RICHMOND, Va. – Seeking their ninth consecutive road victory, the No 8 Tigers (8-1, 4-1) received a five-touchdown performance from All-American running back Terrance West as the Tigers rolled to a 48-32 Colonial Athletic Association victory over Richmond (2-6, 0-4) at Robins Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
It was the Tigers’ ninth consecutive road victory, a streak that started 364 days ago with a 49-35 win at Villanova on Oct. 27, 2012.
West led the very productive running game by rushing for a career high 272 yards on 29 carries. He scored four rushing touchdowns and caught two passes for 14 yards with another TD. His five touchdowns tied the school record for touchdowns in a game, a mark he also matched in a win over Delaware State in September.
On his way to his career high rushing performance, West became Towson’s career rushing leader. He has now run for 3,742 yards in 30 career games. The NCAA FCS rushing leader, he has also scored an NCAA-leading 24 touchdowns. West also has 67 career touchdowns.
While West was leading the Tiger offense, the Tiger defense chipped in with a pair of touchdowns. With 1:45 remaining in the first half, sophomore Christian Carpenter intercepted a pass and returned it 34 yards for a touchdown to give Towson a 27-12 lead. With 12:19 left in the game, senior linebacker Telvion Clark sacked Michael Strauss, stripped him of the ball and ran 32 yards for a touchdown and a 41-18 Tiger lead.
“We came out and played a complete game from start to finish,” said Coach Rob Ambrose. “Everyone contributed to this win. Richmond is an excellent team and I am very proud with how we responded. This win brings us one step closer to our goals.”
When asked about the reason for the Tigers’ success on the road, Ambrose explained, “When I first became a head coach, I listened to a lot of guys who had been coaching for a lot longer than me. They all told me that winning on the road is what makes your team special. We have made it a focus and our guys do a great job avoiding distractions. They just stay focused and tune it all out.”
Facing a Richmond team that had lost five games by a total of 20 points, the Tigers came out strong. For the first time in five games, the Tigers took an early lead. After a punt by Joe Gulli backed up the Tigers at their own two-yard line, West broke loose on the Tigers’ second play. His career long 79-yard run gave the Tigers a first down at the Spiders’ 18-yard line. Three plays later, senior quarterback Peter Athens hooked up with West for a six-yard touchdown pass, giving the Tigers the lead. West’s 20th touchdown of the season put Towson ahead by 7-0 with 8:59 left in the first quarter. West’s touchdown catch capped off Towson’s longest drive of the season, a 98-yard, six-play march.
Late in the first quarter, the Spiders’ no-huddle offense moved Richmond deep into Towson territory. Strauss got Richmond on the scoreboard when he threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to senior Shane Savage with 10 seconds left in the first quarter. That capped off a 79-yard, 13-play drive. However, senior tackle Arnold Farmer blocked Brandon Jordi’s conversion kick and the Tigers owned a 7-6 lead after the first quarter.
Early in the second quarter, the Tigers staged another impressive drive. They marched 78 yards on 13 plays and extended their lead to 13-6 when West scored his 21st touchdown of the season on a two-yard run. During the drive, West became Towson’s career rushing leader with 3,606 yards, surpassing Jason Corle’s mark of 3,601 yards. But, the Tigers’ extra point attempt was missed on a bad center snap.
The Spiders responded with 75-yard drive of their own. A six-yard TD run by David Broadus pulled the Spiders to with 13-12. However, Jordi’s conversion attempt hit the right upright and the Tigers maintained their lead with 6:49 left in the half.
On their next possession, the Tigers added to their lead. A 31-pass play from Athens to Leon Kinnard gave Towson a first down at the Spiders’ one-yard line. On the next play, West scored his third touchdown of the game. The conversion kick by Drew Evangelista gave Towson a 20-12 advantage.
Only 35 seconds later, Carpenter intercepted a pass at the Spiders’ 34-yard line and returned it all the way for a touchdown. That gave Towson 27-12 lead with 1:45 left in the half. It was Towson’s third interception return for a touchdown this season.
But, there was still time for the Richmond offense to answer. The Spiders marched 75 yards in eight plays and cut the deficit to 27-18 when Strauss threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to Rashad Ponder. However, junior cornerback Tye Smith blocked the extra point and the Tigers went into halftime with a 27-18 lead.
On the opening drive of the second half, the Tigers reached the Spider one-yard line. However, a fumble by West ended that drive as Eric Wright recovered in the end zone. After the defense forced a punt, the Tigers marched 93 yards in eight plays as West scored his fourth touchdown of the game on a one-yard run. That gave Towson a 34-18 lead.
Early in the fourth quarter, Clark increased the lead to 41-18 when he recovered a fumble and ran 32 yards for a touchdown.
The Spiders scored a bizarre touchdown with 10 minutes left in the game. Junior Derrick Joseph was hit while trying to field a punt at the Tigers’ 25-yard line. The ball went into the end zone and Aaron Roane recovered for an apparent touchdown that nobody was certain would count. There was a penalty on the play. While it was assumed that Richmond would be penalized for interfering with Joseph’s ability to field the punt, the officials ruled that the Richmond defensive player was blocked into Joseph, meaning that the touchdown counted.
With their lead trimmed to 41-24, the Tigers’ offense went back to work. The Tigers marched 72 yards on six plays and increased the lead to 48-24 when West scored on a three-yard run with 7:16 left.
The Spiders added a final touchdown on a pass from Kyle Lauletta to Savage with 38 seconds left.
The Tigers rushed for 341 yards on 45 carries in the win. They also accumulated 569 yards of total offense as Athens completed 16 of 21 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown.
Strauss led the Spiders’ offense by completing 28 of 38 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns.
Clark led the Tiger defense with a career high 16 tackles. He also had a sack and recovered two fumbles, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
The Tigers will return to action next Saturday night when they host Delaware at 7:00 p.m.