TOWSON, Md. – Led by junior Terrance West, who ran for 238 yards on 28 carries and scored three touchdowns, the undefeated Tigers (6-0, 2-0) overcame an early 20-3 deficit to win its 10th game in a row, a 44-28 Colonial Athletic Association victory over the University of New Hampshire (1-3, 0-1) at Minnegan Field at Johnny Unitas® Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
The Tigers, who entered the game as the third-ranked team in NCAA FCS, spotted the No. 19 Wildcats a 20-3 lead in the first nine minutes. Then, the Tigers scored 41 consecutive points as they beat UNH for the third year in a row.
Led by senior quarterback Peter Athens, who passed for a career high 343 yards, the Tigers shattered the school record for total offense by accumulating 731 total yards. Athens completed 22 of 33 passes for 343 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
It marked the second game in a row that the Tigers fell behind early and had to rally to win.
“We would like to avoid those kind of starts but true greatness comes from working to be successful,” said Coach Rob Ambrose.
“It’s all part of our plan to provide high entertainment value for your dollar,” he said with a smile. “Even when we were behind by 17 points, we weren’t panicked. No game has ever been won on one play or even in nine minutes. We just stayed true to ourselves and overcame the adversity.”
The Wildcats took advantage of two turnovers to shock the Tigers by scoring 20 points in the first nine minutes. On the Tigers’ second offensive play of the game, West fumbled and safety Nick Cefalo recovered on the Towson 23-yard line. Three plays later, junior Nico Steriti scored on a nine-yard run to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead with 13:18 left in the first quarter.
After the Tigers got on the scoreboard with a 37-yard field goal by Drew Evangelista, the Wildcats drove 65 yards on only two plays to up their lead to 13-3. On the first play, quarterback Andy Vailas completed a 21-yard pass to R.J. Harris, giving UNH a first down at the Towson 44-yard line. On the next play, Vailas did a great ball fake and sprinted down the right sideline for a 44-yard touchdown run. The Wildcats’ two-point conversion try failed but UNH led, 13-3.
On the Tigers’ next possession, West fumbled again and Cefalo recovered at the Towson 43-yard line.
Two plays later, wide receiver Jared Allison took the ball on an end-around play and fired a 29-yard touchdown pass to tight end Harold Spears, giving New Hampshire a 20-3 lead.
On their next possession, the Tigers drove to the New Hampshire 16-yard where they faced fourth down-and-one. But, the Wildcats’ defense came up with a big stop and the Tigers missed a great chance to cut into their deficit.
Early in the second quarter, freshman punter Jake Ryder nailed a career-long 53-yard punt that was downed at the UNH one-yard line. The Tiger defense forced a punt by Brad Prasky that was downed at the 50-yard line.
On the Tigers’ first play after the punt, West broke through the right side and outran the New Hampshire defense to the end zone. His 50-yard touchdown run cut Towson’s deficit to 20-10 with 10:56 left in the first half.
For the second possession in a row, the Tiger defense forced a punt from deep in UNH territory. Linebacker Telvion Clark’s sack forced the Wildcats to punt from their own 13-yard line. However, Prasky shanked the punt and it went out of bounds at the UNH 27-yard line.
The Tigers took advantage of the great field position and drove 27 yards on five plays. When West scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run, the Tigers trailed by 20-17 with 6:51 left in the first half.
Late in the second quarter, the Wildcats staged their best drive of the game. They drove from their own eight-yard line and had a first down at the Towson 25-yard line. However, Clark forced a fumble by Vailas and defensive tackle Arnold Farmer recovered at the 25-yard line with 2:28 left in the half.
Athens led the Tigers on a 75-yard, seven-play drive by completing three of four passes for 52 yards. When he completed a 21-yard touchdown pass to junior Spencer Wilkins, the Tigers took their first lead of the game with 44 seconds left in the half. The touchdown pass gave Towson a 24-20 lead.
However, the Tigers weren’t finished with their second quarter domination. When Chris Setian fumbled at the UNH 44-yard line, Ryan Delaire recovered and the Tigers took over with 15 seconds left in the half.
After a 12-yard pass from Athens to Derrick Joseph gave the Tigers the ball at the UNH 32-yard line, senior place kicker D.J. Soven booted a 49-yard field goal on the final play of the first half to give Towson a 27-20 advantage at halftime.
“The second quarter was a big swing in the game,” said UNH Coach Sean McDonnell. “They got us backed up near our end zone and they took advantage of it. Towson is a very good team and you can’t give them field position like that.”
An interception by Christian Carpenter on the first play of the second half gave the Tigers excellent field position at the UNH 40-yard line to start the third quarter. After four carries by West enabled Towson to reach the Wildcats’ 18-yard line, Athens fired an 18-yard touchdown pass to sophomore fullback Emmanuel Holder to give Towson a 34-20 lead with 12:46 left in the third quarter.
On their next possession, the Wildcats drove to the Towson two-yard line where they faced fourth down-and-one. However, Steriti was stuffed at the line of scrimmage by Drew Cheripko and Monte Gaddis and the Tigers took over.
A 60-yard run by West enabled the Tigers to reach the UNH 35-yard line. After the Tigers reached the UNH nine-yard line, Evangelista upped the lead to 37-20 when he kicked a 26-yard field goal with 6:47 left in the third quarter.
Later in the third quarter, Athens completed a 73-yard pass to senior Leon Kinnard, giving Towson a first down at the UNH nine-yard line. Three plays later, West scored his third touchdown of the game on a one-yard run to give Towson a 44-20 lead.
The Wildcats finally ended the Tigers’ 41-point run when Sean Goldrich threw a three-yard touchdown pass to Sean Mello with 2:32 remaining in the game. Setian’s two-point conversion run cut the Towson lead to 44-28.
However, the Tigers recovered the on-sides kick and ran out the clock.
West’s 238-yard performance with three touchdowns marked the third time in his career that he topped the 200-yard mark in a game. All three of those games have come against New Hampshire. In three career games against UNH, West has run for 735 yards on 70 carries and has scored nine touchdowns.
“With West, it was like ‘Groundhog Day,’ said McDonnell. “For a while, we were doing a good job against him. Then, all of a sudden, he breaks loose and hurts you. We’ve played a lot of great backs in the CAA over the years, guys like Brian Westbrook (Villanova), Jonathan Grimes (William and Mary) and Omar Cuff (Delaware). West is as good, if not better than any of them.
“What I thought could happen in this game did happen,” admitted McDonnell. “Last year, I said they were the best team we saw all year and the same is true this season. Hats off to Towson. They are very, very good.”
In the win, West became the second-leading rusher in Towson history. He now has 3,226 yards in his career and has scored 59 touchdowns, including 58 rushing TD’s. He has rushed for over 100 yards in five of six games this season.
Freshman Darius Victor ran for 57 yards on 10 carries while Athens picked up 35 yards on five attempts. As a team, Towson ran for a seasonal high 352 yards.
Wilkins caught a career high seven passes for 153 yards and a touchdown. Kinnard had six catches for 102 yards.
Clark led the Tiger defense with 11 tackles, two forced fumbles and a sack. Gaddis made nine tackles while Carpenter had seven tackles and intercepted a pass.
Vailas completed 18 of 29 passes for 194 yards with two interceptions. He also ran for 51 yards on three carries and scored a touchdown while Steriti picked up 47 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.
Harris led UNH receivers with eight catches for 77 yards.
The Tigers return to action next Saturday night when they host No. 20 Villanova at 7:00 p.m. at Unitas Stadium.