TOWSON, Md. — Maine entered Saturday night’s football game at Towson searching for any measure of offensive consistency.

In a 27-24 win over the Tigers,  the Black Bears may have found their long-term solution at quarterback.

Redshirt sophomore Dan Collins hit Jordan Dunn for a 37-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-8 with 52 seconds left, capping a stunning drive for the Black Bears, who seemed destined for a second-half collapse in their Colonial Athletic Association opener.

“Their safeties got real, real wide, so I knew I had down the middle of the field,” Collins said. “I saw Dunn shooting right down the middle and beat the linebacker. He made a great catch, and the rest is history.”

A 48-percent passer entering the night, Collins finished 19 of 29 for a career-high 225 yards and two touchdowns.  He was 5 of 5 on fourth-down attempts for a team that entered the game converting just 20 percent of third-down attempts.

“There’s no explanation for that,” Coach Jack Cosgrove said. “We came up with a great win for our program, coming down here in the first CAA game of the year. For a young football team, something like this can really be special.”

Maine (2-2) avoided its first three-game losing streak since 2007 by surviving a memorable rushing performance by the Tigers.

Paced by sophomore back Darius Victor, Towson racked up 254 yards on the ground, including 191 in the second half, overcoming a 10-point halftime deficit with 14 unanswered points to seemingly seal the win.

Victor finished with 131 yards on 28 carries with two touchdowns for the Tigers (2-3, 0-1 CAA), who a year ago advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision title game.

In the fourth quarter, however, defense and a little bit of good luck helped turn the tide.

First, with Towson leading by four and driving inside the 10 midway through the quarter, linebacker Christophe Mulumba Tshimanga sacked and stripped Tigers quarterback Connor Frazier. Defensive end Trevor Bates recovered and ran it back to midfield.

Though the Black Bears ultimately were forced to punt, they remained within one score.

Minutes later, Towson’s Sam Hurwitz pushed a 45-yard field goal attempt wide right.

Maine got the ball back with 2:39 left, and Collins went to work, completing a fourth-and-10 pass to Jared Osumah and a fourth-and-9 pass to tight end Jeremy Salmon.

“We made plays when we had to at the end of the game,” Cosgrove said. “I just credit the guys for hanging in there.”

Then, on fourth-and-7 at Towson’s 37 with 59 seconds left, Collins dropped back and fired over the middle to Dunn, who was perched between two defenders. The sophomore caught the ball near the goal line, turned and dove into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

“I had a feeling Dan was going to throw to me because of the coverage,” Dunn said. “He threw a nice ball, and I was able to hold onto it after I took the hit.

The play ended a night in which Maine gained 272 of its 318 offensive yards through the air. True freshman Nigel Beckford added a pair of short touchdown runs in the first half – the Black Bears’ first two rushing scores this season, and tailback Nigel Jones, seeing his first action since suffering a concussion late in the game against Bryant, finished with 38 yards on 12 carries.

But this night was about Collins.

He completed 11 of his first 12 passes, including a pair of fourth-down conversions to wide receiver Damarr Aultman.

By late in the second quarter, Maine had scored more points (13) then in any of its three previous games.

Collins said the offense had something to prove following three lackluster performances to begin the season.

“We felt we needed to be disciplined on offense. When it’s game time, we need to be able to perform,” he said.

“We believed we were going to get the fourth down no matter what.”

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.