yards to the Blue Hens’ 19-yard line. Two plays later, West burst up the middle and reached the one-yard line with less than two minutes remaining.
After West was stopped for no gain on first down, he was thrown for a one-yard loss on the next play. Facing third-and-goal at the two, Enders rolled to the right and completed a two-yard touchdown pass to freshman Emmanuel Holder, his second TD reception of the game. D.J. Soven’s conversion kick put Towson ahead, 27-24, with 44 seconds left.
But Hurley led the Blue Hens into Towson territory. He completed two passes for 33 yards to move the Blue Hens to the Towson 32-yard line with 19 seconds left.
After a personal foul penalty moved the ball back to the Towson 46-yard line, Mike Milburn made a diving catch for a gain of 23 yards to the Towson 23-yard line with six seconds left. Baner came in to try a 40-yard field goal and nailed it, sending the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, Enders completed a seven-yard pass to Gerrard Sheppard before West ran for 12 yards on the next three plays to reach the Delaware six-yard line. Three plays later, West ran around the left end for a touchdown to give Towson the lead. Soven’s conversion gave Towson a 34-27 advantage.
When the Blue Hens’ offense had its turn, the Tiger defense rose to the occasion. On first down, senior defensive tackle Matt Morgan pressured Hurley out of the pocket and tackled him for no gain. On second and third downs, Hurley threw incomplete passes to Milburn. On fourth down, Hurley tried to pass to Johnson across the middle but Love intercepted, sealing the win for Towson.
“This is a great win for us,” added Ambrose. “Both teams played their hearts out. Beating Delaware at their place is big. This is a brutal place to play but we never gave up. Our team just keeps playing hard.”
Late in the first quarter, the Tigers took a 7-0 lead with the help of a 23-yard punt return by junior Leon Kinnard. After Kinnard’s punt return, the Tigers had a first down at the Delaware 33-yard line. A 15-yard pass from Enders to Ryan and an 11-yard run by West, gave Towson a first down at the Blue Hens’ two-yard line. On the next play, Enders ran to his right and pitched the ball back to senior Dominique Booker, who scored to give Towson a 7-0 lead.
The Blue Hens also had a short drive for their first touchdown. After punter Rauley Zaragoza pinned the Tigers back at their one-yard line, the Tigers went three-and-out. A punt by Peppers gave the Blue Hens a first down at the Towson 40-yard line. Three plays later, Hurley hooked up with freshman Jerel Harrison, who broke a tackle and scored on a 19-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 7-7 with 7:15 left in the first half.
After Delaware tied the game, the Tigers came right back with a long scoring drive of their own. With 6:18 left in the half, Enders threw a 25-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-one to Holder. Holder caught a short pass, received a great block from junior tight end James Oboh, and scored to give Towson a 14-7 edge. That capped off a 75-yard, 11-play drive.
The Blue Hens cut their deficit to 14-10 with six seconds left in the half when Baner kicked a 47-yard field goal.
Towson, which won the opening coin toss and deferred, got the ball to start the second half. The Tigers proceeded to use up the 8:42 of the third quarter as they marched 75 yards on 16 plays and took a 20-10 lead when West scored on a one-yard touchdown run. When Soven missed the conversion kick, Towson’s lead was just 20-10.
After that, the Blue Hens drove for two touchdowns to take a 24-20 lead.
West led the Tigers’ running game as he picked up a game high 113 yards on a career high 30 carries and scored two touchdowns. West, who became the fifth player in school history to rush for more than 2,000 career yards, has scored 12 rushing touchdowns this season and has 13 touchdowns overall. In 19 career games, he has scored 43 touchdowns.
Facing the top rushing defense in the CAA, the Tigers ran for 174 yards on 51 attempts. Enders completed 21 of 26 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns, both to Holder. Ryan was the Tigers’ top receiver with a career high eight catches for 67 yards.
Hurley led Delaware by completing 25 of 34 passes for 309 yards and two touchdowns.
With the win, the Tigers kept their CAA championship hopes alive. Towson is tied for fourth place behind New Hampshire (8-2, 6-1), Old Dominion (8-1, 5-1) and James Madison (7-2, 5-1).
The Tigers close out their home schedule against Rhode Island on Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3:30 p.m.