Regardless of what happens to the Towson State football program, the coaches and players have a sweet victory to savor for the last game of the 1990 season.
The Tigers rose up for one united effort and stopped Northeastern, 21-14, at Minnegan Stadium yesterday.
A chilled crowd of 1,010 watched the two teams who, at the start of the game, had identical 1-9 records, and were hampered by numerous injuries and off-field distractions.
Towson State's distractions, though, included the possibility that yesterday's game would be its last, as the football program is threatened with a shutdown.
Although Towson State appeared in control all of the way, Northeastern's two scoring drives -- both for 69 yards in nine plays -- kept the Huskies in contention.
The first drive came in the second quarter and more than offset two field goals by Glen Mattfeld; the other drive in the third closed the margin to 21-14. Then, the Huskies' Rico Rowell stopped a few Towson State hearts when he bobbled a pass reception at the Tigers' 11-yard line with 14 seconds left in the game.
Towson State defensive back Dustin Harper ended the threat when he intercepted Bill Barrale's pass with nine seconds on the clock. This was the final bitter pill for the Huskies, who had contributed to their own downfall by losing four of seven fumbles.
The passing game beat the running game yesterday, as the Tigers' Chris Goetz threw for 243 yards, and Northeastern gained 291 yards on the ground.
Towson State senior co-captain Dewey Barnes enjoyed his best day of the year, catching eight passes for 107 yards.
"This was special to me," he said, "and I went out the best way possible.
"We expected there would be a lot of holes on the single-receiver side and there were. Kevin Howard [two receptions for 44 yards] and I also came open on patterns underneath their coverage."
Said Towson State wide receivers coach Don Danley: "Our play-action really helped open the areas for Barnes. In earlier games, we were working off the other side, and he wound up clearing the way so the other receivers were open. This time, working against their particular defense, Dewey was the one we wanted to go to."
Senior quarterback Goetz, who has exploited Northeastern in his four games (2-2) against the Boston school, completed 22 of 31 passes, and scrambled 13 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter. He also ran for the two-point conversion, making the score, 14-7.
The touchdown by Goetz, who holds school records for the most attempts, completions and yardage by a quarterback, was his second of the season and the longest scoring run of his four-touchdown college career.
In his four-game series against Northeastern, Goetz completed 83 of 135 passes for 1,163 yards and four touchdowns, with three interceptions.
A 9-yard run by Jarrett Grier capped a six-play, 64-yard drive by the Tigers and produced a 21-7 lead four minutes into the second half.
"We had nine players out of the lineup who started the first game, it had been a tough fall on and off the field, and a lesser group would have packed it in a long time ago," said Towson State coach Phil Albert.
"We told them that if they stayed together, something good would happen, and it did. They played hard, stopped them when they had to, and got the turnovers."
The Tigers' Chad Yagodich, Mike Locksley, Tom Thomson, and Gary Worthington all recovered fumbles.
"We had good defensive schemes against their option game and really ganged up on them," Worthington said. "It wasn't just the linebackers, but the backs, like Locksley, Harper, [Gary] Hatcher and [Mike] Moffa [who] came up hard."
Junior linebacker James Dutton led the Tigers in tackles with 14, followed by linemen Joe Kreisher and Doug Irvin with 10 apiece.
"It speaks well for our young linemen, who have really improved over the season," Dutton said.