TOWSON, Md. – Senior quarterback Trevor Sasek threw two touchdown passes and a two-point conversion pass in the final 48 seconds to lead No. 21 Delaware (7-2, 4-1) to a stunning 32-31 come-from-behind victory over the No. 7 Tigers (8-2, 4-2) in a Colonial Athletic Association contest at Minnegan Field at Johnny Unitas® Stadium on Saturday evening.
Making his first start in more than two years, Sasek rallied Delaware from a 31-10 fourth quarter deficit to the dramatic victory. He completed 34 of 46 passes for 330 yards and three touchdowns.
Senior wide receiver Rob Jones also came up with some big plays in the final minute. With 45 seconds left, he recovered an onsides kick. Then, he caught a 28-yard pass to reach the Towson 33-yard line. With 23 seconds remaining, Jones caught a three-yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 32-31.
Delaware Coach Dave Brock never hesitated and went for the two-point conversion. When Sasek connected with Jones again, the Blue Hens had a 32-31 lead.
When Drew Evangelista booted a 25-yard field goal with 14:31 remaining, the Tigers owned a 31-10 lead and appeared to be on their way to a win.
The Tigers had dominated the first three quarters of the game and had rushed for 296 yards entering the final period.
Delaware came back and drove 56 yards in 10 plays and pulled to within 31-17 when running back Jalen Randolph scored on a one-yard run with 11:26 remaining in the fourth quarter.
With 6:21 remaining, the Tigers took possession at the Blue Hens’ 48-yard line. They marched to the Delaware 19-yard line where they faced a fourth down-and-two. But the Delaware defense came up with the stop and the Blue Hens took over at their own 20-yard line with 4:23 remaining and down by 14 points.
“That was probably the biggest play of the game,” said Coach Brock. “If they get the first down there, the ball game is over and there is no comeback. A lot of people had a hand in this win and that play by the defense was important.”
Sasek responded by driving the Blue Hen offense 80 yards in 17 plays. With 48 seconds left, Sasek threw an 11-yard touchdown pass to junior Michael Johnson. Sean Baner’s conversion kick cut the Blue Hens’ deficit to 31-24.
Sophomore kicker Garrett Greenway came in to attempt an onsides kick. When Jones recovered, the Blue Hens had the ball at their own 49-yard line with 46 seconds remaining.
A 28-yard pass to Jones gave Delaware a first down at the Towson 33-yard line. On the next play, Sasek hooked up with Jarel Harrison for a 30-yard pass to the Tigers’ three-yard line. When Sasek threw a touchdown pass to Jones across the middle, Delaware trailed by 31-30 with 19 seconds remaining.
Moments later, Sasek threw a pass to Jones in the end zone. He bobbled the ball but came up with the catch to put Delaware ahead, 32-31.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers tried several laterals on the kickoff return but couldn’t go anywhere as the clock ran out.
“Our players had great resolve,” said Coach Brock. “They never let circumstances dictate how they played. We also got a little lucky in the fourth quarter. If they had made a play here or there, the game could have been over.”
For Delaware, it was the largest fourth quarter comeback in the 124-year history of the program.
“All the credit goes to Delaware,” said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “They earned the win. It was a truly impressive performance. We didn’t play well for long enough to get this win. We missed plays on offense and defense and special teams. We win as a team and we lose as a team. The bottom line is that we lost.”
For most of the game, it appeared that the Tigers would earn their ninth win of the season as they overcame an early 10-7 deficit. It was the fifth time in the last six games that the Tigers fell behind in the first quarter.
The Blue Hens took the opening kickoff and drove deep into Towson territory. The Tiger defense held and Baner gave Delaware a 3-0 lead when he kicked a 20-yard field goal.
The Tigers responded with an 82-yard drive that resulted in a 22-yard touchdown run by freshman Darius Victor. When Evangelista made the conversion kick, the Tigers owned a 7-3 lead with 6:52 left in the first quarter.
Johnson returned the ensuing kickoff 66 yards to the Tigers’ 34-yard line, giving the Blue Hens excellent field position. Delaware moved 34 yards in seven plays and took a 10-7 lead when Sasek threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Jerel Harrison with 3:36 left in the first quarter.
Midway through the second quarter, the Tiger offense came to life. A 34-yard pass from quarterback Peter Athens to senior Leon Kinnard moved the Tigers into Delaware territory. Four plays later, junior Terrance West scored on a one-yard touchdown run to give Towson a 14-10 advantage with 5:24 left in the first half.
On the Blue Hens’ next possession, senior Andrew Pierce fumbled at the Towson 39-yard line and sophomore Christian Carpenter recovered. The Tigers drove 61 yards in nine plays to take a 21-10 lead when West scored his second touchdown of the game on a one-yard run with 26 seconds left in the half.
West, who ran for 118 yards on 17 carries in the first half, increased his season total to 26 touchdowns with his two first-half TD’s. He now has 70 touchdowns in his career.
On the opening drive of the second half, a 60-yard pass from Athens to Kinnard set up the Tigers’ fourth touchdown of the game. On the fifth play of the third quarter, Athens threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Emmanuel Holder to give Towson a 28-10 lead.
West led the Tigers’ running game by rushing for 206 yards on 29 carries with two touchdowns. The leading rusher in NCAA FCS football, he has run for 1608 yards in 10 games this season. He has scored 25 rushing touchdowns and a total of 26 touchdowns this season. In his 31-game career, West has run for 3,948 yards with 68 rushing touchdowns and two passing TD’s.
As a team, the Tigers ran for 332 yards on 50 attempts and had a total 492 yards of offense.
Harrison led the Blue Hens with 12 catches for 109 yards and a touchdown while Johnson had six receptions for 71 yards and a touchdown.
The Tigers will have a bye next week before concluding the regular season with a CAA game at William & Mary and a CAA game at home against James Madison.