WILLIAMSBURG, Va. -- In a clash between ranked Colonial Athletic Association playoff hopefuls, Towson rode a dominant defensive performance to a 15-9 victory over William & Mary on Saturday.
Towson (9-2, 5-2 CAA) and its high-octane offense was slowed by the Tribe's conference-best defense in the first half.
However, the Tigers seized the momentum in the second half behind a pair of gritty performances by quarterback Peter Athens and running back Terrance West, and withstood a furious final drive by William & Mary to emerge victorious.
For the majority of the game, the Tribe (7-4, 4-3), ranked No. 16 in the Football Championship Subdivision, held No. 10 Towson's offense in check before the Tigers broke through in the second half. Towson tailback Terrance West was harassed early and often, but still managed to rush for 157 yards with two touchdowns to eclipse the 4,000-yard career rushing milestone.
While West was contained in the first half, Athens kept the chains moving for the Towson offense at crucial times, scrambling for a handful of first downs. Athens finished with 94 yards on a nine-for-18 performance through the air, and 39 yards on the ground.
As the Tigers offense slowly put together a series of plays, the Tigers defense halted the William & Mary rushing attack. The Tribe strung together a series of long first-half drives but all three stalled short of the end zone, resulting in three field goals.
Sophomore tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor led the Tribe offense with 105 yards on 20 carries, his sixth 100-yard rushing performance of the season. Quarterback Brent Caprio and the Tribe's aerial attack was mostly silent, and did not score a touchdown on the afternoon.
The Tribe jumped out to an early 3-0 lead, but Towson used a methodical 11-play, 72-yard drive capped by a 1-yard West touchdown run to take a 7-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Tribe responded with a pair of John Carpenter field goals to claim a 9-7 halftime lead.
The Tigers needed a bit of trickery to score the go-ahead points. On fourth-and-9 from the 13, Towson backup quarterback Connor Frazier took the snap on a fake field-goal attempt and rumbled up the middle for a crucial first down. Tailback Terrence West sprinted in for a 3-yard score, and the Tigers converted a bizarre two-point conversion to take a 15-9 lead with 1:25 remaining in the third.
The Tigers defense cemented the victory with a crucial interception midway through the fourth quarter. Caprio launched a long pass down the left sideline, looking for wideout Tre McBride. Instead, Towson cornerback Donnell Lewis jumped the route, collected the ball and recorded his team-leading third interception of the season.
William & Mary drove the ball down to the Towson 43 late in the fourth quarter, and Caprio launched a fourth down pass to McBride near the end zone that would have resulted in a sure touchdown, but Towson cornerback Jordan Love broke up a would-be touchdown pass to seal the victory.
Notes: Towson greatly improved its FCS playoff hopes with the victory. ... William & Mary's postseason hopes will likely hinge on next week's game against Richmond.