SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- For three quarters yesterday, Towso State was very much in the football game. The Tigers trailed the University of Rhode Island by just six points, 13-7.
But in the fourth period Rhode Island scored three touchdowns and added two points on a blocked extra-point attempt for a 36-19 season-opening triumph before a crowd of 5,852.
"We tried to substitute as much as we could, but I think they just wore us down. That's what happens when we play Yankee Conference teams," Towson's Gordy Combs said after his head coaching debut.
This was the first game since 1971 that Phil Albert was not calling the plays for Towson. He resigned last February.
The victory was No. 100 for Rhode Island coach Bob Griffin, who is beginning his 21st season.
Rhode Island scored on tailback Rich Rouser's 1-yard leap with 12 minutes, 44 seconds left in the game, on tight end Darren Rizzi's stunning 55-yard catch-and-run exactly two minutes later, cornerback Brian Merritt's 88-yard -- with a blocked kick with 4:22 left and on wide receiver Chris Pierce's 39-yard pass reception with 1:34 to play.
Towson, shut out for the first 43 minutes and 48 seconds of the game, countered with a 12-yard touchdown pass from Dan Crowley to wide receiver Mark Orlando with 4:22 to play and a 5-yard TD pass from Crowley to Kevin Howard with 2:04 left.
Tight end Sean Patterson had scored Towson's first touchdown of the season on a 2-yard pass from Crowley with 1:12 left in the third quarter.
The Tigers had little trouble moving the ball. They generated 426 yards in offense. Crowley, a sophomore, completed 25-of-49 passes for 328 yards and three touchdowns. But he was intercepted twice. Towson also lost a fumble when the ball popped loose from running back Tony Vinson in the second quarter.
"We had success moving against them all day," Combs said. "Our biggest problem was our fault, turnovers, offsides, penalties."
Towson moved the ball right from the opening kickoff. The Tigers covered 82 yards, from their own 15 to the Rhode Island 3, before Crowley made a bad decision on a third-down bootleg. He forced an incomplete pass instead of continuing to run for what would have been a touchdown. His fourth-down pass also was incomplete.
"When we went down early and didn't get it in, I think that was critical," Combs said. "I can't question his decision to throw. It looks easy upstairs, but who knows what he saw on the field?"
Wide receiver Mark Orlando led Towson's receivers with six catches for 126 yards and a touchdown. Kevin Howard had seven receptions for 68 yards and Tony Hill four for 57 yards.
The Tigers ran for only 98 yards. Vinson, the highly touted transfer from Purdue, gained 65 yards on 19 carries. He picked up 20 on his first run from scrimmage.
Towson's defense allowed 491 yards. Rhode Island quarterback Tony Squitieri threw for 317 yards and three touchdowns. Rizzi, considered one of the best tight ends in 1-AA, caught four passes for 98 yards. Rhode Island's rushing attack produced 174 yards.