ORONO — With Maine and Towson ranked among the top 10 in the Football Championship Subdivision, someone was going to make a statement Saturday night at Alfond Stadium.

And it was the visiting Tigers.

Playing most of the game without one of the most dynamic players in the nation after running back Shane Simpson suffered a leg injury midway through the first quarter, Towson overwhelmed the Black Bears 45-23, handing Maine its second consecutive loss.

Yeedee Thaenrat, taking over as the Tigers’ lead runner, scored four touchdowns (while gaining only 24 yards) and Towson’s defense had four interceptions of Maine’s Chris Ferguson, the most he’s thrown in a game. Three of the interceptions led to Towson touchdowns.

“It’s very, very disappointing, obviously,” said Maine Coach Nick Charlton. “To have it a one-point game with 10:46 left in the third quarter and then for us to have the second half we had is very disappointing.

“I think, for us, we’re doing some decent things in a lot of areas but we’re not in rhythm, playing in sync, with each other offensively, defensively, special teams.”

Simpson, a senior running back, appeared to injure his right leg when he returned a kickoff with 7:20 left in the first quarter. His leg appeared to buckle under him as he was tackled, and he was helped off the field.

The Tigers improved to 3-0 overall, 1-0 in the Colonial Athletic Association. Maine dropped to 1-2, 0-1 in the CAA.

“We turned it over too much,” said Charlton. “We’ve got to play better, I’ve got to call better, I’ve got to coach better.”

Tom Flacco, the younger brother of Denver Broncos quarterback Joe Flacco, showed everyone why he’s considered among the best quarterbacks in FCS with a strong overall game. Flacco led Towson with 68 rushing yards, and completed 20 of 34 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown.

“I’ve very proud of the guys,” said Towson Coach Rob Ambrose. “We came a long way from home to play an extremely quality opponent, great coaching, great players and a tough environment. And we suffered some adversity. But our guys really responded. And I’m happy to get out of here with a win. It’s a tough place to win.”

Flacco was especially effective in the third quarter. He completed all five passes he threw, for 78 yards, leading the Tigers to two touchdowns and a 31-16 lead into the fourth.

Thaenrat scored his third touchdown of the game with 8:06 left in the third, a 2-yard run, to make it 24-16. Then Flacco hit tight end Chris Clark with a 9-yard score, with Clark running over Maine’s Joshua Huffman for the final 5 yards and the score to make it 31-16 with 1:09 left in the quarter.

On the second play of the fourth quarter, Towson linebacker Keon Paye stepped in front of a Ferguson pass intended for Earnest Edwards and returned the interception 73 yards to the Maine 1, where he was caught by Edwards.

“When you make a big play like that, it’s a big turning point in the game, a big momentum swing,” said Ferguson. “And that rang true.”

Thaenrat, who had six career touchdowns coming into the game, scored his fourth of the game one play later to make it 38-16.

Ferguson completed 28 of 49 passes for 401 yards and a touchdown. Maine again couldn’t get its running game untracked, rushing for only 68 yards against a defense that had allowed 221.5 per game.

Maine held a 6-0 lead, getting field goals from Kenny Doak (26 and 45 yards) on its first two drives.

Simpson was injured on the kickoff following Doak’s second field goal, but Towson moved in to take the lead on a 3-yard run by Thaenrat and Aidan O’Neill’s PAT kick.

O’Neill kicked a 26-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 10-6 Towson. But Maine responded with a 75-yard drive, capped by a 19-yard touchdown pass from Ferguson to Edwards.

Towson kept coming back but O’Neill missed a 46-yard field goal. Then, on third down, Ferguson was intercepted by Coby Tippett at Maine’s 38.

That led to a second touchdown plunge by Thaenrat, this one from the 1. A pass interference call on Maine’s Manny Patterson on third-and-11 from the 22 kept the drive alive.

NOTES: The halftime ceremonies including the introduction of all members inducted into the UMaine Sports Hall of Fame. … Linebacker Jaron Grayer did not play in the second half. He came out of the locker room after halftime with his left arm in a sling. … Maine’s next opponent, Colgate, is 0-3 with two of the losses coming to CAA teams. Colgate lost its opener 34-14 to Villanova and lost to William & Mary on Saturday, 38-10.

 

 


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