TOWSON, Md. — Towson University dominated most of the way Saturday night, but allowed the University of Maine to hang around.
With the game on the line, the Black Bears made some critical mistakes in the fourth quarter that prevented them from pulling the upset.
Quarterback Grant Enders scrambled 52 yards for a touchdown with three minutes remaining, helping 15th-ranked Towson secure a 24-19 Colonial Athletic Association football victory at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s Black Bears (2-4 overall, 1-2 CAA) fumbled the ball at the Towson 3-yard line with a chance to tie the game with 10:18 to play, then roughed the punter inside the 5-yard line with 4:42 left to enable the Tigers (3-3, 2-1 CAA) to hold on.
“We didn’t play our best football and we hung right with Towson up to the end,” said UMaine junior quarterback Marcus Wasilewski. “That shows that we’re making some growth and if we execute the way we need to, it might be a different outcome.”
UMaine hung around despite allowing Towson to amass a 507-302 advantage in total yardage, along with a 9 1/2-minute edge in time of possession.
Leading 14-10, the Tigers added to their lead with 4:27 remaining in the third quarter. D.J. Soven, who missed three first-half attempts, capped a lengthy drive with a 38-yard field goal to make it 17-10.
The Bears answered with a methodical drive that consumed 20 plays, 82 yards and 9 minutes, 9 seconds.
“We just had a good tempo going,” Wasilewski said. “We knew we had to go quick. We knew we had to move the ball and we executed fairly well and did what we had to do to move the chains on that drive.”
The possession included an 8-yard run by David Hood on a direct snap off a fake punt and four third-down conversions after UMaine managed none in its first seven tries.
Aided by two penalties, the Bears gained a first-and-goal at the Towson 2-yard line. On third down, Hood failed to secure the handoff and the Tigers recovered at their 3 with 10:18 to play.
“Anytime you drive the ball down as far as we went and to fall short, especially with no points on the board at the end of the drive, [it’s deflating],” Wasilewski said. “It’s just one of those things where unfortunately we can’t take it back and we had to play the next play.”
He said the fumble occurred on the handoff exchange.
The defense quickly forced a punt and Maurice McDonald’s 28-yard return put UMaine at the Towson 32. However, the Bears settled for Sean Decloux’s 28-yard field goal to make it 17-13 with 6:45 left.
The defense held again, forcing a punt from the Towson 21. This time, redshirt freshman Sean Stevenson was called for roughing the kicker, giving the Tigers an automatic first down.
Four plays later, Enders broke the game-clinching TD scamper.
Enders was 17-for-26 passing for 260 yards and a score and one interception. The elusive senior also led Towson with eight carries for 98 yards and the TD.
“For the most part, we did a good job stopping the run,” said UMaine junior linebacker Troy Eastman. “A few big plays hurt us, though.”
The Bears answered with a 74-yard march in 2:19, culminating in Wasilewski’s 9-yard scoring run that made it 24-19 with 38 seconds left, but the onside kick attempt failed.
UMaine rode the efforts of Wasilewski, who completed 24 of 37 throws for 159 yards. Art Williams caught six passes for 57 yards, while Rickey Stevens netted 59 yards on eight carries.
Senior linebacker Donte Dennis led the defense with 10 tackles, while Eastman (7 tackles, interception return for a TD), Troy Russell (6 tackles) and Khari Al-Mateen (6 tackles) were other mainstays.
The Bears were fortunate to be close at halftime after allowing the Tigers to roll up 339 yards of offense. The Bears managed only 132 yards.
However, UMaine held Towson to three field-goal attempts and Soven missed all of them, including a 40-yarder on the last play of the second quarter.
After failing to cash in on McDonald’s fumble at the UM 34-yard line on the first play of the game, Towson scored on its second possession. The Tigers went 77 yards on 10 plays, sparked by a 25-yard completion from Enders to Spencer Wilkins.
Terrance West’s 1-yard dive helped Towson grab a 7-0 lead at the 5:10 mark.
UMaine responded with a scoring drive of its own. Wasilewski completed his first three passes, but a sack later forced the Bears to settle for Decloux’s 33-yard field goal at the 1:48 mark.
The defense put UMaine ahead less than four minutes later. Eastman, a junior linebacker, stepped in front of an Enders pass at the 6-yard line and followed a parade of blockers down the left sideline on his way to a 92-yard interception return for a touchdown.
“I just made a lineman miss and then my team did a good job getting down the field and blocking for me,” Eastman said. “I just saw white [UMaine] jerseys. They paved the way for me to get to the end zone.”
Decloux’s PAT got UMaine within 14-10 going into halftime.