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TOWSON, Md. – Towson University went into Saturday’s game against the University of Maine boasting the most prolific passing attack in all of Division I-AA.
While the Black Bears afforded the 17th-ranked Tigers plenty of yardage (290) through the air, it didn’t translate into production on the scoreboard.
UMaine forced three turnovers, registered nine sacks and neutralized Towson’s ground game on its way to a 28-7 Atlantic 10 football victory at rainy Johnny Unitas Stadium.
Coach Jack Cosgrove’s 3-2 Bears (2-0 A-10) won their second straight league road contest while snapping an eight-game road losing streak against ranked teams.
“We operated as a team very well,” Cosgrove said. “Offense, defense and special teams all had big roles in the game. Everybody had a little hand in it, which is a good feeling.”
Senior tailback Arel Gordon (14 carries, 102 yards) posted his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the young season and also made five catches for 22 yards.
Senior quarterback Ron Whitcomb added 74 yards on 14 attempts as UMaine accounted for 255 yards via the run. He also completed nine of 16 passes for 74 yards.
However, it was the ability of the Bears’ defense and special teams to make momentum-building plays that enabled them to hand Towson (4-1) its first loss.
Junior linebacker John Wormuth set the tone for UMaine with 11 tackles, including three of the Bears’ 15 tackles that resulted in a loss of yardage. Sophomore safety Jonathan Calderon registered 10 tackles and an interception.
Senior end Matt King also was a disruptive force with nine tackles, including four for a loss, two of them being quarterback sacks. Sophomore ‘backer Andrew Downey also made nine tackles.
“We had to go in and disrupt their passing game,” Cosgrove said. “We felt we could get to their quarterback. We were able to do that and it was huge.”
The Bears also avoided committing any turnovers for the first time in seven games, although they were whistled for nine penalties that cost them 111 yards.
UMaine scored on its second possession of the game, going 63 yards on seven plays. Whitcomb’s 12-yard scramble helped put the Bears in position for Gordon’s 32-yard scoring run off the right side with 5:00 left in the first quarter.
Towson threatened on its next series, but Downey forced Tigers QB Sean Schaefer (27-for-40, 290 yards) to fumble on a fourth-and-one play at the UMaine 40-yard line and Lamir Whetstone recovered.
Special teams accounted for the second TD when safety Alex Goyins (six tackles) broke in and blocked a punt by Bill Shears. Daren Stone (two sacks) scooped the ball up and took it 21 yards for a score.
The second of four Devin McNeill PAT kicks made it 14-0 with 10:40 to play in the first half.
Towson had two other first-half drives halted on sacks by Mike DeVito and Stone, respectively. The Tigers actually ran 16 consecutive plays, including the blocked punt, and took 26 of 29 snaps during a span of 121/2 minutes, but came away with no points.
“We were able to really disrupt him (Schaefer),” Cosgrove said. “There were a lot of makeup yards after penalties and sacks that they had to overcome and that doesn’t hurt you if they’re really not moving the football.”
The hosts got on the board on the opening possession of the second half. The Tigers moved 70 yards on 11 plays, capped by Schaefer’s 7-yard TD toss to Andrae Brown.
UMaine made sure it would keep the upper hand. Sparked by a 29-yard catch-and-run and then a 13-yard rush by Jhamal Fluellen and a pass interference penalty, Whitcomb capped an 80-yard march with a 2-yard dive that pushed the advantage back to two TDs with 5:29 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers needed only five plays on their next possession to get inside the UM-35. Again, the defense stiffened.
With the secondary blanketing TU receivers, Bruno Dorismond sacked Schaefer, causing him to fumble, and Derek Runnells recovered to halt the threat.
UMaine put the game out of reach with 2:24 remaining when Whitcomb’s 2-yard scoring run finished off a 70-yard drive.
The Bears return to Orono for back-to-back A-10 games, including Saturday’s 2 p.m. contest against Villanova (2-3, 1-1 A-10).
BLACK BEARS 28, TIGERS 7
Maine (3-2) 7 7 7 7 – 28
Towson (4-1) 0 0 7 0 – 7
M – Gordon 32 run (McNeill kick), 5:00.
M – Stone 21 blocked punt return (McNeill kick), 10:40.
T – Brown 8 pass from Schaefer (Desautels kick), 9:41.
M – Whitcomb 2 run (McNeill kick), 5:29.
M – Whitcomb 2 run (McNeill kick), 2:24.
First downs 18 22
Rushes-yards 36-255 37-41
Passing 74 290
Comp-Att-Int 9-16-0 27-40-1
Return Yards 51 12
Punts-Avg. 4-37.3 3-21.7
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 9-111 7-69
Time of Possession 25:43 34:17
Maine: Gordon 14-102, Whitcomb 14-74, Cotrone 2-40, Fluellen 3-25, Callahan 2-12, Brusko 1-2. Towson: N.Williams 16-63, McClaude 5-17, Bushrod 0-5, Castor 2-2, Harrison 1-(minus 1), Schaefer 13-(minus 45)
Maine: Whitcomb 9-14-0-74, Team 0-2-0-0. Towson: Schaefer 27-40-1-290
Maine: Gordon 5-22, Fluellen 3-44, Pierre 1-8. Towson: Yancey 8-80, Brown 6-89, Harrison 5-35, N.Williams 3-38, M.Lee 3-34, McClaude 2-14