VILLANOVA, Pa. – In a “must-win” situation, Towson University erupted for its best offensive game of the season as the No. 23 Tigers (4-4, 3-2) piled up 590 yards of total offense en route to a 49-35 Colonial Athletic Association victory over CAA co-leader Villanova University (6-3, 4-2) at Villanova Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
In a game that was tied four times, the Tigers broke a 35-35 tie in the third quarter when sophomore Terrance West capped off a 74-yard, seven-play drive by scoring his third touchdown of the game on a four-yard run.
More than five minutes later, senior quarterback Grant Enders capped off a 64-yard drive by scoring on a 40-yard touchdown run to give Towson a 49-35 lead.
From there, the Tigers used their ball control offense to run out the clock. Towson controlled the ball for 10:59 of the fourth quarter. When the Wildcats did have the ball, the Tiger defense rose to the occasion.
Villanova’s final drive came to an end when sophomore defensive tackle Brandon Gannon sacked Villanova quarterback John Robertson for a 13-yard loss at the Towson 46-yard line.
Then, the Tigers ran out the clock as they consumed the final five minutes of the game with a 42-yard drive.
“I love my team,” said a very pleased Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “This victory shows what can happen when everybody pulls together and you don’t care about yourself. If we play like this, we are a very, very, very good team.”
Enders led the Tigers’ offensive explosion as he compiled 391 yards of total offense. He completed 16 of 28 passes for 269 yards and a career high four touchdown passes. He also ran for a career high 122 yards on 12 carries and scored a touchdown.
“We’ve been looking for an offensive game like this all year,” said Enders. “Everything was focused and we did a great job executing.”
The Tigers scored touchdowns on their first four possessions.
Villanova took the opening kickoff and used its “no-huddle” offense to march 75 yards in seven plays to take a 7-0 lead. Robertson capped off the drive by completing a 33-yard screen pass to sophomore Kevin Monangai to give the Wildcats an early 7-0 lead.
However, the Tigers came right back and wasted no time tying the score. West ran around right end and down the far sideline to score his ninth touchdown of the season. His touchdown completed a five-play, 65-yard drive and marked the first time this season that the Tigers scored a touchdown on their opening possession.
After forcing a Villanova punt, the Tigers took over at their own 38-yard line. Enders directed a five-play, 62-yard touchdown drive, putting the Tigers ahead by 14-7 when he fired an 18-yard touchdown pass to senior Tom Ryan.
The Wildcats responded with another long drive. Villanova drove 80 yards on 10 plays and tied the score when Robertson threw a six-yard screen pass to Monangai for a touchdown with 1:47 left in the first quarter.
Once again, the Tigers responded with a touchdown. On second down-and-16 at their own 22-yard line, Enders rolled out of the pocket under pressure and fired a pass to West near midfield. West caught the pass and outran the Villanova defense to the end zone for a 78-yard touchdown pass. It was Towson’s longest offensive play of the season and gave Towson a 21-14 lead with 38 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ronnie Akins fumbled and Walter Dunston recovered for Towson at the Wildcats’ 23-yard line. On the second play of the second quarter, Enders fired a 14-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Daniel Vaughan to give Towson a 28-14 lead.
On the Tigers’ next possession, Joe Sarnese intercepted an Enders pass at the Towson 40-yard line. Three plays later, Robertson scored on a five-yard run, cutting the Wildcats’ deficit to 28-21.
Midway through the second quarter, a 65-yard punt by Towson’s R.J. Peppers into the end zone gave Villanova the ball at its own 20-yard line. Robertson led an 80-yard, 11-play drive and threw a game-tying 16-yard touchdown pass to Joe Price with 3:02 left in the half.
With the score tied at 28-28, the Tigers took over at their own 27-yard line with 2:57 left in the half. They marched 73 yards on 12 plays to regain the lead. Enders gave the Tigers a 35-28 halftime lead when he threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Spencer Wilkins with two seconds left in the half. It was Enders’ fourth touchdown pass of the game as he established a career high.
Villanova tied the game for the fourth and final time in the third quarter when Robertson threw a four-yard touchdown pass to tight end Earnest Pettaway.
West had 144 rushing yards and scored two touchdowns. He also caught a 78-yard TD pass. The Tigers ran for a seasonal high 321 yards on 48 attempts.
Sophomore linebacker Monte Gaddis led the Tiger defense with 12 tackles, including a pair of sacks. The Tiger defense recorded seven sacks in the win as Towson upped its CAA record to 3-2.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday when they visit the University of Delaware for a 12 noon game.