When historians reflect on the 1991 Towson State football team, they would do well to date the season from the seventh game.
In an emergency situation before the season began, coach Phil Albert had switched versatile Gary Worthington from linebacker to quarterback, and Worthington did a solid job for six weeks. He was more a runner than a passer, and game plans were so predicated.
However, after the first two games, the opponents' points mushroomed and Albert began giving more playing time to freshman quarterback Dan Crowley, a passer. It's hard to play catch-up when you're not throwing the ball.
A month ago, Worthington, a fifth-year senior, asked to go back to defense. Albert agreed, making Crowley, who had been playing for DeMatha High School a year ago, the starting quarterback on a Division I-AA team.
Since then, he has engineered a comeback, a win that became a loss in the last two minutes, and the Tigers' first victory of the year after eight losses. Next up is another struggling team, the University of Maine (2-8) in Orono Saturday afternoon.
Although he has put up some impressive numbers, Crowley is the first to credit his offensive line, a line that has matured and grown more confident in recent weeks.
This is a young group, with juniors Greg Lohr and Michael Gunthrop and sophomores Karl Neieberlein, Andy Rehkemper and John Loch. All but Rehkemper, a 6-foot-2, 255-pounder from Columbia, were starters last year.
"The first two games [10-8 and 13-7 setbacks] we were confident, because we knew we could stay in games," Gunthrop said yesterday. "Then, as the spread increased [in ensuing games], we got down. Gary showed a lot of character, doing what he did."
And Lohr added: "At Liberty, Danny was a little shaky the first half, but in the second half, he looked like he'd been there all along."
The quarterback change was generally well received, especially by the line and the receivers. Game plans went from run-oriented to pass-oriented offenses.
"With Gary running the option, we usually knew where he was, but if you are going to pound the ball, you need 280-pound linemen, at least, to wear people down," said Lohr, small for his guard position at 6-2 and 245 pounds.
"We look at films, but no matter how much you study, you still can't find out what your man is going to bring until the first series," Gunthrop explained.
For his three starts, Crowley is 78-for-150 for 952 yards and eight touchdowns, with four interceptions. He is working on a string of 50 without being picked off.
"Give Dan the credit," said Gunthrop. "He's a freshman, but he has come in and picked up the reading of college defenses. It's amazing because there are a lot of audibles in our offense.
"With Gary the audible was run-to-run. Now, it can be run-to-pass or vice-versa. The 2-yard pass he threw for a touchdown against Howard last week was an audible."
Lohr and Gunthrop (6-1, 257 pounds), who came out of Poly as a two-time All-Metro center, were redsirted their freshman year, saw duty on the special teams the next year, then started all 11 games last season.
"I think it's better for Danny to come in and play right away," Lohr pointed out. "Now, he is forced to really manage his time, and he won't pick up any bad habits."
Both linemen indicated it was easy to pick up bad habits and not budget time well in a redshirt year, when the athletes are cannon-fodder in varsity scrimmages.
"You get away from your skills. It takes a spring and a summer to get back to them," added Lohr, from Springfield, Pa., who chose Towson State because he wanted to play I-AA football.
Gunthrop had an additional problem earlier this season, as he rTC started as a guard, then switched back to center (where he had started last year) when starter Joe Field was injured. "It took me awhile to get back to it," he said.
And a final observation from Lohr, who said: "Last week, Danny did a pump-fake against Howard, and that sort of thing is just a natural reaction. He's willing to stay in the pocket and take a hit to throw the ball."