Robbie Jackson, who did not score a touchdown in his first two years at Towson State, has turned into the team's chief offensive weapon.
Jackson, a 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior, has accounted for four of the Tigers' five touchdowns in losses to Rhode Island, 40-21, and Lehigh, 35-14, rushing for two scores each time. Tomorrow afternoon (1:30), Towson State will attempt to get in the win column at Delaware State (1-1).
For his two games, Jackson has averaged 5.4 yards on 35 carries (no other running back has more than six rushes) and is the leading receiver, with 13 catches for 84 yards.
Even though Jackson was the team's top rusher a year ago, the offense was pass-oriented, particularly when the team fell behind, as it did often during a 2-8 season. The speedster from Glen Allen, Va., and Richmond's Hermitage High School also was used on kickoff returns and finished among the national leaders in that category and in all-purpose yards.
The Tigers' new offensive coordinator, Harry Van Arsdale, said of Jackson: "He is a hard worker, with one characteristic that all the top running backs I know have -- he is totally selfless.
"He has a lot of assets -- good work ethics, good field of vision, quick feet -- and he does all he can to help make himself a better player."
Working in a new two-back offensive scheme, Jackson has touched the ball 48 times in 126 plays.
"That kind of responsibility is a challenge to make me do better. I like to have a large part of the offense revolve around me," Jackson said yesterday. "I want to touch the ball as many times as possible. The 20 carries on Saturday [against Lehigh] -- that ought to be a minimum."
One facet of his game -- returning kickoffs -- has disappeared this season. He says he'd like to do it again.
"Julian Blair is doing a good job, though. We're OK there," he said. Van Arsdale said the decision would keep Jackson from being bumped around unnecessarily.
Last year, Jackson shared the tailback position with Randy Nelson until the latter was hurt before the ninth game and the sophomore moved up to start against Delaware State and Youngstown State.
The Tigers were 1-7, going against a Delaware State team that was 7-2 and talking about the Division I-AA playoffs, but Towson State racked up a 35-17 victory, with Jackson running 24 times for 61 yards and catching four passes for 31 yards. Quarterback Chris Goetz was on target that day, completing 16 of 22 passes for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
"The fact they'll be fired up for us -- that ought to be in our favor," Jackson said. "They could be trying too hard, have something go wrong, and get out of their game plan. We could use that to our advantage.
"The way it goes -- you get involved as much mentally as physically. Before a game, I don't want any distractions. I get focused on what I'm going to do. You watch [game] films, your mind tells you you can do it, and you go out on the field and your body does it. If your mind doesn't want to do it, your body won't do it.
"It ends up being mind games -- strategies -- with players against players. For instance, I hope we pass a lot -- and I think Chris is a better passer now than a year ago -- because that will help get the run going," Jackson said.