WORCESTER, Mass. – Senior quarterback Peter Athens completed 17 of 23 passes for a career high 232 yards and two touchdowns as the fifth-ranked Tigers handed Holy Cross (0-2) a 49-7 loss at Fitton Field on Saturday afternoon.
With the win, the Tigers extended the second-longest winning streak in FCS football to six games. The Tigers won their final four games of the 2012 season. It also enabled Towson to open the season with back-to-back road wins for the first time since the 2000 season.
It was also the largest margin of a victory in a road for the Tigers since a 48-0 win at Southern Connecticut in 1994.
While Athens was enjoying a career day, junior Terrance West inscribed his name into the Towson record books once again. West ran for 121 yards on 17 carries as he moved into third place on Towson’s career rushing list with 2,617 yards. By scoring two touchdowns, he broke the school record for career touchdowns. In 23 career games, he has now scored 48 touchdowns.
“I thought Pete had an outstanding game,” said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “He made smart decisions and he may have run the best quarterback sneak I’ve ever seen on his touchdown run.”
On their first possession of the game, the Tigers marched 90 yards to take a 7-0 lead with 8:55 remaining in the first quarter. On the second play of the drive, West broke loose for a 44-yard run to the Holy Cross 46-yard line. On the tenth play of the drive, Athens lofted a 16-yard touchdown pass to tight end James Oboh, giving the Tigers the early lead.
The Crusaders responded with an impressive drive of their own. Using a no-huddle offense, the Crusaders marched 65 yards in only five plays to tie the score when junior Mike Fess caught a 31-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Ryan Laughlin.
It took the Tigers only two plays to retake the lead. On first down at the Towson 25-yard line, West ran for 42 yards to reach the Holy Cross 33-yard line. On the next play, Athens lofted a 33-yard pass toward the end zone where senior Leon Kinnard made an acrobatic catch and fell into the end zone for a touchdown, giving Towson a 14-7 lead with 5:53 left in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Tigers had great field position at the 50-yard line after a short punt by John Macomber. When Athens completed a 40-yard pass to senior Spencer Wilkins, the Tigers had first-and-goal at the Holy Cross four-yard line. The Crusader defense dug in and forced the Tigers into and fourth-and-goal at the one-yard line. When West scored his 47th career touchdown on a one-yard run, the Tigers owned a 21-7 lead with 5:14 remaining in the first half.
West’s 47th career touchdown enabled him to tie the Towson career record for touchdowns set by Jason Corle, ’99.
Holy Cross threatened to narrow its deficit on its next possession. The Crusaders drove to the Tiger 13-yard line where Laughlin tried to throw a sideline pass. Junior safety Thomas Bradley stepped in front of the receiver and intercepted the pass. He outran the Crusaders all the way to the end zone for a 90-yard interception return for a touchdown. The first interception of his career gave Towson a 28-7 lead with 1:43 remaining in the first half.
“That was a big play in the game,” admitted Ambrose. “I know our defense is really good in the red zone but I wish they would force turnovers before they reached the red zone.”
Towson opened the second half with an impressive, time-consuming drive. The Tigers marched 70 yards on 12 plays and used up 6:06 of the third quarter. West scored on a three-yard run to put Towson ahead by 35-7 midway through the third quarter. It was the 48th touchdown of West’s career as he broke the school record for touchdowns scored.
On their next drive, the Crusaders reached the Towson four-yard line where the Tiger defense stopped them. An interception by linebacker Monte Gaddis gave the Tigers a first down at their own four-yard line.
On their first play from the four-yard line, Athens completed a 40-yard pass to senior Spencer Wilkins to give the Tigers some room to run their offense. Four plays later, Athens scored on a quarterback sneak as he ran for 24 yards and a touchdown to give the Tigers a 42-7 lead with six seconds left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Ambrose substituted liberally and many reserves got some playing time. Reserve quarterback Connor Frazier directed a time-consuming 16-play, 76-yard drive that used up 9:02 of the fourth quarter. Junior Brian Dowling capped off the drive by scoring on an eight-yard run with 4:27 left to give the Tigers a 49-7 advantage.
“It was really great to get those young guys some playing time,” Ambrose added. “We are going to lose a bunch of offensive linemen to graduation and we need to have those guys ready to play.”
Ambrose admitted that he was concerned about a letdown after the Tigers’ historic win over Connecticut last week.
“I was a little concerned about this game because everyone was still talking about the win over UConn,” he said. “But we have some very good football players with a lot of maturity. Holy Cross gave us everything they had and we able to win.”
Athens led the Tigers with 262 yards of total offense. He completed 17 of 23 passes for 232 yards without an interception. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for a 24-yard touchdown. For the second game in a row, Athens was not sacked as he ran for 30 yards on four carries.
As a team, the Tigers ran for 286 as nine different players carried the ball, led by West. With 121 yards on 17 carries, West recorded the 13th 100-yard rushing performance in his 23-game career.
The Tigers piled up 525 yards of total offense and controlled the time of possession. The Tigers had the ball for 36:03.
The Tiger defense held Holy Cross to 263 yards of total offense in the win. Linebacker Telvion Clark led the team with seven tackles.
Towson returns home next Saturday night to host Delaware State at 7:30 p.m.