TOWSON, Md. – Senior quarterback Grant Enders piled up 234 yards of total offense as Towson University (1-1, 1-0) controlled the ball for almost 36 minutes en route to a 20-17 Colonial Athletic Association victory over William & Mary (0-3, 0-1) at Johnny Unitas® Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers, who opened their defense of the CAA championship with a win, withstood a fourth quarter comeback by the Tribe to pull out the narrow victory.
With 8:15 remaining in regulation, Enders threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to senior Erron Banks, capping off an 84-yard, eight-play drive and putting the Tigers ahead, 20-10. It was the first touchdown of Banks’ career.
The Tribe responded by marching 64 yards in seven plays as sophomore quarterback Raphael Ortiz threw a two-yard TD pass to senior tight end Nolan Kearney with 5:44 remaining, cutting the Tribe’s deficit to 20-17.
On their next possession, the Tigers controlled the clock for 4:10 and reached the William & Mary 39-yard line where the Tribe forced a punt. Sophomore R.J. Peppers’ punt went into the end zone for a touchback and the Tribe took possession with 1:34 left on its own 20-yard line.
Despite the fact that the Tribe had no time outs remaining, Ortiz drove his team deep into Tiger territory. Facing third down-and-five at the Towson 28-yard line, Ortiz rolled out and avoided pressure. He scrambled towards the line of scrimmage and fired a 28-yard touchdown pass to Tre McBride, apparently giving William & Mary a lead. However, Ortiz was penalized for throwing the ball past the line of scrimmage and the touchdown was nullified.
On fourth down, Ortiz completed a pass to Meltoya Jones but Telvion Clark made a tackle after a three-yard gain to give the Tigers the ball with 17 seconds left.
“That’s the way our season has gone,” said W&M Coach Jimmye Laycock. “We were just one play away. I have no problem with the way we played. We gave a very good effort. Towson did a good job controlling the ball and you have to give them credit for that.”
The Tigers, who piled up 422 yards of total offense, ran 71 offensive plays and controlled the clock for 35:52. The Tribe ran only 52 plays and had 258 yards of offense.
Led by sophomore All-American Terrance West, who ran for 153 yards on 27 carries, Towson ran for 247 yards. Enders added 59 yards on 13 attempts while senior Dominique Booker picked up 33 yards on eight carries.
Enders completed 16 of 21 passes for 175 yards and one touchdown.
On the Tigers’ opening possession, the Tigers marched from their own 25-yard line to the William & Mary 10-yard line. Towson actually scored on an 18-yard run by Alex Blake but a holding penalty negated the score. When the drive stalled, junior place kicker D.J. Soven gave Towson a 3-0 lead by booting a 27-yard field goal.
William & Mary responded with an impressive 68-yard, seven-play drive to take a 7-3 lead when Jones scored on a 16-yard run with 4:11 remaining in the first half.
The Tribe defense came up with a big play early in the second quarter. The Tigers drove to the Tribe’s nine-yard line where they faced fourth down-and-one. But West was stopped short of the first down and the Tribe took over possession.
William & Mary extended its lead to 10-3 when junior place kicker Drake Kuhn kicked a 41-yard yard field goal midway through the second quarter.
Just before halftime, the Tigers tied the game, thanks to an alert play by sophomore wide receiver Spencer Wilkins. On second-and-goal at the Tribe eight-yard line, Enders scrambled towards the end zone. When he reached the two-yard line, he fumbled and the ball went into the end zone where Wilkins fell on it for a touchdown.
“Our defense played much better in the second half,” said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “They decided to play as a team and our staff did a great job rallying the troops.
“But, the offense deserves some credit too,” he added. “The best way to play defense is to keep them off the field as much as possible. Then, when the defense comes on to the field, they are rested and can play their best.”
Banks was the Tigers’ top receiver with five receptions for 59 yards and a touchdown while Wilkins caught five passes for 50 yards.
Towson returns to action next Saturday night when the Tigers host St. Francis (Pa.) at 7 p.m. in their annual Homecoming Game.