Terps Top Towson, 28-3
By Simon Habtemariam
Maryland finished its non-conference schedule of the season with a 28-3 win against the Towson Tigers. For the first time, Maryland's two largest schools met on the gridiron in front of more than 35,000 fans at Capital One Field.
Rebounding from an embarrassing home loss to an underestimated Temple last week, head coach Randy Edsall wanted to make sure his young program did not underestimate an opponent many figured them to beat.
"I'm very proud of our players for getting that win," Edsall said. "Now, we can stay humble, and stay hungry, as we go on."
The matchup between Towson and Maryland has been in the making for five years. The Tigers have faced their first NCAA FBS programs each year since 2007, with losses to Navy, Northwestern, Indiana and now Maryland.
Saturday's game was the closest any FBS program has let Towson come to a win. Towson's offense (378 yards) outgained Maryland (335) and controlled the clock through most of the game.
"It's tough," sophomore quarterback Danny O'Brien said. "It was similar to last week, with our offense going so fast and then not getting the ball back for a while. It's hard to get the train rolling again. With the speed that we play, we have to get first downs."
In the end, a negative turnover ratio and penalties denied the Tigers a chance to remain competitive.
"We made too many mistakes to get a W," Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. "You can't turn the ball over that many times in a game and get a win."
Towson finished the game with four turnovers after beginning the season with three during their first three games.
Maryland opened the game marching down the field on the Tigers. O'Brien was able to manage Towson's defense with a series of underneath passes. He received some help from his backfield with Davin Meggett and D.J Adams combining for 34 yards on the ground. In the red zone, Adams got the call with a 15-yard touchdown run.
Towson's first offensive possession did not start so well. Peter Athens, starting for an injured Grant Enders, found an open James Oboh on the first play of the game for what would have been a first-down pass. Athens' pass went through the hands of his sophomore tight end. After a failed rush attempt and two yard sack, Towson was forced to punt after going three and out to start the game.
Maryland began its next possession with great field position after a 15-yard penalty on Towson for interfering on a fair catch. Maryland could not capitalize after that, going three and out on the drive.
Senior defensive tackle Marcus Valentine blocked Maryland's first field goal attempt of the game to set the Tigers up on the Towson 26.
Taking a page out of the Temple game, Ambrose's offense took to the ground on the following drive. Freshman tailback Terrence West and sophomore back Sterlin Phifer were able to attack the Maryland rush defense on the perimeters, but stalled at the Maryland 37-yard-line on an unsuccessful forth-down rush attempt by West.
Maryland looked to launch a counter offensive, but stalled just short of field goal territory. O'Brien again found some success in moving downfield on Towson, but Adams' attempt on fourth and one fell inches short of a first down.
"It's hard to get momentum going if you're not getting first downs," Edsall said. "Plus, we weren't getting off the field on defense on third downs."
Towson sustained a lengthy drive through the end of the first half. A crucial pass interference call saved Athens from an interception deep in Maryland territory. Facing second down with 23 yards to go, Athens was able to regroup the Tiger offense with 24-yard strike to Tom Ryan for a long first down to keep the Tigers' drive alive.
"It's always concerning when somebody sustains a nine-minute drive on you," Edsall said. "I think we had opportunities to get off the field on third down, and we didn't."
Maryland's defense was able to come up with the stop on third and goal with Towson inches away from the end zone and the Tigers settled for a field goal -- their only points of the game.
O'Brien could not get the Terrapin offense going during the second quarter, with only a little more than three minutes in time of possession. Towson's offense consumed the last nine minutes of the first half with a rollercoaster 16-play drive.
Hitting a few speed bumps with dropped passes and two penalties that each negated first downs, Athens ignited a flame in the Tiger offense finding Ryan again deep in Maryland 20. On a crucial third down play, Athens and Ryan were not able to put the Tigers in the end zone.
"Peter made the wrong read," Ambrose said. "If he made the right read, he would have scored a touchdown on that play. Tom didn't get deep enough, so the clock didn't stop."
With short time left and no timeouts, Towson's special teams unit rushed on to the field to attempt a quick field goal. The snap came off with one second left in the half but the kick sailed wide right.
"We left too many points on the field, period." Ambrose said.
Towson dominated the time of possession during the first half, 21:30 to Maryland's 8:30.
Penalties, especially procedural calls, killed any chance Towson had to take advantage of the Terrapin defense. Seven penalties, all of which were committed during the first half, set the Tigers back 77 yards.
"Honestly, offensively we were taking it to them in the first half," Ambrose said. "What annoys me is that I had to blow three timeouts because we were dumb."
Maryland's defense seized the momentum coming out of halftime. Senior linebacker Kenny Tate intercepted the first pass of the second half to set Maryland up for an eight-play, 45-yard touchdown drive. Meggett carried the Terrapins into the red zone with 29 yards off of four carries, and true freshman Justus Pickett pushed in a 5-yard rush through Towson's gut for the score.
Maryland silenced Towson's offense with another turnover early on the next possession, only to cough up the ball three plays later. Davin Meggett lost his first fumble in more than 200 carries on the play.
Going to the ground again, Towson moved into Maryland territory midway through the third quarter. Ambrose's offense was able to piece together another long series, but Athens' second interception of the game halted the Tigers at the Maryland 26-yard line.
"We had chances for touchdown passes and they were big," Ambrose said. "We put our defense in a hole."
Through three quarters, Maryland failed to convert five third-down attempts. But during the fourth, Maryland scored on its first offensive possession, forced its fourth turnover of the game, and held on to the ball for the win.
Saturday's game was the final non-conference game of the season for both teams. Towson will host conference powerhouse Richmond next week, as Maryland faces Georgia Tech.
Posted Oct. 1, 2011
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