Turnovers hurt Towson State for the third straight week, as the Tigers helped opportunistic Rhode Island get off to a good start in a runaway 45-25 victory at Minnegan Stadium yesterday.
The number of fumbles lost by Towson has dropped from four to two to one over three games, but the one yesterday was costly. Rhode Island recovered the ball in Towson State territory and scored the go-ahead points late in the first half.
Interceptions led to the visitors' first touchdown and a fourth-quarter field goal. In between, Towson quarterbacks were victimized by some dropped passes.
Phil Albert tried to have an answer for it, but ran his hands through his hair and shook his head.
"The only negative in a football game is a turnover," the Towson State coach said. "You try to emphasize how important it is not to turn the ball over. We had two in the first quarter, and they were both costly.
Defensive backs were beaten by receivers for two consecutive touchdowns by Rhode Island (1-2) after the Tigers (0-3) had lost a 7-0 lead, then climbed back within 14-12.
"The problems weren't for lack of effort. It's just that a back got beaten on one when the receiver made a good move. And the other saw our man misplay the ball," Albert said. "I have no answer for it, but these are only short setbacks. You can't fail if you don't quit. Week in and week out we have had our hands full."
He talked about learning from this and regrouping, but it doesn't get any easier for the Tigers. The next foe is Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the No. 1-ranked Division II team in the country.
There was a new and improved look at the beginning.
Towson State drove 64 yards to score after the opening kickoff, picking up three third-down conversions along the way.
The Tigers' defense, which had held its two previous foes to a touchdown each, stopped the Rams on their opening series and there was reason for optimism.
Not for long.
Three plays later, a pass from Gary Worthington was picked off by Brian Thomas at the Tigers' 34. The visitors needed eight plays to reach the end zone, tailback Mark Swistak vaulting over at the corner to cap a 5-yard --.
On Towson State's next series, Worthington's pitchout off the option found no one but Rhode Island linebacker Doug Clark, who covered the ball at the Towson 33. Eight plays later, Sean Donovan charged over from the 1.
The Tigers caught a break of their own when the Rams botched an option pitch and Joe Kreisher recovered at the Rhode Island 1. Senior back John O'Neill, a former starting defensive back, got his first collegiate touchdown, following freshman fullback Mike Markoe into the end zone.
There was 1 minute, 55 seconds left in the half, but that was more than enough time for the Rams to go 65 yards to score. Chris Pierce, at 5 feet 5, 156 pounds, beat defender Dustin Harper with a cut across the end zone and Holland found him to complete a 38-yard scoring play.
There was still enough time (1:17) for relief quarterback Dan Crowley, a freshman out of DeMatha, to complete a pass and take the Tigers within reach of the end zone.
O'Neill ran 15 yards to the Rhode Island 12, Brian Merritt batted away a potential touchdown pass to Mark Orlando, and on third down, Glen Mattfeld was wide right with a 34-yard field-goal attempt.
Rhode Island pushed across two third-quarter scores -- and put the game out of reach -- before the Tigers scored again.