Allen Lessels on College Football: Towson controls Wildcats
TERRANCE WEST, Towson's big-time bruiser of a running back, got off to a poor start in Saturday's Colonial Athletic Association showdown with New Hampshire.
He and his Tiger teammates gave the Wildcats absolute fits after that, grabbed control of the game in the second period and rolled to a 44-28 win at Unitas Stadium in Towson.
Towson lived up to its lofty rankings - No. 3 in one poll, No. 2 in the other - and dealt UNH a severe blow while running its record to 6-0.
"Those guys have had a field day against us the last two years," said UNH coach Sean McDonnell before the game.
Make that three years.
UNH dropped its CAA opener, fell to 1-3 on the season and dug itself even deeper into an early-season hole.
The Wildcats have been on a remarkable run of FCS playoff appearances - they have qualified for the postseason tournament for a nation's-best nine straight years - but have now narrowed considerably their margin of error for extending the streak to 10.
They may have to win their next seven games - all CAA contests starting with Homecoming at Cowell Stadium against Rhode Island next Saturday - to get in.
UNH's string of 131 weeks ranked in the Top 25 that dates back to September of 2004 is at risk, too. The Wildcats were ranked No. 19 last week and the new poll will be out Monday afternoon.
All was good at the start on Saturday.
The Wildcats roared out of the gates and owned the first quarter.
Towson took its turn in the second and, capitalizing especially on a brutal UNH finish to the half, grabbed all the momentum and a 27-20 lead at the break.
The Wildcats scored all of their opening half points in their first seven offensive plays, covering just over nine minutes of the game.
UNH quickly turned two West fumbles into touchdowns.
West fumbled on the second play of the game and UNH junior safety Nick Cefalo recovered on the Towson 23. Three plays later, junior Nico Steriti scored on a 9-yard run.
Towson drove the field to a 37-yard field goal with 8:44 to go in the period.Andy Vailas, UNH's junior quarterback out of Bedford, started UNH's next possession with a 21-yard pass to R.J. Harris. Vailas kept on the next play and ran for a 44-yard score. A two-point conversion pass was no good and UNH led 13-7.
Towson had given up two rushing touchdowns in its first five games and UNH had a pair in less than seven minutes.
Four plays later, West fumbled again and Cefalo recovered once more.
Two plays later, UNH wide receiver Jared Allison hit Harold Spears for a 29-yard touchdown on an option pass.
UNH led 20-3 with 6:04 to go.
And that was it for Wildcat highlights.
The Tigers ran off 41 straight points to put the game away.
West scored Towson's first touchdown on a 50-yard run with four minutes gone in the second quarter and then, after a poor Brad Prasky punt, added a 1-yard score midway through the period.
UNH's offense had stalled and then things got worse. The Tigers came up with three straight turnovers stretching into the second half and turned them into 17 points and a commanding lead.
First, Vailas fumbled to end a UNH drive with the Wildcats still up 20-17 and Towson - after getting a break when officials ruled Casey DeAndrade came down out of bounds with an interception - scored on a Peter Athens to Spencer Wilkins 21-yard pass to take the lead with 44 seconds left in the half.
UNH tried to get something going, but Chris Setian fumbled and Towson's D.J. Soven knocked down a 49-yard field goal as time ran out in the half.
The Wildcats received the ball coming out of the half. But Christian Carpenter picked off Vailas on the first play and the Tigers marched back the other way for another score and it was 34-20 and Towson had control of the game.
UNH ended up with 445 total yards of offense and the 28 points against a team that was allowing 271 yards and 14 points a game. Towson had allowed only 70 yards a game rushing and UNH collected 169, 90 of them in the first period.
Towson amassed a team-record 731 yards of well-balanced offense with 379 yards passing and 352 rushing.
West ended up with 28 carries for 238 yards and three touchdowns. In three games against UNH he has rushed for 735 yards and nine TDs.
firstname.lastname@example.org On Twitter: @AllenLessels