WASHINGTON -- Three weeks ago, Gary Worthington and Dan Crowley began breathing life into a stagnant Towson State football team.
For the first two weeks, there was marked improvement, but no wins. The Tigers were 0-8 for the first time in school history.
Now, for the fourth straight time, Towson State is giving thanks for Howard University.
The visiting Tigers, who had beaten Howard three consecutive times over the past four years, did it again yesterday, but it didn't come easily.
Freshman Brian McCarty turned a swing pass into a 38-yard touchdown for a 13-7 Towson State lead with eight minutes left, and an aroused defense made it stand up for the team's first victory of the season.
Gone are the thoughts of a winless season, and into the discard heap goes a string of 15 straight road losses, dating back to a 31-28 decision over Howard in 1988.
Last season Towson was 0-7 before beating Howard.
"How many times are we going to save Towson State football?" one disgusted Bison supporter wondered aloud.
"In every game there are a total of two minutes that decide the outcome," Towson State coach Phil Albert said. "In those situations here, we were able to grasp the advantage.
"We sustained our intensity on defense throughout and the offense did enough to win."
There were six plays -- two offensive and four defensive -- that did the most to lift Towson State.
Howard was on the verge of taking charge on its opening drive, rolling up three first downs, the last at the Tigers' 38-yard line. Then Tony Bethea and Marcellus Campbell sandwiched sophomore quarterback Terrill Hill and Campbell recovered the resulting fumble.
Crowley quickly took the Tigers 49 yards in seven plays, passing the final 2 yards to Kevin Howard. Buddy Dunn's extra point made it 7-0.
But then the scoring slowed until just before the intermission.
Howard's all-purpose star Gary Harrell gave his side a chance when he returned a punt 26 yards to the Towson State 35 with 34 seconds left in the half. On second down, Hill found George Humes down the middle for a 25-yard completion to the 2.
Hill threw the ball away, then handed off to Kevin Dyer (6 feet 1, 238 pounds), who was met head-on at the line of scrimmage by linebacker Worthington as time expired.
"I just went to the ball. The tight end went by, and the lead blocker didn't hit me," said Worthington, who left his defensive post at the beginning of this season to quarterback the team until freshman Crowley was ready to take over. "I had an open shot at the ball carrier."
Howard linebacker Ken Newsome, a senior from Baltimore (City College), described Towson State's effort best when he declared, "They have heart."