It's no coincidence that the two most successful seasons in Frostburg State's football history followed the arrival of Rory McTigue, a guy the Bobcats had as much trouble getting into a uniform as opponents have had keeping out of the end zone.
McTigue is a 6-foot, 195-pound fullback who will end up as the Bobcats' all-time leading rusher if he can maintain his current pace of 135 yards per game. He will be one of the headliners tomorrow (1:30 p.m.), when Frostburg State (2-1) travels to Salisbury State (1-1) to face its oldest and fiercest rival.
Since 1989, Frostburg State has gone 20-4 and averaged nearly 32 points. A typical ball-control victory -- the Bobcats set an NCAA Division III record last year with only 2.4 punts per game -- has had McTigue supply a dozen or so 4-yard dives, the occasional longer gain and a touchdown or two.
Two days before the start of practice in 1989, Bobcats coach Dennis Riccio finally learned he would have McTigue, who spent the previous year working on his grade-point average at Montgomery Junior College in Rockville. The autumn before that, McTigue played at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
"At the end of my first year, I realized that the military life wasn't for me," McTigue said. "I still wanted to play college football, I just wasn't sure where."
There were plenty of takers after his 1986 season at Good Counsel High in Wheaton, where McTigue gained more than 1,200 yards and was the MVP of Washington's rugged Metro Conference. He signed a letter of intent with James Madison University, which was negated by his acceptance into the Coast Guard Academy.
McTigue was a starting halfback and even played some baseball at the academy, but he didn't do well academically. Montgomery-Rockville has one of the top junior college programs in the East, but he didn't waste any eligibility in his year there.
"I still wanted to play scholarship football," McTigue said. "I tried to get that scholarship again from James Madison, but they weren't interested. I'm just glad Brian O'Neill told Coach Riccio about me."
O'Neill, McTigue's baseball coach at Good Counsel who's now at St. Mary of the Plains in Kansas, was a graduate assistant coach at Frostburg State in 1988 and '89.
"Rory saw us play Salisbury State in 1988, and we lost [24-17] on a rainy, miserable day," Riccio said. "I thought that hurt our chances with him, but I kept plugging. Rory's is the only home I've visited [recruiting] since I've been here.
"I wasn't sure where to put him, but he ended up being the perfect fullback for our offense," Riccio said of the Bobcats' variation of the wing-T. "He runs the sweep well, and he makes great inside cuts. The things he does in traffic are unbelievable, and if he made those moves out in the open, everyone would be oohing and aahing."
McTigue rarely fumbles, and only three of his 529 carries at Frostburg State have resulted in minus yardage. He has a school-record 39 touchdowns. He has gained 155 and 167 yards in the Bobcats' last two games, and while it's tempting to keep going back to a sure thing, Riccio has tried to avoid overworking McTigue.
He returned punts and kickoffs as a sophomore in 1989, when his punt return for a touchdown helped snap a seven-game losing streak to Salisbury State. He sat out special-teams duty last year, but when punting problems were partly responsible for a season-opening 37-32 upset loss at Grove City, Pa., McTigue became the Bobcats' punter. His two-game average is 31.2 yards.
"He isn't going to outkick our coverage," Riccio said, "but I also know he isn't going to drop the ball."
RORY McTIGUE AT FROSTBURG
Year . . Gms . . Car . . Yds . . Avg . . TDs
1989 . . .9. . . 234 . . 920 . . 3.9 . . 11
1990 . . 11. . . 228 . . 914 . . 4.0 . .*19
1991 . . .3. . .. 67 . . 406 . . 6.1 . . .7
Totals . 23. . . 529 . .2240 . . 4.2 . .*37
* - indicates a school record