TOWSON, Md. – The University of Maine had several chances to beat Towson in the fourth quarter of their Colonial Athletic Association game Saturday.
But the Black Bears lost a pivotal fumble, failed to take advantage of field position, were called for a costly penalty and in the end, walked away with a 24-19 loss before 10,141 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
“We were on the field all day,” Maine Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “Our offense didn’t help at all in the first half. We fumbled on the first play of the game. We just didn’t execute. You play on the road in this league and you’ve got to execute.”
Towson quarterback Grant Enders had eight carries for 98 yards and a touchdown, and completed 17 of 26 passes for 260 yards and a touchdown. Running back Terrance West finished with 96 yards on 18 carries with a touchdown. Towson totaled 507 yards to 302 for Maine.
Marcus Wasilewski of Maine completed 24 of 37 passes for 159 yards and ran for a touchdown.
Maine (2-4, 1-2 CAA) played its first game without defensive end Michael Cole, who tore a quadriceps tendon in his left leg last Saturday against Delaware and underwent season-ending surgery Wednesday.
“We don’t make excuses. The next guy is in up at our place,” Cosgrove said. “We had a lot of guys come out today. We played hard and I have a lot of respect for our guys, believe me.”
Towson (3-3, 2-1) built its lead to 17-10 on a 38-yard field goal by D.J. Soven with 4:27 left in the third quarter. Soven also missed from 47, 40 and 37 yards.
Maine marched on its next possession to the Towson 2, but David Hood fumbled on third down and the Tigers recovered.
“It’s just one of those plays that obviously we would like to have back,” Wasilewski said. “My mentality didn’t really change at all. Our defense was going to have our backs for us. We were going to get the ball back and have an opportunity.”
After forcing a three-and-out, Maine managed a 28-yard field goal by Sean Decloux to make it 17-13. The defense then came up big again to force a punt, but a roughing-the-kicker penalty gave the Tigers a first down.
“That might have been the dumbest penalty I’ve ever been a part of when we had a chance to go ahead,” Cosgrove said.
Seven plays later, Enders ran 51 yards for a touchdown and a 24-13 lead. Wasilewski’s 4-yard touchdown run pulled the Black Bears within 24-19 after his pass for a 2-point conversion sailed through the end zone. Towson then recovered the onside kick to seal the game.
“I’m extremely proud of these guys,” said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “The last three weeks we’ve had an exorbitant number of distractions. I told them no matter what happens, we were going to be a better team.”
The Tigers opened the scoring with 5:11 left in the first quarter on a 10-play, 77-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard run by Terrance West. The Black Bears cut it to 7-3 almost four minutes later on a 33-yard field goal by Decloux.
The Black Bears’ defense changed the tone of the game early in the second quarter when Troy Eastman returned an intercepion 92 yards for a TD.
“I was up on my line and I don’t think the quarterback saw me,” Eastman said. “I was just trying to make people miss. I saw a lot of white jerseys in front of me and I just kind of ran by them.”
It was Maine’s second-longest interception return for a touchdown this season. Kendall James returned one for 100 yards Sept. 15 against Bryant.
The Tigers then regained a 14-10 lead with 1:22 left in the half when Enders found Erron Banks in the middle of the end zone from 18 yards.
Towson outgained Maine 339-132 in the first half and the Black Bears were 0 of 4 on third-down conversions.