Senior quarterback Peter Athens completed 13 of 15 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns as the fifth-ranked Towson University football team scored on four straight possessions in the second half of a 48-28 victory over Fordham University Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium in the second round of the NCAA FCS playoffs.
The Tigers, now 11-2, set a school record with their 11th win, and will now face Eastern Illinois in the FCS quarterfinals next weekend in Charleston, Ill.
“Fordham is a very good team and we knew that going in,” said head coach Rob Ambrose. “But there is a really, really good team in our locker room that is still playing.”
On the opening drive of the second half, with the score tied at 21, the Tigers took a lead they would never relinquish when they drove 76 yards in only four plays. Athens’ 46-yard touchdown pass to freshman Andre Dessenberg gave the Tigers a 28-21 advantage. It was Dessenberg’s first touchdown of his TU career.
Later in the third quarter, TU senior Alexander DiSanzo recovered a Fordham fumble on the Tigers’ 46-yard line to set up another touchdown drive. Nine plays later, junior Terrance West scored on a five-yard run to give the Tigers a 35-21 lead with five minutes remaining in the period.
Early in the fourth quarter, Athens directed an efficient 70-yard, eight-play touchdown drive. With just under 11 minutes remaining, West scored his third touchdown of the contest on a 14-yard run to give Towson a 42-21 advantage. It was West’s 34th touchdown of the season—a mark that leads all NCAA college players.
The Rams pulled the score to 42-28, but late in the quarter a 22-yard touchdown run by freshman Darius Victor—his second of the game—put the Tigers ahead, 48-28. Towson’s extra point attempt was blocked. In the game’s final minutes, the Rams drove to the Tigers’ five-yard line. But a fourth-down sack by sophomore Jon Desir caused a fumble and Ryan Delaire recovered for the Tigers, who then ran out the clock.
The Colonial Athletic Association Offensive Rookie of the Year, Victor ran for a career high 105 yards on 12 carries and one touchdown. Victor also caught one pass for 41 yards. The leading rusher in the FCS, West was held to 76 yards on 24 carries. He scored three touchdowns and has now scored at least one touchdown in 14 straight games.
Athens’ three touchdowns were a career high. Dessenberg led the Tigers with a career-best three catches for 94 yards and a touchdown. Athens completed passes to eight different receivers. Senior linebacker Monte Gaddis and sophomore safety Christian Carpenter led the Tigers defensively with 10 tackles each.
“I say this time and time again: it is not a one-quarter game or a one-play game,” said Ambrose. “It’s 60 minutes. We went into halftime, talked about what happened and what didn’t happen, wiped away the first half and said we were just going to play ball for 30 minutes and get back to what we do. The team you saw in the third quarter was the team you saw in the first quarter.”