FCS Football News
Safety the difference as Lehigh surprises Towson
Towson, MD (Sports Network) - An offensive shootout came down to a defensive play as Lehigh knocked off Towson, 40-38, in the second round of the FCS playoffs Saturday.
Defensive end Tom Bianchi tackled Towson quarterback Grant Enders in the end zone for a safety with 5:14 remaining, giving the Patriot League champion Mountain Hawks (11-1) the win against CAA Football champion Towson (9-3).
The Mountain Hawks will travel to North Dakota State (11-1) next weekend for the quarterfinal round.
Prior to Bianchi's game-winning safety, the match-up of conference champions lived up to the hype as an offensive-dominated showcase.
Combining for 722 yards of total offense, Lehigh and Towson traded scores throughout the game.
Entering the half tied at 17, each team scored three second-half touchdowns before the safety made the difference.
New Hampshire fumbled on the opening drive of the second half, setting up a short field for Towson, which capitalized with a one-yard touchdown run by Terrance West - his FCS-leading 29th score of the season - with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
Lehigh running back Matt Fitz, who passed for a touchdown earlier in the game, responded with his first rushing score of the game, capping an 11-play, 64- yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run at the 6:05 mark of the third quarter.
Towson avoided disaster on its next possession, recovering a fumble that would have put Lehigh in prime scoring position. On the play after the fumble recovery, which was pounced on by West, Towson connected for a 68-yard completion on third-and-15. The next play, quarterback Grant Enders scored a 5-yard touchdown with 1:25 left in the quarter.
Fitz rushed for a one-yard touchdown on the ensuing series, capping another long drive (60 yards) with 13:53 remaining in the fourth quarter
Known as a run-oriented team, Towson responded with a long passing play, as Enders found Gerald Sheppard for a 52-yard touchdown with 12:36 left.
Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum, who passed for 351 yards, then closed out the offensive scoring with a one-yard quarterback sneak to tie the game at 38 with 8:17 remaining.
In a game of contrasting offensive styles, the teams traded scores in the first half, entering the break tied at 17.
After thwarting Towson's fake punt attempt on the game's opening drive, Lehigh took an early lead on a 22-yard field goal by Tim Divers.
Towson responded with a field goal of its own, a 45-yarder. After that, the teams started trading first-half touchdowns.
After Towson's field goal, Lehigh drove 68 yards over the course of 3:14 to take a 10-3 lead on a 6-yard touchdown connection from Lum to Spadola.
The Mountain Hawks had a chance to build on the lead after stopping Towson on the ensuing drive, but were stuffed on a fourth down, a ruling that wasn't confirmed until the officials brought out the chains.
While the measurement was just short for Lehigh, Towson converted on fourth down the next series, eventually setting up a 11-yard touchdown run by West.
On the ensuing kickoff, it was ruled Lehigh freshman Jason Suggs took a knee at the one-yard line, rather than in the end zone for a touchback. However, the Mountain Hawks went on to complete the 99-yard drive - all through the air - finally scoring on a trick-play touchdown pass by Fitz.
Towson responded to Lehigh's air-based, 99-yard drive with a 13-play, 67-yard march, securing 64 yards on the ground before finding Leon Kinnard for a short touchdown pass.
12/03 20:13:23 ET