ORONO — The University of Maine stood alone atop the Colonial Athletic Conference for one full week. Now the Black Bears find themselves in a three-way, two-week battle for the conference.
Towson rejoined the Black Bears in first place after its 40-30 win Saturday at Alfond Stadium. The Tigers rushed for 334 yards and forced three turnovers while never trailing to match Maine's 5-1 record in the conference.
The University of New Hampshire made it a three-way tie for first place with its 28-10 win over James Madison on Saturday.
Freshman Terrance West rushed for 184 yards and three touchdowns to lead Towson (7-2 overall). Junior Tremayne Dameron (19 carries, 110 yards) had a touchdown running and receiving and sophomore QB Grant Enders (10 rushes, 52 yards) added one score each on the ground and through the air.
"Towson came in here and played a solid football game," Maine coach Jack Cosgrove said. "We did some things that obviously we're not happy with. Turnovers and (five) penalties have not really been a part of us, although of late we have kind of dipped in that direction and they did factor into the football game."
Enders' passing also factored into the game at a point when Maine (7-2) was determined to stop the run.
With Towson leading 20-16 midway through the third quarter and faced with 2nd and inches at Maine's 33, Enders made a play-fake, rolled left and then threw a floater across the field to running back Tremayne Dameron, who was wide open on the far sideline inside the 20. With one man to beat and a blocker in front, Dameron busted into the end zone for the score that put Towson up, 26-16. Maine never got any closer.
"I didn't worry about catching it. I just didn't think I would be as open by the time it got to me," Dameron said.
"That's been in the vault for a while, a couple of weeks as a matter of fact. We just needed the right time to run it," Towson coach Rob Ambrose said. "The way they were defending some of our run game, it was just something that would be conducive for success if we executed it the right way."
Towson's running game was ranked first in the CAA going into the game, and it showed why early.
The Tigers went to West on five plays of a 10-play drive to get on the board first. The 220-pound freshman powered his way into the end zone on a 9-yard run with 7:24 left in the first quarter.
Maine tied it on its next series with a nine-play march covering 70 yards capped by Smith's 15-yard TD run.
Redshirt freshman David Hood (23 carries, 89 yards, TD), playing in place of senior starter Pushaun Brown (thigh injury), fumbled at Maine's 6 to set up the go-ahead touchdown for Towson. West ran two yards for his 20th touchdown of the season and made it 14-7 45 seconds into the second quarter.
The teams exchanged interceptions, then West gashed the Bears for a 48-yard run down to the Maine 19. Two plays later, Dameron ran through a big hole up the middle for a 19-yard touchdown.
"We knew what their offensive line would bring to the table. We knew they were probably the most athletic guys we'd faced, and we just got beat," senior nose tackle Raibonne Charles said. "We didn't step up and get it done today, especially on first and second down."
For the second time this season, Maine blocked the extra point attempt and returned it for two points. Michael Cole blocked D.J. Soven's kick and Trevor Coston scooped it up and went the distance to make it 20-9 Towson with 6:27 left in the first half.
Towson made up for that three-point swing on Maine's next drive when Marcus Valentine blocked Brian Harvey's 33-yard field goal attempt with 2:27 to go.
A short kickoff into the wind and Roosevelt Boone's 26-yard return gave the Black Bears great field position to start the second half. From Towson's 40, they converted on 3rd and 4 and 4th and 2 before a pass interference penalty in the end zone by Towson gave Maine 1st and goal at the 2. Two plays later, Hood went over the top from a yard and pulled Maine 20-16.
After Enders' TD pass to Dameron, Kenton Powell's interception and 31-yard return to Maine's 26 set up Towson's next score, a one-yard bootleg by Enders that put the Tigers up 33-16 with 13:28 to play.
The Black Bears answered quickly after a squib kick set them up at their own 47. On first down, Smith found Damarr Aultman over the middle. Surrounded by Tigers at Towson's 42, he spun out of the crowd and raced down the left side, cutting back inside the 5 to get into the end zone and pull Maine back within 10 points.
The defense gave Maine its lone chance to trim the deficit into single digits again when Erwin Roach recovered Enders' fumble on a strip sack by Cole at Towson's 27. But Smith completed only one of three passes for two yards and Cosgrove sent Harvey out to attempt a 42-yard field goal into the wind which fell short with 11:09 remaining.
"I'm disappointed in myself for taking the shot at the field goal, even though it was the right thing to do," Cosgrove said. "We did that a couple of times this week and he missed both of those in practice and I'm a big do it in a game, do it in practice (guy). We had life there. If we score one way or the other, it's a one-score game."
"Too many busted routes, drops, bad reads on my part," said Smith (26-for-41, 256 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs). "We still scored 30 points. If you take away the dumb things that we did that's very uncharacteristic of our offense this year, we would have put a lot more points up."
Towson put the game away on West's third touchdown of the day, a 6-yard run with 5:42 to go.
With two weeks remaining in the regular season, Maine hosts 5-4 Massachusetts next week, then faces rival UNH in Durham on Nov. 19.
"This one really hurts," Charles said. "But as far as this affecting the rest of the regular season or anything, no. We're still going to do what we do, one week at a time."