COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Facing the University of Maryland for the first time ever, the Tigers (3-1) gave the Terrapins all they could handle before the Terps (2-2) scored two late touchdowns to pull out a 28-3 victory over the previously unbeaten Tigers before a crowd of 35,573 at Capital One Field at Byrd Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The crowd of 35,573 was the largest ever to see the Tigers play a football game.
The Tigers, who only turned the ball over three times in their first three games, were guilty of four turnovers in the second half as the Terps extended their 7-3 halftime lead. Maryland scored two of its touchdowns directly off Tiger turnovers.
The turnovers were costly for the Tigers, who had more total yards (378-335), more offensive plays (72-61) and more first downs (21-20) than Maryland. The Tigers a lso dominated time of possession by controlling the clock for 35:39.
"We made too many mistakes and we left too many points on the field," said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. (right) "When you have so many missed opportunities, it's very difficult to beat a quality opponent."
In addition, the Tigers were penalized seven times for 77 yards and Tiger receivers dropped at least four passes.
With the Terps clinging to a 7-3 lead early in the third quarter, linebacker Kenny Tate made a game-turning play. On the second play of the third quarter, sophomore quarterback Peter Athens rolled to his left and tried to complete a pass to tight end James Oboh. However, Tate stepped in between Athens and Oboh and intercepted the pass at the Maryland 45-yard line. He returned it to the Towson 45-yard line where he was tackled by Athens.
"There were so many missed opportunities," lamented Ambrose. "We had chances for touchdown passes and they were big. We put our defense in a hole. You can't win games against good opponents with turnovers like that, period."
Eight plays later, Justus Pickett scored on a five-yard run to give Maryland a 14-3 lead.
Midway through the third quarter, the Tigers were on the move again. After junior defensive end Frank Beltre recovered a fumble by Davin Meggett, they marched from their own six-yard line to the Maryland 33-yard line. But, an interception by linebacker Lorne Goree stopped that march.
Early in the fourth quarter, the Terrapins staged their most impressive drive of the game. They marched 78 yards in 11 plays before sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien threw a seven-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Dorsey, putting Maryland ahead by 21-3.
The Terps received another break on the ensuing kickoff when freshman Derrick Joseph fumbled the kickoff and Alvin Thomas recovered on the Tigers' 26-yard line. Five plays later, O'Brien threw a five-yard TD pass to Tyler Cierski and the Terps' lead was suddenly 28-3.
"If there's any doubt whether or not we can play with anyone, it should be gone," said Ambrose. "A year ago, if anyone suggested that we would have a chance to win this game, people would have thought you were crazy."
The Terrapins wasted very little time taking an early lead. After the opening kickoff, the Terrapins used their no-huddle offense to march down the field. Thanks to a pair of runs of Davin Meggett, the Terps reached the 30-yard line. On third down-and-ten, quarterback Danny O'Brien threw an incomplete pass. However, Jordan Dangerfield was called for roughing-the-passer and the Terps had a first down at the Towson 15-yard line. On the next play, D.J. Adams ran around right end for a touchdown and the Terps owned a 7-0 lead with 13:20 left in the first quarter.
Maryland's touchdown was the first touchdown allowed by the Tigers in the first half this season.
After the Tiger offense was forced to punt, the Terps got another break. Tony Logan tried to field the punt at the Tigers' 39-yard line but freshman Terrance West tackled him before he could make a play. As a result, Maryland had a first down at the Towson 24-yard line. But, the Tiger defense held and forced a 43-yard field goal attempt by Nick Ferrara. However, senior tackle Marcus Valentine broke through and blocked the kick.
After another Tiger punt, the Terrapins moved to the Tigers' 29-yard line. Facing fourth down-and-two, Adams was stopped short of the first down by junior linebacker Danzel White and Dangerfield. The Tigers took over at their own 28-yard line.
A 16-yard pass to Dominique Booker on third down ignited the Tigers' best drive of the game. Facing second down-and-23 at the Maryland 33-yard line, Athens completed a 22-yard pass to junior Tom Ryan. The Tigers had first down-and-goal at the two-yard line but they couldn't reach the end zone. On fourth down, sophomore D.J. Soven kicked a 23-yard field goal to cut the deficit to 7-3.
On their only possession of the second quarter, the Terps moved to the Towson 40-yard line where the drive stalled. Ferrara's punt was downed at the two-yard line where the Tigers took over with 6:57 left in the first half.
A 19-yard reception on third down by senior fullback Tyler Wharton moved the ball to the Tigers' 22-yard line. That started a bizarre drive in which the Tigers overcame a personal foul penalty and a chop block penalty and kept moving. A 21-yard pass to Ryan enabled the Tigers to reach the Maryland 39-yard line. On the next play, Athens completed a 23-yard pass to Ryan as the Tigers reached the 16-yard line with less a minute to play.
But, the Tigers were out of time-outs. With the clock winding down, Athens completed a pass to Ryan at the seven-yard line. The Tigers had to rush their field goal unit on to the field. With no time to spare, Soven had to hurry his 24-yard field goal attempt and it missed.
So, the Tigers went to halftime facing a 7-3 deficit despite outgaining Maryland by 225 yards to 111 yards. In the first half, the Tigers had 13 first downs and controlled the clock for 21:30. Towson ran 40 plays in the first half while Maryland had 22 offensive plays.
"I want to give Towson credit," said Maryland Coach Randy Edsall. "Rob [Ambrose] had his guys ready to play and came out with a lot of new wrinkles in the first half that we didn't see, which I knew that he was going to do. They are going to do very well in the Colonial Athletic Association."
Athens, who completed 17 of 29 passes for 217 yards and two interceptions, started in place of quarterback Grant Enders, who suffered a concussion in the Tigers' win over Colgate last week.
Led by sophomore Sterlin Phifer, who ran for 75 yards on 12 carries, the Tigers ran for a seasonal low 161 yards against the Terps. Freshman Terrance West added 49 yards on nine attempts while junior Dominique Booker ran for 27 yards on 12 carries.
Junior Tom Ryan was the Tigers' top receiver as he matched his career high with seven catches for 103 yards.
White led the Tiger defense with 15 tackles while Dangerfield made 13 tackles and forced a fumble.
The Tigers return to Unitas Stadium next Saturday night when they host Richmond at 7:30 p.m.