TOWSON, Md. - Junior tailback Dominique Booker scored two touchdowns as the Tigers (2-0, 1-0) forced three turnovers en route to a 31-10 Colonial Athletic Association victory over 20th-ranked Villanova University (0-2, 0-1) in the CAA opener for both teams at Minnegan Stadium at Johnny Unitas® Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Tigers, who are 2-0 for the first time since 2007, accumulated 416 total yards against the Wildcats as they avenged a 43-7 loss to Villanova last year.
"I am incredibly proud of our players," said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. "For two years, I've been saying that this is a project and it's a process. Beating Villanova is another block in our building process. It's a prettier block than most of them but it feels great. Villanova has been playing football for such a long time and has a great tradition. They won a national championship two years ago. So, being mentioned in the same breath with a program like Villanova fills us with a degree of respect."
Booker, who had 70 total yards in the win, gave the Tigers an early 7-0 lead when he caught a 47-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Grant Enders to cap off an 81-yard yard drive on their first possession of the game.
With one second left in the first half, freshman Terrance West scored the first touchdown of his college career on a two-yard run. That capped off a 57-yard, ten-play drive and gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead at halftime.
Midway through the third quarter, the Wildcats drove deep into Towson territory. But, junior safety Jordan Dangerfield forced a fumble that Corey Ford recovered on the Tigers' 27-yard line. The Tigers responded to that break with a 73-yard, six-play drive that gave them a 21-0 lead when West scored on a four-yard TD run. A 26-yard pass play from Enders to Alex Blake was the biggest play of the drive.
With the Tigers leading by 21-0, the Wildcats scored their first touchdown of the game midway through the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Dustin Thomas was forced out of the game due to a shoulder separation, but reserve quarterback Christian Culicerto came off the bench to throw a five-yard touchdown pass to junior Kenny Miles. The touchdown pass cut the Wildcats' deficit to 21-7.
Early in the fourth quarter, sophomore place kicker D.J. Soven of Towson booted the first field goal of his career, a 36-yard kick that gave the Tigers a 24-7 advantage. Villanova responded with another drive deep into Towson territory where a 31-yard field goal by junior Mark Hamilton trimmed the lead to 24-10.
On the ensuing kickoff, freshman Derrick Joseph returned the ball 85 yards to the Wildcats' 11-yard line. Two plays later, Booker scored his second touchdown of the game as he dragged a few tacklers with him into the end zone for a three-yard TD run that put the game out of reach.
The Tigers, who rushed for 223 yards in the win, also controlled the time of possession as they held the ball for more than 34 minutes. Enders led the Tigers' running game with 62 yards on seven carries while sophomore Sterlin Phifer had seven attempts for 41 yards. Enders, the CAA Offensive Player of the Week after a season-opening victory over Morgan State, also completed 19 of 26 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown.
"I like that Towson team very much," said Villanova Coach Andy Talley. "They've been building for the last few years and now it's starting to pay off. Their defense plays hard and runs well. I think that Towson is ready to compete for the CAA championship.
However, Talley isn't sure that Villanova is a serious CAA competitor at this point. He said, "We are not ready to compete in the CAA. We have no consistency. We made too many mistakes and too many fumbles and missed a field goal. Assuming that Towson is ready to compete in the CAA, we can't beat them playing like this."
One of the game's most important plays occurred on the opening drive of the game. Villanova took the opening kickoff and marched all the way down to the Tigers' four-yard line. However, on second down-and-goal at the six-yard line, senior linebacker Chris Patterson sacked Thomas and forced a fumble. Junior defensive end Romale Tucker recovered the fumble at the 19-yard line and the Tigers' defense had kept Villanova off the scoreboard. The Tiger offense responded by marching 81 yards to score a touchdown, giving the Tigers a lead they never relinquished.
By beating the 20th-ranked Wildcats, the Tigers beat a nationally-ranked team for the first time since 2007 when they trimmed #14 Richmond, 23-21. The Tigers had lost 16 straight games to ranked teams.
The Tigers, who outscored their opponents by 73-13 margin in the first two games of the season, will have a bye next week before hosting Colgate on Sept. 24 at 7 p.m.