By: Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor
No. 15 Towson celebrated homecoming all week, but the Tigers could not celebrate Saturday afternoon, falling to No. 23 Maine 35-28 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
The Black Bears (5-3, 4-1 CAA) got out to an early 14 point lead, the Tigers (6-3, 4-2 CAA) fought back, but could not pull it out.
Head Coach Rob Ambrose said he was impressed with his team’s effort in the face of a 14-point deficit at halftime, but noted that the team needs that kind of effort on a consistent basis.
“[I’m] proud of our guys and how they responded,” Ambrose said. “We were an entirely different team in the second half, more like the team we’ve been all year. We have to do 60 minutes of our job, not just a great 30 minutes or a great quarter or a great series here or there.”
Maine began its dominant play on the first play from scrimmage as redshirt freshman running back Ramon Jefferson ripped off a 29-yard run. Sophomore quarterback Chris Ferguson followed with a 27-yard strike to set up junior wide receiver Earnest Edwards for a seven-yard touchdown reception.
The Tigers failed to get anything going on offense, held scoreless in the first quarter for the first time this season.
The Black Bears continued their hot start early in the second quarter as Edwards caught his second touchdown of the game from 46 yards out. Just as Maine looked to have the momentum, a short kickoff allowed sophomore defensive back Coby Tippett to return for 48 yards.
Redshirt junior quarterback Tom Flacco took advantage of the short field, connecting with junior running back Yeedee Thaenrat for a 22-yard gain to put the team in the red zone.
On the next play, Flacco rolled left and found sophomore wide receiver Jabari Allen for a 14-yard touchdown to make the score 14-7.
Flacco threw an interception on Towson’s next drive, but redshirt sophomore defensive lineman Bryce Carter recorded a strip sack to prevent Maine from capitalizing on the ensuing drive.
After exchanging punts, the Black Bears added to their lead as Jefferson exploded for a 64-yard touchdown run to take a 21-7 lead going into the break.
The Tigers looked much better starting the second half, as redshirt junior running back Shane Simpson caught a 21-yard pass from Flacco to set Towson up in the red zone. The drive stalled, however, and junior kicker Aiden O’Neill hit a 36 yard field goal to cut Maine’s lead to 21-10.
After Flacco’s second interception of the game, the Black Bears added to their lead as Jefferson scored his second touchdown from two yards out to extend their lead, 28-10.
Flacco responded with a quick drive, connecting with Simpson on a 26-yard touchdown pass. Towson executed a two-point conversion to cut the deficit, 28-18.
The Tigers made a crucial turnover on Maine’s ensuing drive as sophomore defensive back Vashon McCants recorded an interception just before the end of the third quarter. He said he was prepared for the route thanks to watching game film throughout the week.
“It started in the film room,” McCants said. “I knew the number two was on the ball. I called it out I had to jump the inside and the ball was right in my hands.”
Towson’s ensuing drive stalled, and O’Neill nailed another field goal to make the score 28-21 going into the fourth quarter.
The Tigers stymied the Black Bears with a third down stop to energize the crowd early in the final quarter. Simpson walked in from five yards out for a touchdown to tie the game midway through the period, the first time the Tigers did not trail since 2:57 in the first quarter.
Maine marched down the field on its next drive, taking advantage of two Towson penalties to get to midfield. Jefferson finished off the drive with his third touchdown of the game to regain the lead for the Black Bears.
The Tigers continued to fight back on their next drive with two consecutive plays resulting in first downs. Flacco followed this with a 14-yard keeper for the first down, putting the ball near the red zone. An offside penalty set Towson up at the goal line.
After timeouts by both teams, the Tigers ran a double reverse to Simpson, but the Black Bears read it all the way and took over on downs. Maine ran out the clock to secure the win.
“I congratulate the University of Maine,” Ambrose said. “Their guys fought hard. There’s no one that said the last two minutes of the Maine Towson game would be an important two minutes. It shows a lot of hard work on a lot of people’s parts.”
Next, the Tigers take their final road trip of the season to face Elon University Saturday at Rhodes Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.