TOWSON, Md. -- The No. 3/2 Towson University football team scored 41 consecutive points to overcome a 20-3 first-quarter deficit and defeat No. 19/18 University of New Hampshire, 44-28, Saturday afternoon at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
UNH is now 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the CAA while Towson, with its third consecutive win in the series, remains unbeaten at 6-0 2-0.
Harold Spears (Perkasie, Pa.) had four catches for a season-high 106 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown reception. R.J. Harris (Odenton, Md.) finished with eight receptions for 77 yards; he moved into No. 10 on UNH's career receptions list with 156 and now has 1,992 career receiving yards. Andy Vailas (Bedford, N.H.) was 18-for-29 for 194 yards and he had 51 rushing yards, including a 44-yard TD run.
Defensively, Hayden Knudson (Alexandria, Va.) led the Wildcats with 12 tackles and a pass breakup. Nick Cefalo (Basking Ridge, N.J.) finished with seven tackles, two fumble recoveries and a pass breakup.
Towson amassed 731 offensive yards with 352 on the ground and 379 passing yards. Terrance West rushed 28 yards for 238 yards and three TDs while Peter Athens led the aerial attack by completing 22 of 33 for 343 yards and two TDs. Spencer Wilkins (7 catches, 153 yds) and Leon Kinnard (6-102) were the top receivers.
UNH built a 20-3 lead less than nine minutes into the game with three TDs on seven offensive plays for a total of 131 yards that was fueled by two fumble recoveries by the Wildcats' defense.
On Towson's second play from scrimmage, Shane McNeely (Whitehall, Pa.) forced West to fumble and Cefalo recovered the ball on the TU 23. Three plays later, Steriti carried the ball around the left end for a nine-yard TD and the Mike MacArthur (North Hampton, N.H.) PAT made it 7-0 at 13:18.
The Tigers responded with a 10-play, 68-yard drive capped by a Drew Evangelista 37-yard field goal to pull within 7-3 at 8:44. New Hampshire had a quick response as Vailas connected with Harris for a 21-yard pass play and then the junior quarterback kept the ball and raced down the right side for a 44-yard touchdown. On the 2-point conversion, Vailas' pass to Spears was incomplete to keep the score 13-3 at 8:14.
Jullian Turner (East Pittsburgh, Pa.) forced West's second fumble of the game and Cefalo once again recovered the ball to give the 'Cats first down at the Towson 43. Following a 14-yard ground gain by Chris Setian (East Longmeadow, Mass.), UNH scored on a 29-yard pass play in which Jared Allison (Cliffwood, N.J.) took the ball on an end around to the right side but set himself to throw and connected with Spears, who was open at the goal line. MacArthur's PAT gave UNH a 20-3 advantage at 6:04.
Towson outscored the 'Cats 24-0 to take a 27-20 lead into halftime. The surge began on West's 50-yard gallop that trimmed the deficit to 20-10 at 10:56. The Tigers' defense forced a second consecutive 3-and-out and Towson gained possession at the UNH 27. Five plays later, West scored on a 1-yard plunge to lift the home team within 20-17 at 6:51.
UNH started its fifth consecutive possession inside its 20 with 1st-and-10 at the UNH 8 with 5:06 remaining in the second quarter. The Wildcats advanced the ball to the Towson 25 on the strength of consecutive Vailas completions to Justin Mello (Dartmouth, Mass.) and Spears of 15 and 25 yards, respectively. On the next player, however, Vailas kept the ball on the option and fumbled with Towson recovering.
Seven plays later, the Tigers took a lead they would not relinquish when Athens completed a pass to Wilkins in the front-right corner of the end zone and the ensuing PAT punctuated a 7-play, 75-yard drive that gave Towson a 24-20 lead with 44 seconds remaining in the first half.
UNH attempted to regain momentum heading into the half, but Setian, fighting for yardage, fumbled and TU recovered on the Wildcats' 44 with 15 seconds on the clock. Following a 12-yard completion and incompletion, D.J. Soven kicked a 49-yard field goal as time expired to extend the advantage to 27-20.
New Hampshire opened the third quarter with its third turnover of the game, as Vailas' pass ricocheted off Mello's hands into the hands of a defender. Six plays later, Athens found Emmanuel Holder in the right flat and he rumbled into the end zone to push the lead to 34-20 at 12:46.
The Wildcats, on the strength of a 36-yard pass play from Vailas to Spears, advanced the ball to the TU 11. Facing 4th-and-1 on the 2, Setian was stopped for no gain as the 'Cats lost possession on downs.
The Tigers escaped the shadows of their goal line on West's 60-yard run and Evangelista's 26-yard field goal made it 37-20 at 6:47 of the third quarter. West's third TD run of the day – second from 1-yard – closed the third-quarter scoring at 2:33.
A Sean Goldrich (West Haven, Conn.) to Mello 3-yard touchdown strike capped an 11-play, 65-yard drive – as well the game scoring – at 2:32.