The continued improvement of freshman quarterback Dan Crowley and a defense that did as good a job as any of Hofstra University's previous seven opponents were almost enough to bring Towson State its first football win of the season yesterday.
Almost but not quite.
The records will show that Hofstra (8-1) won the game, 30-26, on a 15-yard touchdown pass from backup quarterback George Beisel to Wayne Morris with 1 minute, 46 seconds left.
But two earlier plays stand out.
Mark Cox, a 200-pound senior who finished with 268 all-purpose yards, ignited what had been a non-clicking Hofstra offense with a 78-yard return of the second-half kickoff, kicker Buddy Dunn making the saving tackle.
Two plays later, Al Hagofsky ran 15 yards on a delay for a touchdown, and Anthony Guadagnino's kick hit an upright and caromed through to bring the Dutchmen within 14-13.
On the other play, cornerback Dustin Harper tipped a pass from Tim Lynch away from a receiver, only to have another Hofstra receiver, Scott Millington, catch the ball and race into the end zone to complete a 38-yard touchdown.
The two quarterbacks put up some impressive numbers, although the NCAA does not recognize Hofstra's Division I-AA statistics because it is in a year of conformity between moving from Division III and I-AA.
Lynch finished 42-for-70 for 476 yards and one touchdown and three interceptions before coming out with a mild concussion (he took a pounding while getting hit with eight sacks and 76 yards in losses).
Crowley, the Towson freshman making his second start, was 28-for-52 for 399 yards and three touchdowns, with three interceptions and three sacks.
Included in the 6-foot-1 passer's figures was a school-record, 83-yard hookup with Kevin Howard, who had to shrug off only one tackler after breaking free around his 35-yard line. The old standard was 80 yards, Chris Goetz to Ken Weeks two years ago.
The Tigers, which is 0-8 for the first time in their 23-year football history, went ahead, 26-23, on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Crowley to Howard (10 catches for 187 yards), but the problem was there was still 3:08 left.
The score was set up by James Dutton's interception of Lynch when the defender was the only player in the area. Beisel came on after the touchdown to drive the visitors 64 yards in seven plays.
The last play was a pass to 6-foot Wayne Morris (stadium-record 13 catches for 112 yards), who got behind freshman defender Marcellus Campbell in the end zone.
"We knew they'd get their yards [averaging 512], but we also knew we'd move the football," said Towson State coach Phil Albert. "We did enough to win, but we also did just enough to lose."
Towson State, which suffered its third straight homecoming loss, piled up its widest lead of the season with two first-quarter touchdowns.
Crowley completed his first three passes, and after an exchange of fumbles, the freshman quarterback found Tony Hill for 10 yards and Robert Ambrose for the last 14. The catch was senior Ambrose's third of the season -- all for touchdowns.
After stopping Hofstra for the third straight series, the Tigers moved 53 yards in five plays. The key was a reception by Hill for 19 yards to the Dutchmen's 16.
From there, senior John O'Neill turned a draw play into a 16-yard touchdown, breaking three tackles along the way. Freshman kicker Dunn made it 14-0 halfway through the quarter.
Hofstra took care of the rest of the first-half scoring, with Walt Olshanski converting field goals of 39 and 22 yards. The latter came at the end of an 85-yard, 17-play drive that consumed nearly six minutes and was stopped at the Towson State 4.
Olshanski later hit from 37 for a 16-14 lead before the touchdown passes started flying.
NOTES: Towson State had a TD called back on a penalty, and lost a 35-yard pass to Mark Orlando to the Hofstra 6 when an official ruled he did not have control of the ball before going out of bounds. . . . Penalties hurt both teams. There were a combined 30 for 295 yards. . . . Towson DB Aaron Bates had 2 INTs, and LB Joe Kreisher had 6 tackles, broke up 5 passes and had 2 sacks. . . . Millington on the tip: "I saw the guys going for it, and figured it was useless for me to get in there, so I backed up and the ball fell right in my arms."
Airing it out
Although Hofstra is not yet recognized as a Division I-AA team by the NCAA, the passing yesterday by Hofstra's Tim Lynch and in the Towson-Hofstra game overall would have set or been close to several records:
.. .. .. .. .. ..Individual.. .. .. .. ..
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Record.. .. ..Lynch
Att. in quarter.. .. .. .28.. .. .. ..28
Att. in half.. .. .. .. .42.. .. .. ..47
Att. in game.. .. .. .. .77.. .. .. ..70
Com. in quarter.. .. .. .18.. .. .. ..19
Com. in half.. .. .. .. .27.. .. .. ..29
Com. in game.. .. .. .. .46.. .. .. ..42
.. .. .. .. .. ..Combined.. .. .. .. .. .
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. Record.. .. ..H-TSU
Att. in game.. .. .. .. 129.. .. .. .128
Com. in game.. .. .. .. .77.. .. .. ..73