Old Dominion was holding a 35-24 lead and looked to be heading for a big win over another surprise CAA contender. However, this Tigers team has something special going and they quickly moved down the field and cut into the lead when quarterback Grant Enders scored from eight yards out. The 75-yard drive took nine plays and when wide receiver Leon Kinnard hit Mike Evans with a 2-point conversion pass, the score was 35-32 with 3:13 left.
Anyone left from the announced crowd of 19,818 knew the onside kick was coming, but D.J. Soven struck a perfect ball and Corey Ford recovered at the Towson 45-yard line. The Tigers picked up a first down but then ran into trouble. After a painful 2nd down sack forced Enders out for one play, he came back in to face fourth-and-29 with 1:07 to play. From his own 37, Enders rolled out and targeted wide receiver Tom Ryan, who fought his way through traffic to make the grab at the ODU 30-yard line. Ryan broke a tackle and then followed blocks from Kinnard and Alex Blake before battling his way into the end zone.
The comeback capped a wild game featuring four lead changes and over 1,000 yards of total offense. Despite ODU's five sacks, Enders finished 24-37 for 314 yards in addition to the late touchdown scamper as the Tigers remained in first place in the CAA, tied with Maine with identical records of 5-1, 3-0 in conference.
“I’m very glad I got back into the game,” Enders said. “I just told my guys to run a deep out and get to the first down sticks. All the credit goes to Tom. He made a tremendous play.
Freshman sensation Terrance West got things started early with a 47-yard touchdown run as Towson jumped out to a 7-0 lead after moving 81 yards in five plays on their first drive. The Monarchs tied things at 7 before West struck again, this time from 54 yards to give the Tigers a 14-7 lead with 4:14 left in the first quarter.
Towson didn't have monopoly on big plays or talented freshmen, however, as ODU evened things at 14 apiece on Angus Harper's 64-yard touchdown run, the longest in the short history of ODU football.
The freshmen kept making plays on ODU's next possession as quarterback Taylor Heinicke hit Nick Mayers for a short completion on 4th and 6 in Towson territory that Mayers turned from a first down conversion into a 36-yard touchdown pass. The TD gave the Monarchs their first lead, and when Soven nailed a 47-yard field goal, the game went to the half at 21-17.
The third quarter shaped up a game of Can You Top This? Towson quickly moved 64 yards in 8 plays with Enders finishing things with a 26-yard toss to Tyler Wharton. ODU came back with 75 yards in 9 plays and Heinicke closed it out on a 14-yarder to Prentice Gill. The Tigers moved right back down into the red zone before Enders made a mistake that appeared to cost Towson the game. Carvin Powell picked off the Towson QB's pass in the end zone. Instead of being back in the league, the Tigers seemed a bit shaken and the Monarchs took advantage. Heinicke hit Gill again and the wide receiver broke free. He was caught from behind inside the Towson five but his pounced on his own fumble in the end zone to give ODU a 35-24 lead.
Towson drove deep into ODU territory again in the 4th quarter. On 4th and 3 at the ODU 10, instead of kicking a field goal to make it a one score game at 35-27, coach Ambrose decided to go for the first down but the Monarch defense was up to the task and Towson turned it over on downs.
At this point, the crowd of nearly 20,000 expected the home team to close out the win, but Towson has been defying expectations all season and the cameras were rolling.
“I have coached at a lot of good places with a lot of good football teams and a lot of good football players,” says Coach Rob Ambrose. “But I have never been as proud as I am with this team. My guys have a ton of character. They won’t quit and they show tremendous poise under fire.”
West finished the game with a career high 148 yards on 16 carries and the two touchdown runs. On the strength of those efforts, he was named CAA Rookie of the Week for the third time. The frosh has now amassed 11 touchdowns on the season including scored six in the last two games for Towson.
West has been added to the watch list for the Sports Network's Jerry Rice Award, which will be presented to their choice as the best freshman in FCS.
Other CAA nominees for the Rice award:
R.J. Harris, New Hampshire, WR, 6-0, 194
Eriq Lewis, Old Dominion, CB, 6-0, 180
Dillon Lucas, Villanova, LB, 6-0, 215
New Hampshire At William & Mary
New Hampshire headed to Williamsburg leading the CAA behind an offensive juggernaut. With the Tribe offense struggling and starting their third different quarterback in seven games, it looked like good things were in store for Coach McDonnell’s birthday. However, it appears that something strange happens to the Wildcats when they see the green and gold jerseys of William & Mary because they just can’t seem to play well against them.
UNH had no problem moving the ball all day and looked poised to jump out early but kicker Mike MacArthur missed a chip shot from 27 yards in the first quarter. Soon after, the Tribe defense stopped the Wildcats on downs at the 22-yard line after senior defensive end Marcus Hyde dropped Kevin Decker for the first of his school record five sacks. The visitors finally broke through for a 3-0 lead after MacArthur hit from 37 from then the game took a turn.
So far this season, the Tribe offense has struggled to put points on the board. It has mainly been due to the lack of production at quarterback, but it had really been evident in the lack of big plays. Without being able to hit some big gainers, it’s awfully tough for an uneven offense to march it’s way down the field consistency.
We’ll know if it was just an aberration in future weeks, but the Tribe suddenly found some success on Saturday. After the field goal, the College answered back quickly as Grimes took a screen pass, fought through four or five tackles right along the sideline and then broke free all the way to the end zone for a 72-yard touchdown. Suddenly, the Tribe was up 7-3 after having been dominated for the first 28 minutes of the game.
That optimism was quickly squashed as Decker led the Wildcats right back down the field for a 90 yard touchdown drive over eight plays. The touchdown came with 8 seconds left in the half as Decker found RJ Harris, who made a great leaping catch over a Tribe defender and managed to get a foot down in the left side of the end zone.
When the College stopped UNH on downs again to start the second half, the ominous feeling returned for many Wildcat fans. Soon after the big play struck again as Caprio hit Grimes on a rather harmless looking screen pass in the right flat, but Grimes found a seam, cut left and went 50 yards untouched into the end zone for a 14-10 Tribe lead.
The UNH offense continued to move the ball, but Decker made another mistake and the Tribe picked him off deep in W&M territory. Again, the offense took advantage and the Wildcat defense fell flat as Keith McBride broke through for a 50-yard touchdown run to give the Tribe a 21-10 advantage early in the 4th quarter.
Drake Kuhn nailed a career-long 45-yarder for a 24-10 lead with just over 6 minutes left and when UNH turned it over again on a fumbled lateral at the W&M 24, the upset was complete.
It was a stunning turn of events for the Wildcats, who rolled up 517 yards of offense, but had two fumbles, two interceptions and two other turnovers on downs. Add in a short missed field goal and UNH only has themselves to blame for the loss. Decker went 34-50 for a career-high 422 yards and a touchdown, but the two interceptions and failure to convert on 4th downs twice doomed the Wildcat offense.
On the flip side, it was a historic day for the Tribe. While amassing 169 yards on 29 carries, the senior broke Derek Fitzgerald’s W&M career rushing record. Grimes also fell a yard short of the school single-game all-purpose yards record with 323. For his efforts, Grimes was named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week.
Hyde also had a record day with his five sacks to go along with six tackles for loss a forced fumble and a pass breakup. For his efforts, he was named the College Sporting News national defensive player of the week as well as the CAA defensive player of the week. Given the success he had against UNH’s offensive line, our faithful contributor Peter Colby wondered, “Taking nothing away from Hyde's great performance, one has to question why oh why didn't UNH have a tight end chip at Hyde in order help out the second string D Tackle trying to handle Hyde all by himself?” Why, indeed.
Not to be forgotten in the win were William & Mary’s special teams, especially the punting game, which had really struggled in recent weeks but was mistake-free on Saturday. Also solid in his second career start was Caprio, who was 7-11 for 167 yards, although 122 of those came on the two big touchdown plays.
Villanova At James Madison
The final score said 34-10, but Villanova threw a scare into the 25,047 fans gathered at Bridgeforth Stadium on Homecoming last Saturday. In a game that wasn’t expected to be close, the Wildcats held a 10-6 third quarter lead before the Dukes surged to the lopsided victory.
Villanova had a chance late in the first quarter after moving deep into JMU territory, but now-healthy quarterback Dustin Thomas was picked off at the JMU five-yard line. After getting a stop, the visitors took over again at the Villanova 33 and marched 67 yards in 11 plays. Thomas completed the drive with a 2-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Miles and the Wildcats had a surprising 7-0 lead with 8:53 left in the second quarter.
JMU started at the 24 and moved 76 yards in five quick plays, culminated with tailback Jordan Anderson rumbling in from 22 yards out. However, when Cameron Starke banged the PAT attempt off the left upright, the score would stay at 7-6. JMU had one more chance before halftime, but an ill-advised option pass attempt was picked off in the end zone with 30 ticks left before haltime.
After the break, the Wildcats took the kickoff and moved into field goal range before Mark Hamilton converted from 41 yards, giving the visitors a 10-6 lead and causing some squirming in the stands at Bridgeforth. However, the rest of the game was all Dukes.
JMU rolled 73 yards in 9 plays with Jace Edwards hitting on a 41-yard completion to Daniel Brown before Anderson again punched it in for the 13-10 lead. After forcing a quick Villanova punt, the Dukes went 87 yards in 8 plays for a 20-10 lead. At this point the JMU defense was assuming control and forced a turnover on downs on the next possession.
Just over two minutes into the 4th quarter, Edwards hit Kerby Long around midfield and after making the leaping catch, the senior wide receiver broke a couple of tackles and streaked to the end zone for an 80-yard scoring play. The longest Dukes play in 8 seasons made it 27-10 JMU and the rest was history.
JMU finished with 456 yards of total offense while holding the Wildcats to 234 and held an 8 minute advantage in time of possession. Jace Edwards was a solid 9-12 for 203 yards as he continues to improve at quarterback.
JMU to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in CAA play while Villanova dropped to 0-4 in conference standings and 1-6 overall.
Massachusetts At Delaware
As I said in last week’s preview, Massachusetts can’t win the CAA title, but they could have a big impact on who did. In the last matchup of one of the more entertaining rivalries in Yankee/CAA history, the Minutemen went down to Newark, DE and did just that. Jumping out to a 21-0 lead they never relinquished, UMass struck a blow against the Blue Hens playoff hopes and served notice to the CAA contenders on the rest of their schedule.
UMass took advantage of the wind in the first quarter and the 21-0 lead was the first time Delaware had faced such an early deficit since 1975. Relable running back Jonathan Hernandez put the Minutemen ahead on their first drive and Emil Igwenagu made it 14-0 after a six-yard catch soon after. When Julian Talley scored from three yards out to make it 21-0, the Minutemen had scored on all three first-quarter drives and put up more first quarter points than Delaware had allowed in their first six games total.
The Blue Hens rallied though, cutting the lead to 21-7 on a 14-yard touchdown from Tim Donnelly to tight end Nick Boyle. When they followed that with a Sean Baner 27-yard field goal in the last minute before halftime, the 21-10 deficit seemed manageable.
The second half was scoreless, as neither team could get much going offensively. The half was arguably controlled by the UMass special teams, as the Minutemen placed six punts at or inside the Delaware 20. In fact, the Blue Hens started all 15 drives inside their own territory and only advanced to the UMass 13 on the final play of the game.
“You just can’t spot a team 21 points and think it will come out okay,” said Delaware head coach K.C. Keeler. “Mentally we were not as sharp as we needed to be and they took advantage of the wind (25 miles per hour at their back) in that first quarter. They made some big plays and kept us off-balance.”
The win was the first for UMass over a ranked team since Oct. 30 last year when the Minutemen upset No. 15 James Madison, 21-14. It was their first win over a top 10 team since beating No. 4 William & Mary in the 2010 season opener.
Kellen Pagel threw for 245 yards on 20-39 passing, while Darren Thellen had a pair of interceptions for the second straight game.
"Both picks were pressure picks and he made nice athletic plays to go up and get the ball," coach Kevin Morris said. "A lot of it was the pressure on the quarterback and he was in the right place at the right time ... The No. 1 factor is the turnover margin. We had three in our favor."
Delaware lost for just the second time in its last 16 home games dating back to 2009 and fell for just the fourth time in 16 meetings all-time vs. UMass in?Newark.
“I thought the whole first half we played hesitant and had some poor tackling,” said Delaware junior linebacker Paul Worrilow, who posted nine tackles. “You just can’t put your offense in that kind of hole. We played better after that first quarter but we still didn’t cause any turnovers. You can’t put that much pressure on your offense.”
Blue Hen quarterback Tim Donnelly continued to be inconsistent completed 14 of 30 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown but threw two interceptions and was sacked twice. As was evident in the Maine game, the Delaware offense struggles to put points on the board when Donnelly doesn’t play well.
It looked like the win would come at a heavy price as Hernandez missed half of the game with a brusied forearm, but he announced that he will be ready for UNH on Saturday.
Minuteman redshirt freshman Ryan Delaire was ejected in the first half for taking a swing at a Blue Hen. After reviewing the play, UMass has suspended Delaire for this week’s game against New Hampshire.
MY TOP 25
My Week 6 Top 25:
1: North Dakota State Bison
2: Montana State Bobcats
3: Northern Iowa Panthers
4: Wofford Terriers
5: Georgia Southern Eagles
6: Towson Tigers
7: Montana Grizzlies
8: Maine Black Bears
9: James Madison Dukes
10: New Hampshire Wildcats
11: Lehigh Mountain Hawks
12: Sam Houston State
13: Appalachian State Mountaineers
14: Indiana State Sycamores
15: Jacksonville State Gamecocks
16: Liberty Flames
17: Delaware Blue Hens
18: Old Dominion Monarchs
19: William & Mary Tribe
20: Eastern Washington Eagles
21: Richmond Spiders
22: Norfolk State Spartans
23: Samford Bulldogs
24: Harvard Crimson
25: Brown Bears
Not a lot of changes this week as most of the top 15 won last Saturday. Still 8 CAA teams in the poll but that should start to thin out in the weeks ahead. It is still difficult to fill out the bottom 5 teams or so and the at-large pool for the FCS playoffs looks like it’s going to be pretty thin once again.
Maine 3-0 5-1
Towson 3-0 5-1
James Madison 3-1 5-2
UMass 2-1 4-2
New Hampshire 2-1 4-2
Old Dominion 2-2 5-2
Delaware 2-2 4-3
William & Mary 2-2 4-3
Richmond 0-3 3-3
Rhode Island 0-3 1-5
Villanova 0-4 1-6
Last week’s results definitely threw a wrench in the mix in terms of playoff expectations. Clearly, Maine sits in the catbird seat with Towson, but I can’t put either team in the lock category because both squads have challenging schedules the rest of the way. JMU has a needed bye but finishes with road games at ODU, UNH and UMass in three of the last four weeks. New Hampshire looked to be the CAA favorite before laying the egg in Williamsburg and with UMass, JMU, Towson and Maine still on the slate, the Wildcats have a lot of work to do. ODU was seconds away from being just about a lock, but the heartbreak against Towson leaves them with less margin for error as their non-conference schedule might keep them out at 7-4. The Tribe kept themselves in the mix, but need to follow it up with a win over Towson to start getting legitimate consideration again. In short, just about anything can still happen in this league and there’s too many playoff scenarios to even go down that road. I’m trying to figure out how many teams could finish 7-4. This weekend’s games should start weeding things out. I hope…
THIS WEEK’S GAMES
(JMU has a bye)
Old Dominion at Villanova
The Monarchs have a tough task to bounce back from the loss to Towson, but the schedule has been kind by handing them Villanova. However, they need to be careful as the Wildcats showed some signs of improvement last week at JMU. Old Dominion has more talent at the skill positions and more depth, but that have had lapses in every game and iut has now cost them twice. Villanova doesn’t have enough veteran leadership to take advantages of these opportunities and the Monarchs will escape with a win.
ODU 31 Villanova 20
Delaware at Rhode Island
The Blue Hens lackluster effort at home last week raises some red flags for the rest of the season. As I said last week, this Delaware team is great at anything and that means they need to play well in all phases to win games. If they don’t, Tim Donnelly isn’t playing at a high enough level to carry the team to a win. Normally, you would expect Delaware to head north and dispatch the Rams, but Rhode Island showed plenty of fight at Maine last week and can give KC Keeler’s troops plenty of trouble in Kingston on Saturday. Look for a close game much of the way with Delaware eventually wearing down the home team and staying in the playoff chase with a narrow victory.
First Staters 23 Ocean Staters 20
Maine at Richmond
Maine Is 3-0 in the CAA and Richmond is 0-3 in league, but these two teams don’t feel anywhere near that far apart and I expect a pretty good battle in the capital on Satruday afternoon. Richmond is coming off a well-needed after some tough losses and will look to keep their season alive by knocking off the first-place Black Bears. Both teams have balanced, explosive offenses and should be able to move the ball and put points on the board. However, the Richmond defense has shown more holes and Warren Smith and Pushaun Brown should be able to have their way with the Spiders on that side of the ball. Unfortunately for the home team, I think we’re looking at a similar result to what they’ve seen so far.
Black Bears 31 Spiders 27
New Hampshire vs. Massachusetts
The Colonial Clash returns to Gillette Stadium for the second consecutive year as these two Yankee Conference foes do battle for the last time. Both teams are coming off surprise results last Saturday and the Minutemen will look to impact the CAA title chase for the second week in a row as they try to knock off the suddenly vulnerable Wildcats. I was tempted to call it the game of the week, but with the Minutemen ineligible for the playoffs, it diminishes the potential impact of the result.
There is no love lost between these teams and Massachusetts is coming into this game with some confidence after last week’s win at Delaware. Pagel has been efficient throwing the ball and it’s clear after last week’s effort against William & Mary that the Wildcats defense is porous in the secondary. While Decker will probably put up his usual big numbers, I see the Minutemen taking the final installment of an entertaining rivalry.
UMass 34 UNH 31
Towson at William & Mary
The Tigers will take almost exactly the same trip as last weekend, but will get off Route 64 a little earlier and head to Williamsburg. Normally, it has been a good plan to have Towson lined up for Homecoming, but the William & Mary alumni were not expecting to see a team currently tied for first in the CAA. Meanwhile, preseason CAA favorites have struggled to a 4-3 start but are buoyed with new confidence from last week’s win over New Hampshire. For the first time all year, the Tribe offense showed some big play capability and I expect they will continue to move the ball against a Towson defense that has also shown some holes. The question is on the other side of the ball. More and more, this just feels like a magical run that Coach Ambrose and his squad are in the midst of and they have to be feeling somewhat bulletproof after the escape at ODU last week.
The Tigers are in the midst of a remarkable turnaround and have already won more games than they have in any full season since 2006. They rushed for 220 yards at Old Dominion, the fifth time in six games that Towson went over the 200 mark. Freshman Terrance West has been leading the running game and will give the Tribe defense fits.
I know the Tribe defense is technically the best scoring defense in the league, but a lot of that comes from style of play on offense and the ability to force turnovers on defense. Considering that Towson is 2nd in the league in turnover margin this year, something has got to give. In this matchup, I think it’s the Tribe. Towson has never beaten William & Mary, but there’s a first time for everything.
Tigers 31 Tribe 23
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On a personal note, college football lost a big fan on Thursday night. My grandmother, Mary Burke, was born in Columbus, Ohio and was a big Ohio State Buckeye fan her whole life. She will be missed.
Enjoy the games this weekend and always feel free to offer thoughts, advice, criticism and scouting reports at email@example.com.